You’re bound to get a little peckish throughout the workday, but those trips to the vending machine for potato chips and candy harm more than just your summer diet. Americans produce more than 76 million tons of packaging waste every year, amounting to nearly 31 percent of our overall waste stream, according to the most recent EPA data available. And food packaging makes up a huge part of that.
Shrink your contribution to the packaging waste problem by packing your own snacks in reusable containers for work or school. As an added bonus, DIY snacks are also more cost-effective and help you ditch the high-calorie vending machine grub in favor of energy-boosting bites that are both good and good for you. To get you started, Earth911 rounded up these 10 low-waste, skinny-waist snacks that are bound to keep you and your footprint light.
1. Granola Bars recipe via The Daily MealWhat you’ll need:
2 cups old-fashioned rolled oats
1/2 cup raw sunflower seeds
1 cup sliced almonds
1/2 cup wheat germ
1/2 cup honey
1/4 cup packed dark brown sugar
2 teaspoons vanilla extract
1/2 teaspoon kosher salt
Chopped dried fruit – any combination of apricots, cherries or blueberries
How to make it: View full instructions and tips at The Daily Meal
Why it’s healthy: Rolled oats are perfect for curbing appetite and boosting energy when that mid-afternoon lull hits. Toss in ingredients like nuts, dried fruits and sunflower seeds to increase protein and fiber content and add vitamins and minerals like potassium, manganese and vitamins C and E.
Reinforcing your granola bars with wheat germ or protein powder increases health benefits – as both of these ingredients are packed with protein without adding many carbs or calories. Use the USDA’s National Nutrient Database to find out more about your ingredients, and customize your granola bars to suit your taste and dietary needs.
Cut back on waste: Individually-wrapped granola bars create loads of hard-to-recycle waste. Nix those food wrappers from your personal waste stream by making a large batch of bars and packing them in reusable containers for school, work or outdoor excursions.
To reduce waste even further, head to the bulk foods section to stock up on ingredients like rolled oats, sunflower seeds, nuts and dried fruits. And take a lesson from Béa Johnson, who helped her family go entirely zero-waste, by bringing your own bags, glass jars or reusable containers to the bulk-food aisle to eliminate the need for plastic grocery bags.
2. Baked Parmesan Kale Chips recipe via Skinnytaste.comWhat you’ll need:
1 bunch kale (12 ounces after removed from stems)
1 teaspoon olive oil
A sprinkle of sea salt or kosher salt
1/2 cup shredded Parmesan cheese
How to make it: View full instructions and tips at Skinnytaste.com
Why it’s healthy: Skipping oily potato chips in favor of a vegetable alternative is already a healthy choice. But opting for kale is even better for your bod, as this leafy green is one of the healthiest produce picks around.
A single cup of kale provides you with more than your daily required value of vitamins A and K, and almost 90 percent of your daily required value of vitamin C. The dark leafy green is also rich in essential minerals like manganese, copper and iron – just to name a few. Learn more about the health benefits of kale from the USDA.
Cut back on waste: Unlike bagged potato chips, homemade veggie chips are a virtually zero-waste snack. Bring your own produce bag to the farmer’s market to keep those trash cans lighter.
3. Sea Salt Fennel Chips recipe via A Full Measure of HappinessWhat you’ll need:
2 fennel bulbs
1 to 2 teaspoons olive oil
Sprinkle of sea salt
How to make it: View full instructions and tips at A Full Measure of Happiness
Why it’s healthy: Fennel, with its delicate anise flavor and celery-like appearance, is one of the most calcium-rich veggies out there – with a whopping 43 grams per cup. It’s also a great source of potassium and energy-boosting vitamins A and C. Learn more about the health benefits of fennel from the USDA.
Cut back on waste: Easily-portable snacks are perfect for deterring your urge to hit the vending machine. Bring extra fennel chips to the office in a reusable container to share with coworkers. They’ll be shocked to see what they’ve been missing!
4. Cold Quinoa Salad recipeWhat you’ll need:
2 cups plain quinoa
2 bell peppers (one yellow and one red), diced
1 large zucchini, diced
1 large red onion, diced
Zest of 1 lemon
½ cup extra virgin olive oil
½ cup shredded Parmesan cheese
1 head of spinach, roughly chopped
Salt and pepper to taste
How to make it:
1. Start by rinsing your quinoa in a mesh strainer. Once rinsed, transfer quinoa to a large saucepan and add 3 cups of cold water. Bring to a boil, cover, and reduce heat to simmer. Cook for 15 minutes. Remove from heat and allow to sit with the lid on for an additional 5 minutes. Fluff with a fork and set aside.
2. Meanwhile, heat 2 tablespoons of oil in a medium-sized skillet. Add peppers and zucchini and simmer for 3 minutes. Stir in onions and continue to simmer until onions, peppers and zucchini are tender but still crunchy, about 3 minutes.
3. Combine onions, peppers and zucchini with the quinoa in a large mixing bowl. Add lemon zest, Parmesan cheese and the rest of the olive oil.
4. Gradually stir in chopped spinach. Salt and pepper to taste. Divide into half-cup portions, and store in reusable containers in the refrigerator until it’s snack-time.
Why it’s healthy: Where can we start? Switching from common grains like white rice to quinoa is a great way to boost protein intake, which is especially helpful for vegetarians and vegans in search of a balanced diet. Add vitamin-rich veggies like zucchini and spinach, and you’re left with a power-snack that’s sure to please. Learn more about the health benefits of quinoa, spinach, zucchini and bell peppers from the USDA.
Cut back on waste: Sometimes you’re a little too hungry for a handful of pretzels but not quite hungry enough for a full meal. Skip the trips to the office cafe (and the foam clamshell waste that comes with it) by keeping a few small-portioned salads in the shared workplace fridge for times when hunger strikes.
By purchasing quinoa in the bulk foods section and using your own produce bags, you’ll virtually eliminate packaging waste from this tasty midday snack.
5. Pumpkin and Feta Muffins recipe via 101Cookbooks.com
What you’ll need:
2 cups pumpkin or summer squash, cut into 1/2-inch cubes
1 large handful of baby spinach, chopped
2 tablespoons parsley or cilantro, chopped
3 tablespoons sunflower seeds kernels
3/4 cup freshly grated Parmesan cheese
1/2 cup cubed feta cheese
2 teaspoons whole-grain mustard
2 large eggs, lightly beaten
3/4 cup milk
2 cups flour
4 teaspoons aluminum-free baking powder
1 teaspoon fine-grain sea salt
1 tablespoon unsalted butter
2 tablespoons olive oil
Salt and pepper to taste
How to make it: View full instructions and tips at 101Cookbooks.com
Why it’s healthy: Both pumpkin and summer squash are loaded with vitamins A and C, which boost energy, promote a healthy immune system and fight free radicals, along with potassium, zinc and fiber. Sunflower seeds are another proven energy-booster and fortify your bod with vitamins E, B1 and B6, along with essential minerals like phosphorus and magnesium.
Spinach is bursting with protein, iron, calcium and vitamins A, C, E and K – making it one of the healthiest veggies around. Learn more about the health benefits of pumpkin, summer squash, spinach and sunflower seeds from the USDA.
Cut back on waste: Savory muffins are a great way to curb your urge to snack while incorporating a serving of healthy veggies into your diet. But why hit the corner cafe for your muffin fix when you can make a large batch at home, saving money and packaging waste?
Head to your local farmer’s market for the veggies you need, and bring your own bag to eliminate waste. Buying baking necessities, such as flour and baking powder, in bulk is also an easy way to keep those trash cans empty.
6. Homemade Hummus with Fresh Veggies recipeWhat you’ll need:
1 can chickpeas, ½ cup liquid set aside
1/4 cup tahini
1 teaspoon kosher salt
1/2 teaspoon ground white pepper
1/2 teaspoon ground black pepper
1 clove garlic, peeled and minced
4 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
Chopped fresh vegetables for dipping, such as carrots, celery, cucumbers and bell peppers
Warm pita bread (optional)
How to make it:
1. Add chickpeas, reserved chickpea liquid, tahini, salt, pepper and garlic to a food processor or blender.
2. Pulse lightly while drizzling in olive oil until smooth, about 2 minutes.
3. From here you can customize your hummus however you like. Try the juice and zest of a lemon for a tangy flavor, opt for roasted red peppers for a spicy zing or try kalamata olives for a classic Greek flair.
4. Serve cold with chopped fresh veggies and pita bread (optional).
Why it’s healthy: Unlike other veggie dips like ranch dressing, hummus is very low in cholesterol and saturated fats – making for a perfect skinny-waist alternative. Chickpeas, also known as garbanzo beans, are also rich in protein – making them a snacktime favorite of vegetarians and vegans.
As an added bonus, hummus is packed with Omega-3 fatty acids, the key ingredient in most trendy “super foods.” Note that tahini does have a pretty hefty amount of calories. So, use this ingredient sparingly in your hummus recipe for a low-cal snack. Learn more about the health benefits of chickpeas, tahini, garlic and olive oil from the USDA.
Cut back on waste: You will still need to purchase packaged chickpeas and tahini to make your homemade hummus. But whipping up a large batch ahead of time reduces the need for individually-wrapped portions, which create far more waste than that steel can of chickpeas. Remember to recycle your cans to realize the full waste-saving benefits of your DIY snack.
7. Salt and Vinegar Roasted Chickpeas recipe via OhSheGlows.comWhat you’ll need:
2 cups canned chickpeas
3 to 4 cups white vinegar
1 teaspoon coarse sea salt
2 teaspoon extra virgin olive oil
How to make it: View full instructions and tips at OhSheGlows.com
Why it’s healthy: Chickpeas, also known as garbanzo beans, are packed with essential nutrients for a healthier, more energetic you – including loads of calcium, protein, iron and vitamin A. So, if you’re in the mood for something crunchy with a touch of salt, reach for this healthy snack and leave those convenience store picks in the dust. Learn more about the health benefits of chickpeas from the USDA.
Cut back on waste: Unlike the food wrappers commonly used to package salty snacks like chips and pretzels, that steel can from your chickpeas is 100 percent recyclable – making this snack an obvious waste-saving alternative. Prepare a large batch at the beginning of the week, and bring snack-sized portions in reusable containers to school or work to reduce waste.
8. Easy Edamame recipeWhat you’ll need:
1 pound fresh edamame (soy beans) in shells
1 tablespoon kosher salt
Low-sodium soy sauce for dipping (optional)
How to make it:
1. Bring 6 cups of water to a boil in a large pot. Add 1/2 teaspoon of salt for flavor.
2. Carefully add edamame to the pot of boiling water. You can use frozen edamame, but note that most frozen picks are already cooked. So, you’ll only need to thaw them out.
3. Cook edamame for 5 minutes (3 to 4 minutes for frozen). Sample a single edamame to gauge doneness (be careful, they’ll be hot!). Soy beans should be tender but toothsome. Cook for another minute or two if needed, but be careful not to overcook your beans.
4. Strain out edamame using a strainer. Sprinkle with kosher salt to taste. Serve warm or chilled with low-sodium soy sauce for dipping (optional).
Why it’s healthy: Edamame, a Japanese snack of lightly-salted soybeans, carries troves of health benefits, including an energy boost from B-vitamins, copper and phosphorous. B-complex vitamins are said to help our bodies turn carbs into energy during exercise, and the high protein and fiber content of soybeans is great for workout-weary muscles. So, reach for this simple snack before your next evening run to stay at the top of your game.
Cut back on waste: Frozen edamame will probably be easier to find, but hit a specialty grocer or farmer’s market near you to track down the fresh stuff. Fresh soybeans will not only carry higher nutrient content but also come with zero packaging. So, opt for fresh over frozen for a zero-waste snack.
9. Cinnamon Sugar Radish Chips recipe via PinchofYum.comWhat you’ll need:
10 to 15 radishes
1 tablespoon olive oil
1/2 tablespoon honey
1 to 2 tablespoons cinnamon-sugar mixture
How to make it: View full instructions and tips at PinchofYum.com
Why it’s healthy: If you’re in the mood for something sweet, substituting a fruit or vegetable for that high-calorie snack cake is clearly a step in the right direction. Additionally, radishes are loaded with calcium, potassium and energy-boosting vitamin C for a snack that will perk you up – not weigh you down. Learn more about the health benefits of radishes from the USDA.
Cut back on waste: Ditch hard-to-recycle candy wrapper waste (and those pesky extra pounds) by opting for a healthy, homemade alternative. Purchase ingredients like sugar and olive oil in the bulk foods section to cut back on waste, and hit the farmer’s market for radishes and locally-produced honey to shrink the footprint of your snack.
10. Vegan Ice Pops recipeWhat you’ll need:
2 cups of the fresh fruit of your choice, such as strawberries, bananas or blueberries, roughly chopped
1 cup of the fruit juice of your choice, such as orange, grapefruit or mango
1 cup of the milk substitute of your choice, such as soy, almond or rice milk
3/4 cup non-dairy yogurt (optional)
How to make it:
1. Add the fresh fruit and fruit juice of your choice to a food processor or blender. Blend on low until only a few small chunks remain, about 30 seconds.
2. Add milk substitute and stir with a wooden spoon to combine. For a lighter pop, skip the milk substitute and pour in an additional 1 cup of fruit juice instead.
3. For a creamier pop, add 3/4 cup of non-dairy yogurt to fruit mixture. Pulse blender lightly a few times to combine.
4. Pour your mixture into ice pop molds and place in the freezer.
5. After about 30 minutes, your pops should be starting to freeze but not completely solid. Add reusable ice pop sticks, and allow to chill for at least 30 more minutes before serving.
Why it’s healthy: Store-bought ice pops tend to be chock-full of sugar and devoid of nutritional value. But these make-ahead treats are packed with good-for-you goodness and a taste you’ll love.
Even though they’re not made from dairy products, milk substitutes and non-dairy yogurt still provide plenty of calcium, and adding fresh, seasonal fruit only increases health benefits. So, skip the extra calories and substitute a calcium- and vitamin-rich snack for those hot summer days.
Cut back on waste: Individually-wrapped ice pops come with more than a few extra pounds. Eliminate hard-to-recycle waste by opting for milk substitutes and non-dairy yogurt in recyclable packaging, such as glass containers. Hit up your local farmer’s market for your produce needs, and don’t forget the reusable ice pop sticks to cut waste even further.
Feature image courtesy of Sarah R