Sometimes we all look back and cringe just a bit at the sugary garbage we ate as children. Though it may still hold some nostalgic appeal, it’s tough to defend some of the candy we so adored as kids. You would think we were all spent a significant portion of our youth drifting into diabetic shock--how else to explain the pure sugar our parents pushed down our throats? I can only assume they had no orange juice on hand and had to save our lives with the cunning use of Pixie Sticks. There’s just no other explanation for willingly serving your child the equivalent of the contents of your sugar bowl.
For those of us who now work with or have children of our own, we know the lure of bribery is one we cannot always ignore. Do your homework? Have some Nerds! Clean your room? Help yourself to the Fun Dip. Sure, it’s morally ambiguous, but it works. Sometimes, you’ve just got to give in and let the kids be kids. In this case, that means our parents allowed us to hype ourselves up on a diet of pure sugar only to crash later with unforeseen consequences of immeasurable crankiness. We loved them for that moment in which they relinquished the candy, though, and that’s what really counts.
We ate all sorts of processed sugar masquerading as innocent snacks, but here are a few of the sweetest culprits:
Possibly the worst offender, Pixy Stix were composed of little more than colored sugar. Apparently an acceptable snack consists of taking pure sugar and a dab of food coloring and calling it a kid-friendly nosh. The worst of the worst prize went to the giant-size straw version, which we can only imagine contained a full two-pound bag of refined sugar.
What better to dip candy in than candy? It’s a perfect solution to all your dipping needs. Simply take sugar molded into a solid mass and dip it into its granulated counterpart. Delicious.
Nerds may have been glorified color-coated rock candy, but we can award some credit where due for delicious flavor combinations. Nerds conveniently packaged two complementary flavors in a single box, allowing us to ingest our flavor sugar with a well-balanced palette.
If you thought it was kind of gross simply to consume sugar-laden hard candy, imagine adding an element of extreme germ exposure to the mix. The problem with Jawbreakers lay in the fact that they were simply too large to be consumed in a single sitting. The result? Days of your giant candy hanging out in a bowl or similar open-air receptacle, collecting delicious dust mite seasoning mix.
Pop Rocks have been available since the 70s, but their popularity saw a resurgence in the 80s following their restock on candy store shelves. The candy suffered briefly from the implications of an urban legend that claimed the candy could make your stomach explode when mixed with soda. It can’t, for the record, but it still does work to scare children as effectively as it did back then.
Children have a naturally competitive nature, so it’s little surprise that they became the target market for discomfort-themed food. It may not sound especially pleasant to endure a painfully sour candy throughout the dissolution of its coating, which is because it’s not. At all. Not even a little bit. With children, though, the natural playground spirit of competition made candies like Warheads a huge hit--not to mention a major indicator of elementary school street credibility.
Sour Patch Kids
Sour Patch Kids represent sour flavor in its slightly less repugnant form--as a sugar coating over a chewy fruit snack-type candy. It admittedly burns off a taste bud or two, but it’s a small price to pay for coolness in front of your pro-sour friends.
Push Pops/Ring Pops
Of course, no discussion of sugary 90s candies would be complete without mention of two of the most traded and widely respected hard candies on the playground market: push pops and ring pops. Both caused unnecessarily sticky messes and had limited functionality outside of their general novelty appeal, but who cares? They were delicious in their own sugary way. Though, to be fair, they did give a generation of young girls very unrealistic expectations about the size of a rock they could be expecting on their engagement ring.
It should go without saying that I just can’t discuss 90s-themed sugar highs without playing the eponymous song from Empire Records. All of the sugary sweetness, none of the calories. Enjoy!