Pack It In

The Today show’s recent feature on healthier choices for kids’ school lunchboxes provides a nice introductory primer for the burgeoning line of snack-y, grab-and-go foods produced by natural foods makers.

The days when health food stores sold nothing but mung bean sprouts and Tiger’s Milk Bars are long over. These days, there’s a brown-rice-compliant alternative to just about any crappy processed food one craves. Pepperoni pizza? Buffalo wings? Oreos? “Health food” has come to encompass all these choices, and many more.

Of course, even a vegan cookie made with all-organic ingredients is no stalk of broccoli. Junky health foods are still loaded with fat and calories, dicey at a time when the citizens of the world are unable to button their pants. And some of the products flying the “healthier choice” flag are still total crap. FritoLay’s line of Baked Cheetos are lower in fat than the old-school chips, but contain a potent stew of nasty ingredients like partially hydrogenated oil, MSG and artificial flavors and colors. And though Oscar-Mayer has been working on slimming down its Lunchables line, it’s still a convenience food with an inconveniently disal amount of salt, fat, and chemicals. But since I’m from the generation who got a double-pack of Little Debbies in the ol’ lunchbox, these foods seem to be a step in the right direction. Or maybe, I dunno, parents could consider just throwing an apple in the kid’s lunchbox, rather than a fruit-flavored snack.