To say that kids today are having an entirely different experience than we did when we were young is an understatement. Today there are helicopter parents, car seats (I laid in the back of my parents’ sedan or sat between them in the front seat on the center arm rest without a seatbelt), and health food galore. Perhaps rightfully so, many parents keep an eye on their children’s sugar consumption and attempt to feed their little ones healthy foods. I can’t count how many times I have seen a toddler snack on individually wrapped seaweed snacks, edamame or hummus. I didn’t even know what these things were when I was a kid.
I grew up in the ’80s, when pretty much anything was fair game. We consumed candy, chips and soda to our heart’s content. I vividly remember going to watch my brother’s baseball games in our local park, and getting a dollar or two to spend at the candy store across the street. I’d return with a paper bag filled with Swedish Fish (which were not individually wrapped—we just picked them right out of a big container with our dirty little fingers), Sugar Daddies, Bazooka Gum, Blow Pops, and maybe a Devil Dog or Twinkie for good measure. And no one said a word! This was par for the course.
Now that I’m a parent, I can’t imagine letting my son consume all that sugar in one sitting (with the exception, perhaps, of Halloween). My husband and I aren’t restricting sugar altogether by any means, but we think moderation is key.
In thinking about this story, I began to grow nostalgic (and hungry) for all the delicious treats I spent years eating. So here’s a little throwback to the candy and snacks that made us who we are today:
10. Big League Chew
We used to shove handfuls of this into our mouths. And to think that the point of it was to mimic chewing tobacco. Crazy. And yum.
9. Cheez Balls
They were salty and cheesy and so easy to pop into your mouth. And I still remember the jingle to this day: “Have a ball! With Planters Cheez Balls.” You’re welcome. That will be stuck in your head for the next few hours.
8. Fruit Roll-Ups
They came in several flavors, and I think we thought they were a “healthy” snack because they had the word fruit in the name. Ha!
7. Fun Dip
This had to have been one of my favorites. We ate sticks made of sugar and dipped them into more sugar. It’s brilliant, really. I loved the cherry flavor the best, and the grape was the next to go. The trick was not biting the sticks until all of your powdered goodness was gone.
6. Bazooka Gum
We can’t forget Bazooka Joe’s comics wrapped with every rock-hard piece of gum. Our jaws certainly got a workout while we read up on what Joe and his pals were up to.
We actually ate these packs of crackers, processed meat, and cheese for lunch. Often. It was an ingenious way to provide a convenient meal for kids whose parents didn’t have time to make sandwiches every morning. I even think we thought they were relatively healthy.
4. Sugar Daddy Candy
These treats had caramel that was firmly stuck to a stick, and you had to attempt to suck and chew and rip it off with whatever teeth you had. It’s a good thing I didn’t have fillings as a kid, because they would have never stayed put with the number of Sugar Daddies I consumed.
3. Pop Rocks
Once you’ve had them, you can never forget the thrilling sensation of Pop Rocks melting on your tongue. Rumor had it that you would explode if you washed them down with soda. I was never the daring type, so I never tried it.
2. Top Ramen
This is another of those “foods” that we happily ate for meals. The noodles and sodium packs were scrumptious, and are probably some of the worst things you could possibly eat.
Oh, the beloved Twinkie. It’s perfect, really. So sweet and soft and creamy. And now we know that it will probably survive the Apocalypse. But who cares if there isn’t a single natural ingredient in it? It’s pretty much the best. Can’t you just imagine what it smells like when the package crinkles open?
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