All the '90s Snacks My Mom Put in My Lunch, Lovingly Ranked

Thrillist/Cole Saladino
Thrillist/Cole Saladino

Ah, the golden, glorious 1990s: an era where Bone Thugs-N-Harmony ruled the R&B charts, you didn't have to take off your shoes to get on an airplane, and your doting mother made damn sure every lunch she packed contained at least one item bursting with high-fructose corn syrup.

Now I'm just a simple, humble Internet writer/in-house fruitcake historian, but I've taken the liberty to put together the definitive ranking of snacks your mom, my mom, and everyone's mom except Rainbeau's (because they lived in the woods and she only ate local) would lovingly pluck off supermarket shelves and place into a lunch box that probably had Pikachu on it.


Honorable mention: empty mini liquor bottles

Look, it was a rough year and your mother was doing the best she could, OK? It's not like your father would even think about helping put your lunch together -- he was having too much fun in Palm Springs with that slag Brenda.

23. Hard-boiled egg

This happened when my mom confused me with an 80-year-old Jewish guy named Maury. 

22. Go-Gurt yogurt


21. Regular fruit

Thanks, but no thanks -- I prefer my fruit in the "by the foot" or "roll up" variety (more on those later).

20 (TIE). Candy cigarettes/Those plastic cell phones filled with candy

When I would pair candy cigarettes with a plastic cell phone filled with ear wax-flavored, multicolored balls, I looked like a little burnt out stock broker in Oshkosh B'gosh.

But neither of these candies exist anymore: the candy cigs for obvious reasons, and the candy-filled phones because kids these days are given iPad Mini Retinas straight out of the birth canal and have zero time for this bush league shit.


19. Animal crackers

Let's call a spade a spade here: these are definitely more like cookies than crackers, and definitely more like little sawdust molds of bears and tigers than cookies. I only ate them because mom loved them so much when she was a young girl, when people talked like this and Shirley Temple was still the bee's knees, see.

18. Jell-O/Snack Packs

I've always been suspicious of Jell-O, and Snack Packs are alright, but they always got a little wonky inside my lunchbox. And by wonky, I mean congealed, warm, and icky. The latter of which was my nickname in grade school, coincidentally. Thanks, mom. 

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17. Squeeze-Its/Capri Sun

First off: I'm a Capri Sun man, through and through (Pacific Cooler, yo). Secondly, those Squeeze-It commercials instilled an uncanny fear in my heart that every time I was sucking down a Squeeze-It, I was willingly drinking the life-fluid of a sentient being, forced into the American food trade. Also, why is there that little fluid at the top of the Squeeze-It? It always spills. Why not just put less fluid in there and not ruin my Sprewell jersey?

16. Funyuns

Now I'm a big fan of Funyuns, but back then, I thought they were disgusting. I think the turning point came when my older brother took me to a Phish/Allman Brothers double bill and for the first time, I tried smo... um, I mean, high school. I started to like them in high school. I guess palates change!


15. Those cracker/cheese/red stick things

So, I guess these are called Handi-Snacks -- probably because mom was like "Oh, it's so handy I found this package of DIY Ritz-Bitz in the back of our pantry, hopefully Wil won't notice I forgot to buy Gushers again."

14. Ring Pops

Pretty sure ground zero for my crippling fear of commitment/diamond rings originated when Lisa S. licked the Ring Pop on my finger so many times, I was forced to give it to her.

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13. String Things

String Things are the biggest lie to the American public since Jay Z tried to convince us he didn't have to have to pay an Illuminati member to get Beyonce to date him. The amount of fruit-string that comes in this thing is embarrassingly sparse in relation to the packaging. Still, peeling out candy in the shape of a rocket ship is pretty dope.

12. Flintstones vitamins

I love these. They are probably the most delicious foodstuff on this list. But, they are medicine and not candy. If you eat too many, you could Yabba-dabba-DIE.


11. Push Pops

A phallic Ring Pop that requires a lot more effort, Push Pops narrowly miss out on the top ten for two reasons: 1.) you always end up licking a weird, fructose-y stump at the end of the plastic holder and your mouth would get all sticky, and 2.) it came with a pocket clip.

10. Goldfish crackers

Do you remember the commercial, where the kids said "I can eat them every day, and my mom says that's OK"? Yep, that pretty much sums it up.


9. Warheads

Do you recall the days when merit was based solely on how many Black Cherry Warheads you can put in your mouth without tearing up? Man, last summer was crazy times.

8. Teddy Grahams

These are like animal cracker's slutty cousins. I'm so into it.

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7. Fruit Roll-Ups 

In the great Fruit Roll-Up vs. Fruit by the Foot debate, one had to reign supreme. Fruit Roll-Ups appear on this list first, because I've always found the rough texture of F.R.U's to lessen the snacking experience overall. Plus, this kid next to me would always wrap his around his finger, suck on it, and have a gross blue hand for the rest of the day. I'm glad you are in prison now, Dale. 

6. Cosmic Brownies/Zebra Cakes

Some say, these brownies get their delicious taste from the divine power of the cosmos, passed on through wormholes throughout the galaxy, carried down to our terrestrial world upon strings of stardust, on the backs of solar flares and failed Tesla rockets. Or maybe it’s the high-fructose corn syrup. Hm. I don’t know. Also, Zebra Cakes are totally fucking rad.

Thrillist/Cole Saladino

5. Fruit by the Foot

One time, I forgot my ruler before a math test, and was unable to borrow anyone else's because I went to a school run by nuns who took this stuff seriously. So, I did what any enterprising eight-year-old would do and used the three-foot-long fruit treat my mom packed me to estimate my calculations. I failed the test, horribly, and my teacher called my parents. They "weren't mad, just disappointed."

4. Shark Bites

Shark Bites were the premier gummy snack in all of kid-dom. Why? They're the classic Freaky Friday-esque role-reversal: Humans, eating sharks. It's like pushing the teacher out of the way, and giving her a lecture on the modern day implications of the the Bill of Rights... which was really frowned upon at school after my "incident." Shark Bites were the next best thing.


3. Dunkaroos

OK, we all know they were just Teddy Grahams with cake icing. But, c'mon, they were TEDDY GRAHAMS WITH CAKE ICING. That alone slots them in the top triumvirate. And, because you had to portion out the icing-to-cracker ratio yourself, you learned some valuable lessons here: control, balance, planning ahead, and basically, becoming a young man or woman. Or both! Sydney don't pass judgement, and neither do I.

2. 3D Doritos

They say 3D Doritos are still around, but they're lying, because these things are NOT 3D Doritos. These are 3D Doritos. They are the quintessential example of a 90s snack: take something people already love and make it extreme! Also, putting one in a rubber band and shooting it at your friend resulted in the most fun little explosion of cheese dust and crumbs ever, especially off the back of a head. I'm not saying this is the only reason 3D Doritos made it to No. 2, but actually, yeah I kind of am.

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1. Gushers

Consider the Gusher. A misshapen succulent nugget of pure deliciousness, bursting at the seams with a droplet of divine... goo. The Gusher is everything a '90s snack needed to be: its mind-numbingly sweet, it's colors are cool, and you could never just eat one package.

If only adult life could be as simple as enjoying a Gusher sandwich (a pack of Gushers smooched between two strawberry Pop-Tarts) while simultaneously debating the cinematic merits of the Goonies vs. Hook and finishing spelling homework under the lunch table. Each and every Gusher was bursting with potential, just like we were back then. That's why I'll always love them -- they remind me of what I once was, and where I'm going. 

Also, if you got the goo in someone's hair, it was great and totally gross.

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Wil Fulton is a Staff Writer for Thrillist. He's so sorry, mom. Follow him @wilfulton.