The ’90s were a different time. We were listening to music on boom boxes and the Discman. Pokemon Color was all the rage and nearly every boy had frosted tips. While these all may give a true 90s kid a dose of nostalgia, nothing will make you go “oh my god, I almost forgot about that!” quite like food. There were so many snacks and meals that our parents gave us back in those days that we can hardly imagine feeding our kids now.
Food Our Parent’s Fed Us In The 90s That We Can’t Imagine Eating Now
Before superfoods and all the “healthy” food trends of today, there was the pre-packaged food and snacks trend. At some point in the last hundred years, companies began pre-packaging snacks, food items, and even whole meals for our convenience. Suddenly, if you wanted orange juice, you just had to grab the jug and pour – no fruit squeezing required. Wanted a quick snack? Rip open the package and eat. Hungry for a full meal? Pop directly from the freezer to the microwave and it’s ready in minutes.
By the time we arrived in the 90s, packaged foods were really quite the norm in most households. Making food completely from scratch was a special occasions-only kind of thing. As a child of the 90s myself, I remember a lot of these foods, and you know what? I loved them! Of course, now we look at many of these “food” (read: science) products and wonder how our parents ever could have allowed us to put them in our bodies.
It was a simpler time back then and to be fair, our parents and even most scientists didn’t know the issues with some of their ingredients. Frankly, as well, marketing was pretty damn good and knew exactly how to make kids want these foods so badly that they would beg their parents until they break. So let’s take a moment to remember some of these foods from our childhood and remind ourselves that despite some of the things we ate, look at us! I’d say we turned out pretty alright.
1. Sunny D
Ahh yes, Sunny Delight, also known as Sunny D. I was obsessed with this drink as a kid. I just thought it tasted so much better than regular orange juice. In reality, it was just really, really sweet. The reason why? The biggest, baddest ingredient out there today: High fructose corn syrup. It is quite literally the second ingredient on the ingredient list. Today there is plenty of research proving that this ingredient is best when avoided. In the 90s though? That stuff was in everything.
Okay so pretty sure that these are still a thing now. When I was a kid and would have sleepovers at my grandma’s house, she would almost always let me have a pop tart for breakfast. This is something my parents would never allow at home! Today, of course, there are nearly 20 different flavors to choose from. When I was a kid there were only the originals like strawberry and brown sugar cinnamon. I can tell you one thing: I was team strawberry all the way!
Now, this is something I can say my parents never bought for us, but I certainly always wanted them to. As an adult, I can say I am pretty glad they didn’t and I understand why. Though convenient, these certainly leave little to be desired in terms of health. Forget all the preservatives and lack of fresh ingredients – just the amount of sodium in one of these packages will blow your mind. Can someone please explain to me why these were ever considered to be proper lunches for children?
4. Pizza Everything
Pizza rolls, pizza pockets or hot pockets, pizza bagels – you name it, it existed in the 90s. This was another staple item that my siblings and I got to eat almost exclusively at grandma’s house. A pizza pocket with a side of ketchup chips (Canadian kid, here) was the perfect mid-day lunch. Be careful, though – those pockets picket up some serious heat while in the microwave. I can’t tell you the number of times I burned my mouth on one of those babies.
5. Spaghettios and Alphabet Soup
Let’s be honest with ourselves: These were basically the same thing. Today, there are probably “healthier”, gluten-free, whatever-else-free versions of these out there, but nothing will compare to the originals. Sure, they were full of sodium and mostly empty calories. Still, nothing beats curling up with a bowl of alphaghetti and cartoons on a cold winter afternoon. The best part was when our parents would add chopped-up hotdog weiners for “protein” as if that somehow made this dish healthier.
These were those candies that had a thick, gummy exterior but were filled with a viscous liquid interior. Yum. They came in a range of flavors and colors that were obviously not natural, but again, it was the 90s. No one cared. The first time I ever had these was also at my grandma’s house (perhaps it was the grandparents who were the real culprits, here), and I fell in love immediately. They kind of gross me out to think about now, but back then they were the bomb.
Okay, I would still eat these today as an adult. I mean, come on – what’s not to love? It’s cookies that you dip in icing. There’s literally nothing wrong with that. Are they full of sugar and artificial colorings and flavorings? Yes. But as long as you don’t eat them every day it’s still okay, right? Also, remember when they were briefly discontinued for a bit there? That was devastating news for every millennial everywhere.
8. Chef Boyardee
Hot take but when I was a kid I think I preferred Chef Boyardee Ravioli over actually good, properly home-made ravioli. Again, this likely had to do with the amount of sodium and sugar that was in the sauces but hey, I was a child and that’s what kids like. Now the thought of eating ravioli out of a can makes my stomach turn. Back then, however, it was a great day when my mom packed a thermos full of Chef Boyardee for my school lunch.
9. Kid Cuisine Microwave Meals
Okay, these have to be the epitome of lazy meal prep. Like, did you do your job of not letting your kid go hungry? Yes – but let’s be honest, you probably could have cooked something much healthier and likely for an even better price point. Still, microwave meals like these ones were convenient, so there’s that. I can count on one hand the number of times I’ve eaten a microwave meal (my mom was strictly against them) but I definitely have friends who told me Kids Cuisine was a staple when they were growing up. And hey, when you’re in a pinch – at least your child ate.
We All Turned Out Fine
This is by no means an exhaustive list of foods that we ate in the 90s that we wouldn’t dream of feeding our kids nowadays. Again, let’s remember that this was not really our parents’ fault. Food education wasn’t as on the forefront as it is today, consumers are just become more educated from generation to generation. Really, what parent, past or present, can say that they haven’t at least once given in to their child’s incessant begging for the dinosaur egg oatmeal or fed their kids Kraft Dinner a few times simply because they were too exhausted to cook anything else. And really, you know what? There is absolutely nothing wrong with that. So will I feed any of the above to my kids? Probably not, but the occasional time isn’t an issue. I wouldn’t mind a nostalgic nibble here and there either.
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