The bell rang, your science teacher lowered her feverishly energetic piece of chalk from the board and everyone took off. It was lunchtime, that glorious slice of freedom that made your school days bearable.
Back in elementary and middle school, lunchtime also brought constant surprises: Mom and Dad packed your meals, and the results were hit or miss. Some days, when all was right in the world, your favorite sandwich lay nestled next to your go-to snacks, while other days yielded last night’s mediocre leftovers and celery sticks.
Still, the fun was in the mystery, and we’re nostalgic for brown bag lunches every day. Looking back, a clear hierarchy emerges among these lunchtime staples, from the snacks everyone loathed to the treats you were always hoping for. So here they are, ranked from worst to best. Let the food fight begin.
⑰ Apple Slices
It’s just the cold, hard truth. Your mom apparently didn’t think you were capable of biting into a full apple, but by the time lunch rolled around, those little slices were totally brown.
⑯ Lunchables (ham-and-cheese “sandwich” edition)
Don’t even try to tell us that the “ham” and “turkey” included in those weird plastic trays resembled meat in any way. Also, crackers do not equal bread.
Pretzels are terrible. You choked them down, because they were there and your stomach was eating itself, but you never craved them.
⑭ Baby Carrots and Dip
If you’ve ever had to suffer through a Ziploc bag of baby carrots sans dip, you know what these watery torture devices are capable of. With the addition of ranch dressing or hummus (do children eat hummus?), they were passable.
⑬ Cold-Cut Sandwiches
White American cheese and honey ham on Wonder Bread never hurt anybody, but it never got anybody really excited either.
When you were young—say, before the age of about 14—yogurt didn’t come in a small plastic cup. It came in a tube that you sucked into your mouth, and it was bright pink or green and was weirdly wonderful.
⑪ Pudding Cups
Chocolate pudding cups should rank better than number 11, but vanilla pudding cups bring us all down. Indisputably.
⑩ Fruit Roll-Ups
No, we’re not talking about all-natural “fruit leather.” Never speak of that again.
Grapes are good, man.
It’s the snack that smiles back: What else is there to say? Bonus points if you had the storage container that was also shaped like a goldfish.
Whether you were Team Creamy or Team Crunchy, and a devotee of strawberry or grape, you never said no to a good PB&J.
Because you have fond memories of licking out the creamy center and making little piles of discarded “chocolate” cookies on the lunch table.
Cool Ranch for life.
④ Pizza Lunchables
So much better than every other Lunchables! Everything from the sweet sauce to the delicious cheese and pepperoni was perfect, plus there was the opportunity for culinary creativity. (P.S. Don’t ever try these as an adult. They do not live up to expectations.)
③ Capri Sun
Piercing that shiny silver pouch with your straw and sucking out the fruity elixir was one of the best parts of lunchtime, and you know it. (We must dock a few points for those occasions when the straw went straight through the pouch and out the other side. Party foul.)
What were those colorful, gummy, juicy gems of goodness, and why couldn’t we get enough? This candy cleverly disguised as a “snack” was always a treat to receive if Mom decided to grace you with their presence.
We will never get over the sudden and tragic removal of Dunkaroos from the marketplace. How are today’s children supposed to experience the joys of eating a packet of cookies and frosting as a midday snack? Still, they were wonderful while they lasted, and we have fond memories of when our greatest source of stress in life was trying to get the cookie-to-frosting ratio just right.
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