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Does nostalgia get in the way, or were Lunchables actually good when we were growing up?
Not to be all “only ’90s kids will get this,” but Lunchables were, at one point, the cornerstone of the average American child’s diet. Lunchables debuted in 1989, and the core selling points still work 30+ years later: kids love playing with their food, and parents enjoy not thinking about what to make their kids for lunch.
The Lunchables offerings have gone through the wringer in terms of options — remember Italian-style chicken? Asian-style barbecue chicken? Mini hot dogs? But the classics still remain readily available, so that’s where I focused for this investigation. That means turkey and American cheddar with crackers, pepperoni pizza and nachos.
In 2014, Lunchables came out with a hip new “Uploaded” edition marketed at teens. For Lunchables Uploaded, I decided to try out the turkey and cheese sandwich and the deep-dish pepperoni pizza, which is supposedly different from the regular pepperoni pizza.
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I decided to judge each Lunchables meal based on both taste and how embarrassed I would be to eat it right now as a [redacted]-year-old.
Turkey and cheese crackers: Holds up
Lunchables basically had a bunch of 8-year-olds eating charcuterie in the cafeteria — how classy. Turkey and cheese crackers absolutely still hold up, and I would happily eat this now.
Pepperoni pizza: Does not hold up
God, it’s so cold. It’s like eating ketchup on a piece of bread — did we microwave these when we were kids? I cannot remember. But as is, it really just tastes like ketchup no matter how many pieces of pepperoni I put on it. Let’s just say I was relieved to not have any witnesses when I ate this.
Nachos: Holds up
Famously, I love Kraft cheese, so right off the bat, I’m sold. The salsa offers a similar “cold ketchup” vibe as the pizza, so I stuck to the cheese and really treated myself with every tiny chip I ate.
Turkey and cheese sandwich: Holds up
It’s hard to mess up a basic sandwich, but at least Lunchables didn’t mess it up. The Lunchables Uploaded packs don’t come with any utensils though, so the first couple of bites were mayonnaise-heavy.
Pepperoni deep-dish pizza: Does not hold up
The difference between the Lunchables pepperoni pizza and the Lunchables Uploaded deep-dish pizza is that the latter contains a lot more cold ketchup. I have eaten some pretty questionable things in the past, but I draw the line at this.
Overall, the majority of Lunchables options do still hold up. So maybe I’ll skip my usual salad for lunch at work and whip out a box of turkey and cheese crackers instead — Capri Sun included.
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If you liked this story, check our video on how to make “vegan” bacon out of bananas.
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