If you grew up in the ’80s, you’ll never forget the simple joys of wearing neon bike shorts, listening to Bon Jovi cassette tapes, and putting scratch ‘n sniff stickers on everything. As we look back on our childhoods now, we can see that some of the choices we made as kids were absolutely terrible for our health. On the other hand, there are places where we could all learn a thing or two by taking it back to the ’80s every now and then. Read on to learn how time has changed our perceptions of life as an ’80s kid.
Swapping My Lunchtime Apple + $0.25 for a Bag of Doritos
We all remember making lunchtime deals to snag some extra junk food— like swapping an apple and $0.25 for a bag of Doritos. We may have felt like we were getting away with something sneaky and wonderful at the time, but we were definitely making some bad trades. Instead of munching on a naturally sweet treat rich in antioxidants and fiber, we were feeding our bodies empty calories flavored with dangerous chemicals.
Rolling Around in the Mud
As kids in the ’80s, we loved wrestling in the dirt, making mud pies, and splashing through puddles. As it turns out, playing in the dirt offered us some real health benefits, because those memorable afternoons exposed us to beneficial bacteria that strengthened our immune systems. In today’s over-sterilized world, kids wouldn’t make it two steps before a dismayed parent rushed out with the hand sanitizer and baby wipes.
Eating Dinner by 6 PM
Do you remember when our parents left work at 5 PM, came home, and had everyone gathered around the table for a family dinner by 6 PM? Now it seems that more and more jobs require longer hours, which means we’re getting home and eating dinner later than we did as children. Dining after dark gives us far less time to digest our food, and we miss out on the benefits of intermittent fasting between that 6 PM dinner and breakfast the next day.
Eating Canned Foods on a Regular Basis
Of course, in order to have dinner ready by 6 PM, our parents often cut some corners for the sake of convenience— like serving us canned foods on a regular basis. Now scientists tell us that those canned soups we used to turn to in a pinch could be some of the biggest offenders for exposing us to Bisphenol A (BPA). This chemical mimics estrogen and messes with our hormonal health, especially when exposed to them in childhood. Before you call your mom in a fit of rage, remember that it was the ’80s— no one knew any better!
Hanging Around My Aunt Who Would Chain-Smoke
To this day, many of us still can’t smell cigarette smoke without thinking about that one aunt who used to chain-smoke at family gatherings. Little did we know just how dangerous that secondhand smoke could truly be. Studies now show that the exposure put us at an increased risk of asthma attacks, respiratory infections, ear infections, and more.
Fast Food Dinners With Dad Were a Treat
Nothing elicited shouts of joy in our childhood quicker than Dad telling us to hop in the car for dinner at our favorite fast food restaurant. We had no idea that those “treat meals” were putting us at greater risk of obesity, diabetes, stroke, heart disease, and more. As adults striving to live healthier lives, a fast food dinner now sounds more like a punishment than a reward.
Making Mix-Tapes With Friends
Before we had Spotify and iTunes to instantly stream any song we wanted to hear, we loved getting together with friends to make mix-tapes of our favorite tunes. We weren’t motivated by health at the time, but the benefits were certainly there. Social interaction has been linked with improved mental health, physical health, and mortality rates. It wouldn’t hurt us to step away from our streaming devices and hang out (in real life) with friends over shared interests like music more often.
Waking Up Early to Watch Saturday Morning Cartoons
As the old saying goes, “Early to bed, early to rise makes a man healthy, wealthy, and wise.” Getting up early on Saturdays to watch cartoons was an easy way to keep our bodies on a consistent sleep schedule. Plus, if we can get back to waking up early as adults, we’re far more likely to eat healthy foods and exercise more— as long as we don’t camp out in front of the TV for an all-day marathon, of course.
“Just Saying No” to Drugs
When President Reagan advised us to “just say no” to drugs in the ’80s, he was mostly referring to illegal drugs. However, with rising rates of abuse of over-the-counter and prescription drugs across the US, our generation would be much healthier if we took that presidential advice to heart today.
Playing Board Games
You may still enjoy a game night with friends from time to time, but how often do you find yourself checking your phone for texts or scrolling through Facebook while waiting for your turn? As kids, we didn’t have those distractions, so our full attention was on the game, and more importantly, our friends and family. The social bonds formed over lively games of Monopoly and Trivial Pursuit benefited our mental and physical health. Maybe it’s time to break out the old board games again— and put down our phones.
Listening to Friends’ Parents Explain Why Diet Soda is Healthy
In the ’80s, diet soda was all the rage among our parents. They loved the chance to indulge in sweet, fizzy drinks without the extra calories. Unfortunately, what they didn’t know is that those sugar-free sweeteners would soon be linked to cancer and other terrible health outcomes. This is definitely one case where our mothers didn’t know best after all.
Eating Whole Wheat Jam Sandwiches Like They Were Kale Wrapped in Chlorophyll
Diet sodas aren’t the only place where our perception of healthy foods was a bit skewed. We used to love munching on PB&Js and believed that as long as that sugary jam was spread on whole wheat bread, we were good to go. Unfortunately, even whole wheat bread is high in carbs and can cause your blood sugar to spike.
Eating Awesome Cereal Like Ice Cream Cones, Count Chocula, and More
We have so many fond memories of eating breakfast cereals that looked (and tasted) more like desserts. With names like “Ice Cream Cones” and “Count Chocula,” these breakfast choices were fun and tasty, but they were also loaded with dangerous chemicals and tons of sugar. Your pasture-raised-egg omelet may not be quite as exciting as a bowl full of chocolate, but your body sure is glad you’ve left that particular childhood habit behind.
Ordering Books from Scholastic
Who can forget the innocent joy of ordering books from Scholastic? We’d pore over every option before making our final decisions. As it turns out, all of that excitement over reading was great for our health. Reading has been shown to reduce the risk of Alzheimer’s, combat stress, and more. We’d all be much healthier if we’d just return to this simple pleasure from our childhood, opting for a good read over another Netflix marathon every once in a while.
Going to a ’50s-Themed Party (or Any Kind of Party, for That Matter)
From ’50s-themed parties to any kind of birthday party, we definitely knew how to have some fun as kids in the ’80s. We weren’t old enough to consume alcohol, so these events just became a way to run around, play, or dance with our friends. As a result, we got a ton of exercise. We were actually burning calories while having fun! Next time exercise starts to seem boring, an ’80s-inspired party could be just what you need to get back on track.
Staying Up All Night Playing Nintendo
As a kid in the ’80s, it wasn’t uncommon to stay up all night playing Nintendo with friends. Unfortunately, swapping out those crucial hours of rest for extra screen time was harmful to our minds and bodies. We now know that experts recommend 9-11 hours of sleep for school-age children. Plus, the blue light on screens confuses our bodies and throws off our circadian rhythms, so it’s best to put down the video games (or cell phones and laptops) when getting ready for bed.
Adopting a Random Animal and Letting It Sleep With You (Even if It Didn’t Get Shots)
Kids have been begging their parents for pets for generations, but when we were kids in the ’80s, those pets rarely got the shots and regular vet visits they would today—yet we never hesitated to cuddle up with them in bed. This definitely wasn’t great for our dogs’ and cats’ health, as they were more prone to ticks and illnesses. On the other hand, at least we had the opportunity to strengthen our immune systems!
Trying to Avoid Our Parents When They Tried to Have “The Talk”
We still cringe in embarrassment when we remember how our parents awkwardly fumbled through “The Talk.” Fortunately, sex education has come a long way since our childhood. Now, more and more adults are making it a point to have open-minded discussions with children about safe sex, the dangers of molestation, and how to be safe and respectful in public and online.
Being Super Thrilled to Win a Hot Dog Eating Contest
We may have won nothing more than bragging rights, but kids in the ’80s were always thrilled to win a hot dog eating contest. Although the inevitable stomachache should’ve been a clue, we had no idea just how harmful overeating and binge eating really can be. Kids today are exposed to far more conversations about healthy eating habits than we ever were, which will hopefully lead to fewer cases of obesity, diabetes, and eating disorders in their future.
Running Around Until Late Hours With Our Friends With No Supervision
Back when we were kids, we spent many summer nights roaming around the neighborhood well after dark, playing games like Capture the Flag or Flashlight Tag. Although we’d all benefit from spending more time outside and less time in front of screens, it’s no longer safe for kids to roam around outside without adult supervision.
Reading Stories in the Dark Until Late at Night
From Judy Blume favorites to classics like Charlotte’s Web, there were so many great books for kids to enjoy in the ’80s. We’d often stay up late reading our favorites by flashlight. We had no idea at the time that we were putting some serious strain on our eye muscles. Plus, we were missing out on much needed sleep— a mistake that could easily lead to hyperactivity, fatigue, and inability to concentrate later.
Talking to Friends on the Long Corded Phone in Our Kitchen
Long gone are the days of sitting on the kitchen floor, twirling a long phone cord between our fingers and chatting with our friends after school. We now stay glued to cell phones, fielding unending streams of texts and social media notifications in the palms of our hands. Unfortunately, with lingering concerns about the dangers of cell phone radiation, we were probably much better off when our only phone was anchored to a wall and didn’t emit radio waves.
Keeping a Hidden “Candy Stash” Somewhere in Your Room
As kids in the ’80s, we enjoyed all kinds of amazing candies. Whether you liked the sweet crackle of Pop Rocks or the chewy goodness of Cow Tales, you definitely knew the thrill of having your own hidden candy stash. Hey, you may still have a secret stash now! The one thing that’s changed is that we now know that loading up on sugar, especially before bed, is beyond terrible for our health. It can cause our blood sugar to spike and crash and hinder a good night of sleep, which is crucial for living each day healthy and happy.