I didn’t grow up in one of those “healthy” households. Don’t get me wrong, we were extremely well-nourished and understood the importance of the food pyramid. But nowadays, almost everyone serves their kids whole wheat bread and those cereals from Whole Foods that pretend to be fun and sugary on the box but actually they’re made of, like, flax and fruit juice sweetener. Back when I was little, however, most people still shopped at the regular supermarket and thought white bread was okay. (Remember white bread?!) Unsurprisingly, I loved living in a home where we had a children’s cereal cupboard so expansive my friends fought to sleep over and in my lunchbox I might find a punch-and-peel Fruit Roll-Up, if not a pack of Sno Balls (hey, my mom had to draw the line somewhere). With that in mind, I present to you the components that might have comprised The Perfect ’90s Lunchbox.
Orbitz Fruit Drink
Orbitz was a disgusting soft drink product introduced by Clearly Canadian (a ’90s novelty in their own right) that consisted of edible colored jelly-like balls suspended in a fruit-flavored liquid. It was supposed to look like a lava lamp. I guess this is a predecessor to the bubble tea we all drink and love today, but something just wasn’t right about those floating orbs.
Soda-Licious Fruit Snacks
These were delicious little fruit snacks shaped like old-fashioned soda bottles and flavored accordingly. They were absolutely the rage the year I was in 2nd grade and I’ll never forget using them to bribe Mike Sugrue to tell me that he liked me. He said the words, grabbed the Soda-Licious pack and ran across the playground. I can relive that magical moment by watching the commercial.
These were individual yogurt cups for kids that came with colored “sprinkles” in the lid. When you shook them into the yogurt, they changed the color and flavor. Later there were other incarnations like chocolate and graham cracker cookie crumbs. I wish the originals still existed because it was really freaky to watch the flaky little crystals warp your yogurt into a rainbow. The kids here are super excited about it.
Amazin’ Fruit Gummy Bears
Even as a kid, I knew these were a poor man’s Black Forest Gummy Bears and an even poorer man’s Haribo but for some reason, they were a thing. I guess the gimmick was that they were made with real fruit juice but to me, they were too soft and chewy. Also, my piano teacher gave them as rewards for learning hard pieces, so I generally associate them with dread and boredom. The bears are pretty cute, though.
Squeezit Fruit Drinks
These were sugary fruit drinks that came in a squeeze bottle. You’d remove the top by twisting it until it cracked off, and then you could suck the little drop of juice that remained inside the cap before devouring the whole bottle. I wasn’t totally allowed to have Squeezits or their delicious cousin, Mondo, but I got by.
Picture a Nutter-Butter but shaped like an over-sized peanut, with the cookie component serving as a shell to the delicious creamy peanut butter inside. These were the bomb. The shell was thin and easily crunched, the peanut butter smooth and nutty in contrast. There are petitions all over the Internet to get these made again. The commercial will definitely get you craving it.
Fruit String Thing
This was a coil of fruit-flavored string that came on a cardboard sheet. It sort of looked like those red licorice wheels they sell in penny candy stores, but flattened out. Pretty sure this was no competition for the far-more-popular Fruit by the Foot, despite a manic commerical.
Jello Pudding Pops
By far the most delicious Popsicle of all time. These were icy treats that tasted exactly like what they claimed to me – pudding that has been frozen into a Popsicle shape. The flavors were basic – chocolate, vanilla and swirl – and although they still sell them today, they’re very hard to find. And of course, Bill Cosby was their dignified spokesperson.
Pop Secret Pop Qwiz Popcorn
This was your typical buttery microwave popcorn, except… IT POPPED IN RAINBOW COLORS! And the “Qwiz” part of it all was trying to guess what color your popcorn would be. Each bag was different. I would say I can’t believe this really existed but it turns out they are making it again! This time it’s called Pop Secret Magic Colors and I’m definitely running out to get some.
Okay, you can still get these, but they were just such a lunchbox staple I had to include them. The little container had two compartments – one held crackers, the other held spreadable cheese-food. You’d use a little plastic stick to spread the cheese on the crackers and voila, deliciousness was created. They eventually came in a million flavors including sweet varieties. But I prefer the original.
A beautiful breakfast cereal consisting of star-shaped pieces frosted with glittery sprinkles. They had that generically sweet cereal taste and were, of course, one of my favorites. I think they feature a boy in the commercial to detract from the obviously girly packaging. Another cereal introduced at the same time was Hidden Treasures, corn squares filled with cherry, orange, or grape filling. Yum?
This product was marketed as “the first hard candy from Hershey’s.” Okay. Not sure what was cool about these but I know I loved them. They came in chocolate, butterscotch and mint and had a jazzy little commercial.
Hi-C Ecto Cooler
This was a tie-in of Ghostbusters and Hi-C Fruit Drink. From the minute it hit the shelves, it was unanimously considered to be the best flavor. Plus, it had the coolest packaging and the drink itself was fluorescent green! Just watching the commercial makes me want some.
There are so many other snacks I could include in my lunchbox – obscure Pop Tart flavors, a box of French Toast Crunch, a bottle of Fruitopia or a beverage my boyfriend claims was all the rage but I barely remember called OK Soda. Not to mention my long-chronicled love, Dunkaroos. Life was always that much sweeter when it came with a side of vanilla frosting. What were your favorite treats growing up?
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