I 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.