School lunches today are basically works of art.
They're nutritious, contain several well-balanced food groups, and are allergen-friendly. They're often litterless, carefully sectioned into colourful bento boxes. And many are creative, containing star-shaped whole-grain sandwich cut-outs, fresh fruit rainbows, and sticky-rice formed into teddy bears.
KIDS THESE DAYS. Who do they think they are, eating healthfully and conscientiously while also saving the planet?
In the 1990s, we rode the school bus BOTH WAYS, carried our PB&J on white Wonder Bread in plastic baggies, and washed down our all-chemical fruit snacks with a luke-warm bottle of Orbitz that we may or may not have recycled, depending on whether our school had implemented the Three Rs yet.
And we're, um, mostly fine.
Looking back on what we ate for lunch as kids, it's hard to believe anyone who went to school in the 1980s and '90s got through childhood without scurvy, rickets, a mouthful of cavities, and a very real sugar addiction.
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Here are some of our favourite nostalgic school lunch staples that we can't believe we actually ate on the reg.
1. Lunchables Pizza
Couldn't wait for your weekly school pizza day? No problem. Just beg your mom to buy you Lunchables Pizza and make your own cardboard puck room-temp slices at your desk! Just try not to squirt your "Space Jam" T-shirt with that sauce packet.
2. Jos Louis
The truly lucky kids were allowed to bring a full moon, but even a half moon of this sugary cake-like, cream-filled, chocolate-coated treat was enough to make anyone the king or queen of recess trade wars.
You want to trade your entire lunch for my half moon? GET OUT OF HERE, JAKE. Come back when you have something real to offer, like a Beanie Baby or Tamagotchi.
Do you know what the inside of a lava lamp tastes and feels like in your mouth? If not, you've clearly never guzzled a bottle of Orbitz hanging out by your locker purely because it looked cool.
This sugary, oddly-textured drink (can we call it a drink? That seems generous) was the brain-child of Clearly Canadian, and it launched in 1997. The company described it as a "unique, natural, fruit-flavoured, non-carbonated beverage with colourful gel spheres that seem to defy gravity by remaining suspended in the liquid." Erm. OK.
It was discontinued within the year, according to Bustle, but what a year it was.
4. Teddy Grahams
Are they cookies? Are they crackers? Are they anything but sugar with trace amounts of graham flour? Who cares! They're shaped like teddy bears and can be used for barter on the playground!
If you didn't find a rogue Teddy Graham in the bottom of your "Beverly Hills, 90210" backpack (Chocolate chip! Score!), or half-crumbled in your bedazzled jean jacket pocket, were you even a kid?
5. Chef Boyardee
Oh, Chef Boyardee days were a real treat, weren't they? Just when you were worried you might be getting sick of bologna sandwiches, BAM, mom packed you a piping hot lunch in your NKOTB thermos.
Marketed as "dipping fun on-the-go!", Ritz Crackers Handi-Snacks boasted never needing refrigeration despite containing cheese. IT'S MAGIC!
Whether you were a dipper or you meticulously spread your cheese topping (or peanut butter, depending on which flavour you chose that week) with that little red stick, Handi-Snacks would get you through the long and hungry afternoon stretch of back-to-back "Téléfrancais!" episodes. (Say it with us: "Je suis un ananas.")
7. String Thing
What fresh hell? Can we even call this food?
WHY NOT! It was the '90s and apparently everything and anything was edible! String Thing didn't pretend to be anything it wasn't, bless. It was a string and it was a thing. These are indisputable facts.
8. Raw instant noodles
We're not sure how our parents let us get away with this one, but again, it was the '90s! We were all latch-key kids, the TV was our babysitter, and apparently raw noodles were a totally reasonable lunch option.
Who else remembers that satisfying crunch as you mashed those yellow noodles with your fist to break off hunks of something that we guess could be considered edible? That punch of salty goodness (Chicken? Or beef? Oh, it's the connoisseur's choice) as you poured the condensed flavour packet directly into your mouth?
HOW ARE WE NOT ALL DEAD?
The '90s strike again with a popular lunch snack that combines the decade's preferred texture — gummy — with the flavour benefits of soda. No wonder we ate Sodalicious like candy!*
*it was actually just candy.
Bonus: it "had a unique coating that gave snackers a tingling sensation similar to what they'd experience drinking a soda pop," according to the General Mills blog. But if you're hoping to pick up a package on your next visit to Whole Foods, we have to break it you that Sodalicious went flat and was discontinued in 1998.
Every nutritious '90s lunch should include a little treat — something to round out that white bread and jelly sandwich and Funyuns side dish.
And when we weren't sure we'd had enough sugar that day, Dunkaroos were there for us with their cookie vessel for icing-to-mouth transport.
Although you may want to see an internist, dentist, and nutritionist after this walk down memory lane, we bet you feel a lot better about feeding your kids the occasional cookie and all those times you ordered them pizza for dinner.
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