As children grow, eating healthy can be critical for them to obtain strong bones, improved mental health, stable energy and to prevent chronic diseases, per Nationwide Children’s Hospital. But some foods aren’t so good for them.

Lunchables, a convenient lunch-pack, were found to have high levels and sodium and lead, according to Consumer Reports. Here’s what you should know about Lunchables — and other foods that your kids should avoid.

Lunchables are ‘highly processed’

Consumer Reports, a nonprofit organization that evaluates products, recently tested Lunchables, and similar lunch snack kits such as Good & Gather or Oscar Mayer products, and found:

  • Contaminants lead and cadmium in both or all kits: These heavy metals are said to cause hypertension, kidney damage and other problems.
  • High levels of sodium: Products contained a quarter to half of the daily recommended limit with levels comparable to a McDonald’s Happy Meal.
  • Products are ultraprocessed: There are possible links between ultraprocessed food and mental or physical disease such as depression and Type 2 diabetes.

Amy Keating, a Consumer Reports registered dietitian, told Consumer Reports, “There’s a lot to be concerned about in these kits. They’re highly processed, and regularly eating processed meat, a main ingredient in many of these products, has been linked to increased risk of some cancers.”

A spokesperson for Kraft Heinz, the parent company of Lunchables and Oscar Mayer told ABC News, “We are extremely disappointed with the reporting from Consumer Reports and believe the results of their study are misleading, causing undue concern over the safety of our products.”

Regarding contaminant and sodium levels, Lunchables and other lunch kits tested were all within legal and regulatory limits, per Consumer Reports.

Eric Boring, who led Consumer Report’s testing of these products, said the bottom line is that ”we don’t think anybody should regularly eat these products, and they definitely shouldn’t be considered a healthy school lunch,” per Consumer Reports.

Other food products to avoid

1. Food pouches

Within the past few months, applesauce pouches have been under heat. The Food and Drug Administration reported multiple lead poisoning cases in children were linked to cinnamon apple puree and applesauce products. Products have since been recalled.

Since then, the Food and Drug Administration has called on Congress to mandate that lead should be tested in products imported to the U.S., noting the cinnamon applesauce lead poisoning cases, as seen in a hearing posted on YouTube.

According to The New York Times, food pouches, not just applesauce:

  • Are high in sugar.
  • Give kids fewer opportunities to practice oral and fine motor skills to use utensils.
  • Possibly causes pickiness by eating less textures and vegetables not masked by sweetness and variety of food.

Maryann Jacobsen, a registered dietician and author, told The New York Times, “It’s fine to use [pouches]. It’s just when we overuse them and we rely on them too much, I think that’s when it becomes problematic.”

2. Gummy fruit snacks

Fruit snacks can provide vitamins A and C, and are low in sodium. However, each pouch contains around five teaspoons of added sugar without protein, healthy fat or fiber. Therefore, kids will get hungry soon after eating, per Food Network.

According to the University of Massachusetts Amherst, only three types of fruit snacks will meet recommendations for federal dietary guidelines: dried fruit, fruit puree and canned fruit.

Gummy fruit-flavored snacks have low nutrient density and fiber while having the highest amount of added sugar, per UMass.

3. Flamin’ Hot Cheetos, Doritos and other snacks with red dye 40

When eating or drinking processed products that contain red dye 40, such as Flamin’ Hot Cheetos, Gatorade or some breakfast cereals, children might have side effects such as fidgeting and mood swings, as previously reported by Deseret News.

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