6 Healthy Foods of the ’90s That Were Actually Terrible for You

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The ’90s was an unforgettable decade, especially when it came to food. For one, the end of the 20thy The century has brought us timeless comfort classics like Eggo Waffles, Bagel Bites, Hot Pockets, and Pizza Rolls, as well as some of the best food-related movies of our time like Soul FoodAnd Good BurgerAnd Like chocolate water. On top of that, it also provided some of the most memorable health foods of the ’90s—some of which lingered as late as the millennium dawned, while others continued to linger on shelves long after we’ve cast aside our 2000 anxieties. That the nineties show Tomorrow, Thursday, January 19, 2023, is the perfect time to take a trip down memory lane and reminisce about those classic healthy foods from the ’90s that we thought were doing our bodies good, but discovered were actually some of the unhealthiest options.

Healthy food trends in the ’90s were a lot different than they are today, and one of the biggest determinants was our society’s obsession with going “low-fat.” According to an article by Ann F. La Berge published in Journal of the History of Medicine and Allied SciencesEating a low-fat diet has become more than just a trend — it’s been an ideology.

“Backed by scientific studies, promoted by the federal government, the food industry, and the popular media, low fat has become the dominant dietary belief of healthcare practitioners, health promoters, and a large portion of the American people,” LaBerge writes.

Along with the low-fat craze, low-carb diets were making their way into the mainstream by the 1990s as well, due in part to the popularity of diets like the Atkins diet. It’s trends like these that have inspired many of the nostalgic health foods we know so well from the decade ago, but a lot of the trendy health food products weren’t very healthy after all.

Read on to learn more about some of the healthiest foods of the ’90s that were actually really bad for you. Next, be sure to check out the 3 Food Additives You Should Avoid — And 3 You Shouldn’t Fear.

Courtesy of Reddit

Arguably one of the most memorable “healthy” foods of the ’90s, Snackwell’s Devil’s Food Cookie was the fat-free dessert everyone had to eat after its launch in 1992. According to Chicago Tribune, Snackwell’s original cookie used to contain high fructose corn syrup and other preservatives, making it an unhealthy “health” food—even though it was marketed as a good-for-you, fat-free treat. In fact, these cookies have made such a lasting impact on our society that we now have the term “Snackwell effect,” which describes the common phenomenon of snacking so “low-calorie” that you end up eating more calories than you take in. You might have if you stick to the original version.

Although SnackWell was the best in the ’90s, the company recently closed shop. In 2022, the Snackwell homepage addresses its loyal customers with a heartfelt farewell.

“After thirty years of providing your favorite snacks, the Snackwell brand has been terminated,” the website reads.

Atkins Strawberry Shortcake Bar
Courtesy of Atkins

Dr. Robert C. Atkins published his first book on a low-carb diet, Dr. Atkins Diet Revolution, in 1972. Although that book put Dr. Atkins and his low-carb plan on the map, it wasn’t until two decades later that the original Atkins Bar was released in 1997 under the name Atkins Advantage Bar. Called the nutritional product “Controlled Carbs,” the bar originally came in a chocolate-macadamia-hazelnut flavor.

The Atkins Diet was created by cardiologist Dr. Atkins as a low-carb, high-fat eating plan with the goal of helping people lose weight. However, this diet plan sparked a lot of controversy and ended up not being very healthy. According to the Cleveland Clinic, some of the main complaints of the Atkins diet are that it promotes processed foods and meat, ignores important food groups like whole grains, and can have unwanted side effects like dangerously low blood sugar.

Atkins Advantage bars, which are still sold today as meal replacements or snacks, were thought to be healthy when they were first introduced. However, these bars are full of saturated fat and preservatives, making them an unhealthy choice.

Lay Wow chips
Courtesy of fandom

If you remember eating Lay’s WOW potato chips, you may also have memories of the trips you took to the bathroom soon after. In 1996, the Food and Drug Administration approved a chemical called Olean, commonly referred to as Olestra, that was supposed to mimic and replace fats in some food products. Two years later, Lay’s took the opportunity to use Olestra in snack recipes, and released WOW! Potato chips that are described as having half the calories of standard chips. Unfortunately, the side effects of consuming this “fat” were quite uncomfortable. to me time-A publication also named olestra among its 50 worst inventions – side effects of olestra include stomach cramps, gas, and loose stools. So yeah, these snacks were fat-free, but they weren’t doing anyone’s digestive system any favors.

Related: 7 healthy foods that are worse for you than candy

Courtesy of Click Americana

Kudos were the chocolate-covered granola bars that everyone wanted to have in their lunch, and in many ways, it felt like you were eating your favorite candy bar. Although these snacks were extremely popular in the 90s, they eventually disappeared without a trace. When they were first created, each bar had a delicious chocolate coating. In 1993, Mars released “Simply Kudos Snacks”, which were the same granola bar without the milk chocolate topping. Although it’s hard to find nutritional information for some of the original Kudos bars, one box photo of Kudos from 1987 from Click Americana shows each bar contains 180 calories, 9 grams of fat, and was made with ingredients like sugar, corn syrup, and butter. Artificial dyes and flavors. So, although this tasty treat was marketed as a healthy granola bar, it wasn’t much different from a candy bar.

strawberry nutrigrain
Courtesy of Kellogg’s

to me supermarket newsKellogg’s released “Smart Start Cereal Bars” in 1989, which then evolved into “Nutri-Grain” bars in 1991. Although these bars—which were popular in the 1990s but are still sold today—are marketed as breakfast options, of whole grains, they are not at all the best way to start your day. The ingredients list is extremely long and contains so many you can’t pronounce, and with only 1 gram of fiber, 2 grams of protein, and 12 grams of added sugar, this bar won’t leave you feeling full or satiated. For a very long time at all.

Hi c orange lavaburst
Courtesy of Hi-C

Kids and adults alike can benefit from a healthy dose of orange juice, but don’t let Hi-C fool you. This drink, which was extremely popular on lunchboxes everywhere in the ’90s, markets itself as a kind of orange juice but doesn’t actually contain much OJ at all.

to me Food and Drink in American HistoryHi-C was invented in 1946 by combining sugar, flavorings, and 10% orange juice. So yeah, you may only get 40 calories per can of juice, but that also comes with 10 grams of added sugar in every serving. Not to mention, the second ingredient right after water on the ingredients list is high fructose corn syrup, and the only “orange juice” you get is orange juice from concentrate.

Although you can still buy Hi-C in stores and online, you might want to try switching to the 100% orange juice option instead.

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