Stock the Pantry, Fill the Lunch Box: Greener Snacks Abound

Dear EarthTalk: I’m looking for some ideas for healthy, green snacks to have around the house and pack into the kids’ lunches. Any ideas?

—Mickey P., Salt Lake City, UT

There are so many healthy, green food options out there nowadays that the work is no longer is finding them but instead choosing between them. One favorite for kids’ lunch boxes is gimMe Snacks roasted seaweed. From 15-100 times more volume of seaweed can grow on the same footprint as lettuce. And while the seaweed requires no water to produce, lettuce needs 15 gallons per pound. The entire gimMe product line is made with organic, non-GMO seaweed sustainably cultivated and harvested in South Korea.

decb2bd5a13cc28287c9e472c1737ead 3 Stock the Pantry, Fill the Lunch Box: Greener Snacks Abound
Seaweed — easy to grow without chemical inputs — is one of many healthy green options that kids love to snack on that parents can get behind as well. Credit: Roddy Scheer.

Forager Project takes the pomace (skin, seeds and pulp) that other food companies toss and rehydrate it and turn it into pressed veggie chips that are like eco-friendly Doritos. The company also makes a tasty certified organic, non-GMO Cashewgurt (dairy-free yogurt) that’s rich in probiotics. You won’t feel like a bad parent when your kids pull Forager Project products out of their lunch boxes.

If you’re beyond milk, Modest Mylk could be just what you’re looking for. Purchasing just one (recyclable glass) jar gives you 42 servings of nut mylk and saves 11 milk cartons from going to the landfill. When blended for just 60 seconds with water, the shelf-stable base creates fresh homemade nut mylk — free from carrageenan, gums, emulsifiers, preservatives, and artificial ingredients.

Another favorite of the non-dairy crowd is Nuttzo, which makes nut butter blends free of antibiotics, growth hormones, pesticides, and fertilizers — and with ingredients farmed under national standards of renewable resources and conservation of soil and water. It’s Organic Power Fuel Chocolate spread contains cashews, almonds, brazil nuts, flax seeds, chia seeds, hazel nuts, pumpkin seeds, chocolate and sea salt — and no palm oil.

Stonyfield Organic, which started as an organic farming school before adding on yogurt production some 35 years ago, still supports the planet through renewable energy and packaging its products in plant-made material instead of plastic. Snackers young and old still love their organic string cheese, fruity cows, graham crackers and cookies, not to mention the New Hampshire company’s signature yogurt.

If you love oats but worry about the environmental footprint of the big mainstream brands, go for oat bars, snack bites and toaster pastries from Colorado-based family business Bobo’s. They’re still made by a mother-daughter team with only the finest organic, non-GMO whole grain oats, coconut oil, whole cane sugar and brown rice syrup.

Since it’s humble beginnings at an Austin, Texas farmers market in 2009, GoodPop‘s frozen pops have always been made with non-GMO, Fair Trade Certified, rBST-free, organic and locally sourced ingredients. We like Cookies N’ Cream and Banana Cinnamon, but you might be more the Chocolate Milk or Watermelon Agave type. Maybe it’s the fact that GoodPops are made with whole foods and never concentrates, extracts or flavors that makes them taste so fresh.

Alter Eco‘s tagline “Enlightened Indulgence” perfectly describes this green-minded chocolate company’s ethos. Whether you like truffles, caramels, smothered almonds or just good old fashioned chocolates, Alter Eco lets you enjoy without the environmental guilt, as their Swiss-made chocolate is crafted from organic cacao by farmers who are replanting South American rainforests.

British Columbia-based One Degree Organic Foods makes a wide range of plant-based, vegan-friendly cereals, granola, bread, tortillas and flour out of nutrition-packed sprouted organic grains. In the name of full transparency, every one of the company’s products has a unique label so customers can trace their ingredients back to specific farms.

Give in to your sweet tooth, as long as it’s with gummies, candies or chewing gum from Project7, which only uses certified organic, non-GMO, Fair Trade, preservative-free ingredients and gives a percentage of profits to non-profits working to feed the hungry, heal the sick, support peace, house the homeless, quench those who thirst, teach them well and save the Earth.

Back To Nature brand is familiar to Whole Foods shoppers everywhere, as it’s been a staple there nationwide for decades. Their all-natural cookies, crackers, granolas and juices have been keeping parents and kiddos happy since 1960, but nowadays even moreso as they are certified organic and non-GMO.

Nature’s Path, and its sister brands Love Crunch, EnviroKidz and Qi’a have been available on store shelves of traditional grocers for years as an alternative to major brand cereals. Not only to these cereals taste great, but they are also certified organic, GMO-free and Fair Trade and are made in a zero-waste facility and packaged in fully recyclable materials.

Vital Farms is an ethical egg lover’s dream come true. The Texas-based distributor coordinates the collection of eggs from more than 100 family farms coast-to-coast operating according to a well-defined set of organic agricultural practices — including humane treatment of farm animals. Their similarly ethical butter ain’t bad either. Whole Foods is a big buyer but Vital’s eggs and butter are available in hundreds of other grocery stores (and restaurants) across the country.

The biggest yield from a college beer brewing experiment by Regrained Snacks founders Dan Kurzrock and Jordan Schwartz was the epiphany that beer grain contains incredible nutritional value. The sugars are processed out of the grain during beer-making, leaving a heady leftover mix of protein, fiber and micronutrients perfect for “upcycling” into the “supergrain” flour that serves as the base ingredient for Regrained’s line of snack bars. Regrained’s Blueberry Sunflower Saison Antioxidant Bar, Honey Cinnamon IPA Immunity Bar and Chocolate Coffee Stout Energy Bar are big sellers among athletes and health food aficionados.

We all love chips — they’re addictive — so why not scratch that itch with healthy BARE Snacks fruit and veggie chips? Non-GMO and baked from only whole food fruits and veggies, you’d be hard pressed to find a healthier— and yummier — chip.

Founded by a mom looking for healthier snacks for her own kids, Quinn Snacks sells “farm-to-bag” pretzels and popcorn that up the lunch box ante for sustainability-oriented families. It’s all about transparency for this Colorado-based company, which details just who provides their grass-fed clarified butter, organic yellow butterfly popcorn, and whole grain sorghum flour, among other ingredients, right on their website.

SoCal-based Barnana is on a mission to end food waste, one imperfect banana at a time. The company rescues scuffed, overripe or undersized bananas typically rejected for export by banana plantations in the tropics and turns them into delicious dehydrated banana-based snacks rich in energy-boosting potassium and other nutrients.

There are plenty of other ideas out there. Just browse the aisles of Whole Foods and you’ll find lots of other choices. And don’t forget about good old fashioned fruit and veggies. Crunchy carrots, juicy apples and tart blueberries never go out of style on the kitchen counter or in the lunch box.