16 Things Every ’80s Kid Had in Their Lunch Box

If you grew up in the 1980s, you’ll remember the bright colors and fun shapes of lunch box snacks. Not phased by artificial ingredients or high levels of sugar, the parents of the 1980s opted for convenient food that appealed to children with fun branding or packaging.

Classic PB&J Sandwich

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An iconic lunch box item, a PB&J is the perfect blend of savory and sweet flavors. Although the exact origins of this combo are unknown, according to Reader’s Digest, the snack became popularized in World War II. “The U.S. military ration menus featured jars of peanut butter and jelly and soldiers would spread both on pre-sliced bread for an energy boost.” 

Fruit Roll-Ups

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First launched by General Mills in the early 1980s, Fruit Roll-Ups tapped into the preference for convenient, fun, and child-friendly foods of the time. Despite being marketed as a fruit snack, Fruit Roll-Ups were primarily made from fruit concentrate and sugar, reflecting the relaxed attitude toward artificial ingredients and sugar content in children’s diets in this era.

Jell-O Pudding Pops

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A popular frozen treat, Jell-O Pudding Pops found their way into many ‘80s homes. Known for their creamy texture and a variety of flavors, including chocolate and vanilla, these treats reflect the preference for including branded, processed food items in children’s diets.


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Handi-Snacks, in particular the crackers and cheese variety, offered a convenient snack, even including the small red stick to spread the cheese. This reflected the preference for on-the-go foods during this decade and offered a savory choice among predominantly sweet children’s snack options.

Capri Sun

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Launched in the American market in the 1980s, Capri Sun quickly became a lunch box staple due to its distinctive pouch packaging and straw-insertion ritual. According to Capri Sun, in 1982, the product won the best new product launched in America award as well as the coveted U.S. medal for packaging of the year.


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Although not introduced until the late 1980s, Lunchables were a revolutionary concept that allowed kids to assemble their own mini meals, including crackers, cheese, and meats. They quickly became popular as they appealed to a child’s sense of autonomy and fun when it came to lunchtime.

Thermos Flask

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Allowing for a slightly more nutritious lunch choice, the Thermos flask was essential for keeping drinks and soup hot or cold depending on the weather. Its durability and practicality made it a favorite among parents, while kids appreciated having their favorite drinks at the right temperature.

Little Debbie Snack Cakes

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Available in a variety of flavors, from oatmeal creme pies to nutty bars, Little Debbie snack cakes were a popular choice for lunch boxes in the 1980s. According to Mashed, “One of the most recognizable cake snack companies, Little Debbie first began selling their cakes in 1933 for five cents a piece to a small bakery.”

String Cheese

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String cheese became a popular snack choice during the 1980s due to its portability, nutritional content, and the fun factor of peeling it into strings. According to How Stuff Works, “Although string cheese is 100 percent mozzarella cheese, it’s not the same as the softer, smoother fresh mozzarella.”

Ecto Cooler Hi-C

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Tying in with the release of Ghostbusters, Ecto Cooler was a bright green citrus-flavored drink that became popular during the late ‘80s and early ‘90s. The unique color made it a must-have drink for many children, and its nostalgic appeal has remained so strong that it has been reintroduced numerous times.

Mickey Mouse Clubhouse Sandwich Cutter

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Sandwich cutters came in various shapes, and the Mickey Mouse Clubhouse ones were a popular version for children’s lunch boxes. They added a fun touch to a nutritional sandwich, and the use of characters reflects the era’s focus on making food appealing to children.

Ants on a Log

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A more nutritious lunch box staple, ‘ants on a log’ are celery sticks filled with peanut butter and topped with raisins. A creative snack that was easy and cheap to prepare, they were a hit with parents, and children loved the balance of the crunchy texture of celery with the creamy richness of peanut butter and the sweet touch of raisins.

Bagel Bites

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Introduced in the ‘80s, Bagel Bites mini pizzas were a quick, tasty meal that fit perfectly into lunch boxes. The small pizzas were guaranteed to suit most children’s tastes and reflect the decade’s preference for convenience-oriented foods that were targeted at children.

Kool-Aid Bursts

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Another popular lunch box drink, Kool-Aid Bursts were a fun, fruity drink option that had squeezable bottles and twist-off caps. They were designed to have child-friendly packaging that allowed them to be drunk without the need for a cup or a straw. They were available in a variety of flavors, represented by bright colors.

Teddy Grahams

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Introduced in the late ‘80s, Teddy Grahams were bite-sized, bear-shaped graham crackers that quickly became a favorite snack among children for their cute shape and sweet taste. They were available in a variety of flavors, including honey, cinnamon, and chocolate, and their portability made them a lunch box favorite.

Nestlé Quik Chocolate Milk

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Now known as Nesquik, Nestlé Quik was a popular chocolate milk mix that allowed kids to easily turn their milk into a sweet, chocolatey drink, making it a popular addition to school lunches. The iconic bunny mascot embodied the ‘80s trend of branded, child-oriented food products.

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