I was a kid in the 80s but many of my formative years of schooling (part of high school and all of undergraduate and graduate school) were spent in the 90s. So I asked myself, what trends were UNIQUE to the 90s....
1. Fat-free desserts
|Image credit: Babble|
In previous eras, it was assumed that desserts contained butter and sugar and weren't particularly healthy. The 90s brought forth the idea that you could have your cake and fit into your fashionably tattered grunge jeans, too. Of course I ate Snackwell's. The boxes of these fat-free treats, amped up with artificial sweeteners to compensate for the lack of fat, were always curiously light. I loved the rubbery texture of the frosting. You could eat the entire box (500 calories) and still have room for a (400 calorie) pint of fat-free ice cream. Snackwell's vanilla sandwich cookies tasted stale, but I kind of liked slightly stale foods. I even ate those Weight Watcher TV dinner desserts that you had to nuke at low power for a few seconds in the microwave.
2. French bread pizza
|Image credit: Brand Eating|
|Image credit: Triad couponing|
Muffins were everywhere. Maybe because they could so easily be made low-fat: the diet brownie cheesecake muffin epitomizes 90s cuisine. Maybe because they could be stuffed with oatmeal. Regardless, long before Red Velvet doughnuts and bacon chocolate chip cookies became mainstream, muffins were everywhere. I loved senior year AP Biology because on non-lab days in the study hall after class I could buy molten hot chocolate chocolate chip muffins or cheese danish-stuffed muffins oozing under the heat lamp for breakfast in the cafeteria. I had a peanut butter and jelly muffin and Tasti-D-Lite from the 7-11 after nearly every swim practice in high school. I loved the buttery corn muffins and sweet oatmeal muffins from my college dining hall. I even liked the rubbery fat-free muffins which were made with applesauce and no fat, no fat at all because fat was the very devil in the 90s.
4. Ice cream with weird shit in it
|Image credit: Favorite Copycat Recipes|
5. Frozen yogurt
|Image credit: Mrs. Fields|
6. Really unhealthy cafeteria food
|Image credit: Fabulous Chick Gets Fit|
In the 90s cafeteria, not only were their ginormous muffins, but also breakfast sandwiches oozing with cheese, square mystery pizza every day, snack cakes like Chocodiles and Linden's Buttercrunch Cookies I could ONLY get in school (thus motivating me to eat them more frequently). French fries and bagels, bagels galore. There were even processed foods I have NEVER have seen outside of a school cafeteria like breaded cinnamon sticks.
My typical high school day often involved a heat lamp-melted cafeteria muffin, a bagel with low-fat cream cheese and some kind of snack pastry. And go home and have a Lean Cuisine TV dinner.
|Image credit: Piggy's Deli|
Once, I brought bagels to a class for breakfast and took the unconsumed bagels to my next study hall. I still remember how a group of freshman boys took up my offer to finish them off. They ate the bagels with butter and cream cheese AND THEN ATE THE BUTTER AND LICKED THE CREAM CHEESE CONTAINER CLEAN.
It was then I understood the appetite of teenage boys: I hasten to add they did thank me profusely even though they ate the cream cheese with their hands.
|Image credit: Dr. Pepper Snapple Group|
9. 'Character' kid food
|Image credit: Blue Buddies|
10. Food so sweet and processed that only children can eat it
|Image credit: Calorie Count|
10. Incredibly unhealthy 'healthy' yogurt
|Image credit: Crazy Food Dude|
11. The Extra Value Meal at McDonald's
|Image credit: McDonald's|
12. Funky-ass pizza
|Image credit: Tumblr|
Hmm...in reviewing these 90s trends...all of which involve 'diet' food that is not really diet, immense portion sizes, and food that is designed to minimize the effort of eating and thus encourage you to eat more...I may have found the solution to the 80s paradox of why kids were so skinny in the 80s and we all got so fat in the 90s...