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Published on June 5th, 2008 | by Sharon Troy

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Seven Eco-friendly Options for Less Junky Junk Food

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snacksI confess: as much as I wish I could say every meal I eat is as healthy as my quinoa and kale salad, sometimes I just have a craving for junk food. Ya know?

When I first went vegetarian seven years ago I quickly realized how easy it was to replace meat with junk food. After all, I’d sacrificed so much my giving up chicken that I should reward myself with donuts, right? They’re vegetarian! And so are potato chips, and candy bars, and french fries…

But not only are these instant gratification foods loaded with calories, sodium, and often trans fats, but they’re not particularly eco-friendly. Consider even “healthy” choices like Nabisco’s 100 Calorie Packs of Oreos, Chips Ahoy, and the like. All come individually wrapped, and I’ve made it clear how I feel about overpackaging.

So what’s an eco-conscious consumer to do when you just want a quick bite? I’ve done you the favor of sampling some of the finest junk foods my co-op had to offer. (The things you do for research.) Consider some of these alternatives:

Instead of Oreos/Chips Ahoy, etc., Try Annie’s Bunny Graham Friends

At only 130 calories per serving, Bunny Grahams rival the aforementioned snack packs, but without the wasteful packaging; the boxes are 100% recycled. They’re 75% organic and according to Annie’s, contain “no icky additives or pesky preservatives.” I can also certify that they are 100% yummy.

Instead of Doritos, Try Rice Chips

I promise this isn’t one of those tricks, like when people got all into rice cakes in the 80’s and tried to convince you they didn’t taste like styrofoam. These Rice Chips from Lundberg Family Farms are the real delicious deal. They come in a variety of flavors, but my favorite, and the most Dorito-esque are the Pico de Gallo chips. (They also offer a Nacho Cheese variety which isn’t vegan so I haven’t tried it.) The family company uses organic rice and has a long history of sustainable farming.

Instead of Pop Tarts, Try Nature’s Path Organic Toaster Pastries

They’re about the same in nutritional content as the Kellogg’s treat you may remember from your youth, but made from organic ingredients. And while you won’t find varieties like “Hot Fudge Sundae” and “Smores,” they do offer Cherry Pomegranate and other flavors that are actually found in nature. varieties. Nature’s Path also uses “Green Certificates” to produce their products, which according to their website come from “100% new green electricity.” Check out their cereals, granola bars, and other products as well.

Instead of Cheddar Crackers, Try Eco-Planet Organic Crackers

When I recently tried this dairy-free cheddar flavored snack cracker I was excited but skeptical. Eco-Planet delivered though, and while it’s been years since I’ve eaten a Goldfish cracker or Cheez-It, I’d say these pass pretty well. They’re educational too! The crackers are shaped like suns, earths, wind turbines and electric cars and offer info about alternative energy. The company is 100% wind powered.

Instead of Snickers Bars, Try Mojo Bars

The Clif Bar folks are at it again. Their new Mojo Bars are more oriented towards habitual snackers, like myself than mountain bikers. They’ve got a variety of sweet, salty, and nutty flavors made with 70% organic ingredients. The company also uses biodiesel for shipping.

Instead of McDonald’s Fries, Try Alexia Oven Crinkles

It’s no news flash that McDonald’s french fries are bad for you. There’s more grease in there than potato! The most eco-friendly option of course, is to make some good ol’ oven fries yourself. But if you don’t have the time, pop some of Alexia’s all organic frozen fries in the oven. Their original recipe has only 120 calories per serving. For something a little more sophisticated, try their rosemary oven fries.

Instead of Pre-Packaged Foods, Try the Bulk Foods Aisle

It’s not just for grains and beans. You may be surprised to find snack chips, pretzels and candy there. Also stock up on nuts and dried fruit. Try making your own custom trail mix. Find more tips on buying from the bulk aisle here.

Got a guilty pleasure that’s not on the list? Let me know, and I’ll try to track down a greener version of it.



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About the Author

Sharon began working as Green Options' Office Manager, and has gone on to wear many hats, working also as Intern Coordinator, Editor, and Social Media Coordinator. In the GO office, she is perhaps best known as the founder and chef for the weekly "Soup Day." Prior to working with Green Options, Sharon earned a BA in Humanities from New College of California, and worked in the nonprofit arts and education sector. A vegetarian for seven years, and vegan for nearly three, Sharon has a bit of an obsession for plant-based food. When she's not hanging out in the bulk aisle of her local food co-op, Sharon is at home, trying to grow hydroponic basil, playing with her white fluffy cat, or annoying her neighbors by singing showtunes.



  • http://brickswithoutclay.com Dan K.

    I never understood the aversion to rice cakes and other ricey snacks. Of course they taste like styrofoam if you don’t put anything on them — so do corn chips! The whole point is to put stuff on them. Flavored styrofoam is actually quite tasty.

    The idea of a healthy Snickers bar kind of makes my mind hurt.

  • Sharon Troy

    I dunno, Dan. I’ve tried caramel corn rice cakes and still can’t get into them. I think it’s the texture. But the rice chips definitely taste more like corn chips.

    Also, the Mojo bars aren’t exact substitutes for Snickers. But they’re peanutty and chocolatey and convenient.

  • http://www.relevanttimesdiva.blogspot.com Megan McWilliams

    great post. i’m hungry!!!! i also like newman’s own organics cookies – they have a good variety of oreo-style replacements.

    still probably not convinced to turn completely over to rice cakes. i’ve found these awesome veggie chips (can’t remember name and i’m at work) that don’t have corn in them that i use as a substitute.

  • http://craftingagreenworld.com Skye

    Sharon, awesome post. Next time my husband starts saying “pop tarts” I know what to do!

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  • Jackie Fishbourne

    Wow, I am suddenly hungry and I need food now!

    JF
    http://www.FireMe.To/udi

  • Joe

    My alternative to Doritos is the Garden Fresh chips….they really are tasty…heck, they are the only ones I know that make a good tasting No Salt chip. I dip in the Organic Jack salsa….damn good if you ask me :-)

    My 2 cents.

  • May

    I’ve been a fan of Pirate’s Booty for years, and just recently discovered Veggie Booty and Frooty Booty. Veggie Booty is the only way I’ll eat kale. It’s organic too!

  • http://www.downeh.co.uk Grant Downie

    The rice cake tip is def a good one- here in the UK we have such a variety from Snack-a-Jacks (unsure if it’s an american thing also). But by far the Prawn Cocktail flavour ones are so addictive!

    My biggest downfall is the fizzy juice- Coke, Irn Bru, etc. As much as diluting juice has it’s place as a thirst quencher- the fizzy juice just can’t be knocked :(.

    Interesting post :).

  • Ed Garland

    My favorite has always been lime Jello with little chunks of Spam.

  • Ja

    MacDonalds fires are good fires. First off they don’t fry in grease, they fry in oil and it’s trans-fat free oil at that. Additionally they are probably the healthiest of the fast food joints.

  • http://woot.com ayaya

    Too bad all of the substitutes mentioned cost at least three times the less healthy items.

  • Jack Welch

    Instead of being a mindless consumer and submitting to the “organic” marketing phenomenon, just portion your food!

  • http://www.hyperborea.org/journal/ Kelson

    Something to consider: anyone with food allergies should probably be very careful with (or avoid) the bulk foods aisle. It’s way too easy for foods to get mixed up.

  • Sharon Troy

    @ayaya It’s true that many of these do cost more, but not all. Especially if you’re buying from the bulk bin aisle, you can end up saving a lot.

  • Mikey

    Unfortunately, these products are more expensive than the ‘junk’ they are meant to replace.

  • Naga Parsa

    I prefer more healthier then tasty.

    And sometimes, I feel like eating that’s more tasty and forget about healthier.

    It’s a hard choice.

  • Sharon Troy

    It’s certainly true that some of these items are more expensive, but it’s a premium I consider worth paying. The idea of course here is that these are occasional indulgences, not something I’d suggest building your diet on.

    If you read my other posts, and the posts of other authors on this site, you’ll see that we frequently encourage cooking your own food, buying locally and seasonally, and even offer many money saving tips.

  • Stuarttt

    This article seems a little narrow minded. Sure all this stuff tastes great and is better for you but you never once mention a cost comparison. I imagine most of these alternatives cost twice as much if not more. Junk food is cheap, thats why people eat it in the first place. We’d all like to eat better, but not everyone can afford it.

  • Schwartz

    Do you know any replacements for Hostess Ding-Dongs?

  • angie

    You have renewed my interest in Trader Joe’s. I will look for the rice chips, and the bunny crackers next time I’m there. Also, while they’re not low-fat, they are a far-superior snack option in the candy category- Trader Joe’s chocolate peanut butter cups. I don’t know if they contain non-veg/vegan ingredients, but they are so delicious you’ll be saying Reeses-who??

  • http://simonmacdonald.blogspot.com Simon MacDonald

    Instead of any of this stuff try real food like fruits and veggies. They are nutrient rich and low calorie alternatives to the above listed engineered food and as an extra bonus in most cases their packaging is 100% organic.

  • thrax

    The only problem with rice crackers, at least here in Canada, is that they are often loaded with sodium.

    Japan makes a seemingly endless variety of healthier rice crackers, but they are harder to find. And if you’re shopping green, I guess that’s a long way for them to travel.

    My local bakery makes a traditional Jewish snack of baked cracker-like flatbread with poppy and sesame seeds on it. Less salt but lots of garlic.

  • http://www.tcdesign.org/ Toby

    I wish I could find some good vegan pop-tarts. Those look great, but they have whey, a milk derivative.

  • Sharon Troy

    @Toby They do make a diary-free flavor! The brown sugar maple syrup flavored toaster pastries have no whey. They do have honey though, which some vegans are concerned with. (Personally, I’ll eat it occasionally.)

  • http://naturalfather.blogspot.com Derek

    Just found your site – I like it.
    Go Co-op! Buying in bulk is always key, as you can buy just enough to eat instead of finishing off half of the package because it’s there. And buying real food instead of things that have an ingredient list will give you max nutrition for your food dollar…

  • Frak

    We’re all gonna die anyway. What’s the point?

    (…aaaand let the flames begin.)

  • http://kitchentablemedicine.com Dr. Nicole Sundene

    I firmly believe that eating healthy is simply making a series of steps towards better choices. This is a great list to get someone going! Thanks, Doc

  • Avinna

    This is a great idea and I’m a big advocate of alternative snacks and foods that are healthy and tasty.
    However, how much are these organic alternative choices going to cost? I know for sure its not that cheap, which makes it hard to not go for the junk food, and with recent increase in food prices I know I will go for $2 Doritos rather than $4 rice crackers or just go without!

  • Josh

    The bulk aisle? NO! What percentage of people actually wash their hands after using the toilet these days? You may have made “overpackaging” your cause, but health is mine, and should be everyone’s.

    That being said, I don’t eat junk food, so I’m interested in good tasting, healthy snacks.

    jb

  • Normal Person

    My God… those “snack foods” sound disgusting!

  • Bob

    I was under the impression McDonald’s fries have a meat-based flavoring on them, anyway. Should be on the nutrition guides, I think.

  • radio1

    Re: Booty Snacks

    I love Veggie and Pirate’s Booty myself, but frankly they are not that all that different from Andy Capp French Fries or FunYuns…

    When your vegetable content in near or less than 2%- your spinach, kale or carrot purees are nothing more than food coloring for the snacks…

    But they are delicious. Just let’s not kids ourselves that you are eating a garden salad instead of a snack food.

  • http://pamsnutritionstore.com Pam

    Why eat chips at all? carrot or celery sticks satisfy the need for crunch and are better for you.

    Another good snack is firm Tofu cut into cubes, dipped into wheat germ to coat and then baked.

  • http://ooyes.net web design company

    Awesome quick article on how to eat a little healthier when it comes to those late night snacks you crave after a few hours on digg.

    amirite?

  • http://www.talkgreen.ca/category/monthly-earth-hour Tara Benwell

    Those goldfish substitutes sound fun. My kids would really get into those shapes for our monthly earth hour. I wonder if I can get them in Canada? I’ll be driving through the states next month and will hunt them down!

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