Bart Simpson may have been telling us to eat his shorts — gag me with a spoon — but that offer was easy to refuse, because there were just so many other great foods to chow down on in the '80s. TCBY and Orange Julius gave people a place to hang out in the days before Starbucks and Jamba Juice and McDonald's had us assembling our own sandwiches. Meanwhile, the widespread use of microwave ovens drew unprecedented demand for frozen foods that could quickly be nuked to create a tasty meal, from frost-it-yourself strudels to sandwich fixings packed into layer of flaky crust.
Of course, the real star of the '80s food market was the snacks. From Nerds to Big League Chew to Reese's Pieces, tons of sweet treats found their niche during that decade. The rising interest in low-fat meant a newfound interest in diet versions of classic nibbles, many of which were packed with sugar to make up for the lack of fat. Over in the beverage market, kid's drinks packed with sugar and "fruit" took on diet sodas that would soon dominate soft drink sales.
Think you remember some of the greatest foods of the '80s? Prove it with this quiz!
Bagel Bites came out in 1985 and revolutionized breakfast for the younger set. By plopping cheese and sauce on a bagel, the humble pizza became a food that would work as well for breakfast as it would for dinner. Eighties kids might remember Bagel Bites commercials, which promised, "When pizza's on a bagel, you can eat pizza anytime!"
"Ghostbusters" was a huge hit when it came out in 1984, spawning tons of merchandise, along with a 1986 cartoon called "The Real Ghostbusters." To celebrate the new animated series, Hi-C rebranded its classic citrus juice box as Ecto-Cooler, complete with a picture of Slimer on the package. The drink was so popular that it stayed on store shelves long after "Ghostbusters" fever had faded.
Mars turned down an offer to have M&M's appear in the 1982 mega-hit "E.T." Producers instead turned to the lesser-known Reese's Pieces, which became a huge seller when the film was released, as everyone wanted to try the adorable alien's favorite treat.
Pillsbury marketed the '80s breakfast treat Toaster Strudels with the tagline, "Something better just popped up." Kids and adults alike clamored for this frozen toaster pastries, which came with packets of sweet creamy icy to swirl on top.
Introduced in 1988, Lunchables were a brilliant invention by Oscar Meyer to sell more lunch meat by appealing to busy working moms. The concept was basically a lunch version of the classic TV dinner, and every '80s kid knows that finding Lunchables in your lunch box gave you instant access to the cool table in the cafeteria.
Gum got exciting in the '80s thanks to a line of soda-inspired products. These mega-sized gum pieces were filled with liquid, with flavors inspired by Dr. Pepper, 7-Up and Cherry 7-Up.
Mr.T became a larger-than-life persona in the '80s after starring in "The A-Team" and "Rocky III." Marketers took advantage of this popularity with the release of Mr. T Cereal in 1984. Featuring crunchy bits shaped like the letter "T," the cereal came with a pack of stickers to woo young shoppers and their parents.
At the start of the '80s, Tab ruled the diet soda market. And then came Diet Coke in 1982, which pretty quickly sent Tab packing. It was certainly a whole lot more successful than New Coke, which came out in 1985 and left fans of the classic cola fuming.
Microwave cooking was all the rage in the '80s as the newfangled appliances started showing up in kitchens across the U.S. Chef America took advantage of the craze by creating meat and cheese filled dough wraps called Hot Pockets, which came out in 1983 and included a special sleeve to keep the dough from getting soggy during cooking.
The PB Max was a truly unique sweet, made by layering peanut butter and oats over a crunchy cookie, then coating the whole thing in chocolate. Sadly, the PB Max was short-lived, just like Planters PB Crisps, which came out a few years later and were quickly discontinued. Turns out the '80s weren't such a great time for peanut butter lovers.
Not satisfied with the success of Fruit Roll-Ups, Fruit Corners released pouches of tiny fruit-flavored candy bits called Fruit Wrinkles in 1986. With flavors like orange, lemon, cherry and strawberry, they were similar to raisins flavored with fruits other than grapes — except they were mostly made of sugar.
From 1981 to 2006, nut-maker Planters produced cardboard cans of puffed snacks called Cheez Balls. When they were discontinued, fans old and new launched a grassroots campaign to get the classic snack back in production. Planters finally caved to demand in 2018, restoring this beloved food to store shelves.
Every '80s kid remembers commercials showing the Keebler elves hard at work baking cookies in their treehouse kitchen. One of their creations, Magic Middles, featured shortbread stuffed with gooey fudge. While these cookies are no longer made, Pepperidge Farm Milano Melts offer a similar experience if you're feeling nostalgic.
Almost any kid alive in the '80s experienced the magic of Squeezits at least once. These sugary, fruit-flavored drinks came in soft plastic bottles that could be squished and squeezed to avoid missing a drop.
Microwaves were taking over at the dawn of the '80s, so it's no surprise that food manufacturers were eager to take advantage of this growing technology. General Mills scored the first patent for a microwave popcorn bag in 1981, according to The History Channel, and the snack just took off from there.
Slice was hugely popular when it came out in 1984. Made from 10 percent fruit juice mixed with sugary carbonation, this drink came in flavors like cherry, apple and grape. Sadly for Slice fans, demand fell off and the product was discontinued in the '00s.
When Doritos came out in 1964, they were simple corn chips with no added flavoring. Taco and Nacho versions in 1967 and 1972 stepped things up a bit, but nothing matches the excitement that came with the release of Cool Ranch Doritos in 1986. If you live outside of the U.S., you might know these as Cool America flavor, because ranch dressing isn't as common outside the states.
Fruit Roll-Ups are an early '80s product featuring sheets of sugary fruit-leather rolled with a layer of cellophane to prevent sticking. In the '80s, commercials for the product often gave kids a look into the Fruit Roll-Ups Fun Factory for a silly sense of how these treats are made.
Jolly Ranchers hard candies have been around since the late '40s, but the introduction of Jolly Rancher Stix in the late '70s brought this candy to a whole new generation. Available in green apple and cinnamon, the thin, translucent sticks could be enjoyed for much longer than the average chocolate bar.
A blend of orange juice, sugar, milk, vanilla and egg whites or bananas, the Orange Julius is a frothy classic found in countless mall food courts of the '80s. Before the modern coffee shop or juice bar, the Orange Julius was the go-to drink for thirsty shoppers in need of a pick-me-up. Today, you can get this treat at Dairy Queen, which bought the brand in 1987.
Lean Cuisine came out in 1981 to appeal to diet-conscious customers looking for a quick and healthy lunch option that could be cooked in the microwave in four minutes flat. The first line included 10 meals of 300 calories or less. Today, that number has grown to more than a 100, including pizza, pasta and other once-forbidden favorites.
TCBY began as This Can't Be Yogurt in 1981, before switching its name to The Country's Best Yogurt in 1984 due to a lawsuit. Throughout the decade, fans of the low-fat treat flocked to TCBY shops for this "healthy" treat, ignoring the sugar content altogether.
An animated series about singing blue critters called Smurfs kept kids entertained from 1981 through 1989. To take advantage of Smurf-mania, food makers introduced Smurf-Berry Crunch in 1983, followed by Smurf Magic Berries — with marshmallows — a few years later.
Capri-Sun came out in 1969, but didn't make it to the U.S. until 1981. Once this fruity juice blend hit the States, however, kids everywhere were ready to pack it in their lunchboxes. Served in a flexible pouch that somehow stood up, the drink required you to stab it with a straw to access the liquid within.
Introduced in 1963, Tab was the top-selling diet soda in the U.S. through the '70s. Sales slumped a bit when studies showed a link between saccharin and bladder cancer. By the time Diet Coke came out in 1982, Tab was on the downswing, and even the introduction of Caffeine-Free and Clear Tab over the next few years couldn't save this soda.
Tri-color pasta salad, or tricolore, was all the rage in the '80s. This ubiquitous side featured green, white and orange rotini pasta soaked in Italian dressing and tossed with fresh veggies.
Carnation Instant Breakfast has been around since the '60s, but by the '80s, an on-the-go breakfast meant grabbing a Carnation Instant Breakfast Bar. In the days before all the protein bars you see today, this quick meal provided an energy boost in the form of granola, peanut butter and chocolate.
The first commercial waffle fry maker came out in '79, which meant the '80s were just the perfect time for this food to find a market. Chick-Fil-A chose this style of fry to sell in their restaurants starting in 1985, and today waffle fries are the most popular item on the menu, according to Entrepreneur.
Nerds came out in 1983, and were picked as Candy of the Year by the National Candy Wholesalers Association just two years later. Each box came with two openings, each featuring a different color of sweet sugar crystals that you could chew or let dissolve on your tongue.
In the '80s, the Keebler Elves backed up Tato Skins chips in flavors like bacon and cheddar or sour cream and chives. Designed with one dark side to mimic the skin of the potato, these chips are now sold under the TGI Fridays brand.
Crystal Light is a fruity low or no-cal beverage that came out in 1982. Commercials featuring Linda Evans or Priscilla Presley sipping on the drink during their workouts helped keep sales brisk.
The McChicken was a 1980 McDonald's creation consisting of a breaded chicken patty, mayo and shredded lettuce. It wasn't a top-seller, so Mickey D's pulled it off the menu in favor of something much more popular ... McNuggets.
Have you ever looked closely at Teddy Grahams, tiny cookie bears that came out in '88? Each is positioned in a reverse jumping jack, with legs together and arms wide, or legs spread and arms at their sides. When they were first introduced, this snack came in honey, cinnamon and chocolate varieties.
Wild Cherry Pepsi came out in 1988, adding a fruity twist to this beloved cola. While this product sold well, the company's 1991 venture of strawberry, tropical and raspberry sodas known as The Wild Bunch was a major flop.
Introduced in 1987, and known as the Temptations bar in Canada, BarNone was a delicious combination of chocolate cream-filled wafers topped with finely chopped peanuts and coated in chocolate. It sold well for a few years, but even the addition of a layer of caramel in 1993 couldn't save this candy from extinction.
Lollipops are yummy, but they take time to enjoy all the way down to the stick. Push Pops solved this problem by putting the candy into a tube, where it could be easily tucked away and saved for later.
Bill Cosby was a huge star in the '80s thanks to his role as Cliff Huxtable on "The Cosby Show." With him pushing the chocolate, vanilla and swirled Jell-O pudding pops, kids were eager to try the treat.
Noticing all the players around him chewing tobacco, Portland Mavericks player Rob Nelson was inspired to create Big League Chew in the '80s. These envelopes of shredded gum come with cartoon images of baseball players on the package, with more than 800 million sold since its introduction, according to the product's website.
The McDonald's Lettuce and Tomato, or McDLT, was a burger sold in a special foam tray with a separate compartment to keep the toppings cool and fresh. Turns out, customers weren't fond of assembling their own sandwiches, so the McDLT was discontinued in 1990.
Named for the University of Florida's football team, Gatorade dominated the sports drink market when it came out in the '60s. By 1988, Coca-Cola was ready to throw its own hat into the sports drink market with the introduction of Powerade. By the 2010s, Powerade owned about a third of the U.S. sports beverage market, according to NBC News.