Monday, March 3, 2014

A Sucker for Snack Food

The Climate Crusader is contemplating her love of all things snack food.
I have a confession: I love snack foods. If something comes in a brightly-colored crinkly bag, I find it appetizing. I know it's not all that good for me, and I know all that plastic packaging and shipping isn't good for the planet. I do try to opt for 'real' food most of the time - that is, food that my great-grandmother would have recognized. I also try to eat local. I still succumb to the lure of snack food more frequently than I would like, however. There, I said it.

One of the ways I try to assuage my feelings of guilt over my snack food habit is by choosing 'greener' options. That is, I go for the snack foods in the natural foods aisle of the grocery store, with labels proclaiming that they're 'organic', 'all-natural' and 'GMO free'. I like to think that my kids and I are exposed to fewer nasty ingredients, and that I'm supporting a business that's trying to do better. How much of a difference does it really make, though, to choose what I affectionately call my hippie snack foods?

Just because a food is organic or all-natural doesn't mean that it is automatically good for you. You can buy organic, fair trade sugar, for instance. It might be better for the earth and the communities where it's grown than conventional sugar, and it may not contain the same pesticide residues, but that doesn't mean you should just go ahead and eat as much sugar as you possibly can. However, if you eat some sugar (as most of us do), you can make the best choice possible.

This principle holds true for snack foods. It makes sense to minimize these 'fake foods', and to not be lulled into a false sense of security simply because you picked it up at an organic grocery store. If you're hungry, reaching for a whole food will pretty much always be better for you and for the planet. Assuming you succumb to your craving for something crunchy, salty or sweet from time to time, however, it may make sense to opt for a better product, from a company with better ethics.

When you're choosing snack food - much like when you're buying any product - you should beware of greenwashing. Many 'green' brands are actually not so green, containing high levels of genetically-modified ingredients, for instance. This means that it's important to do your homework. It also emphasizes the importance of limiting snack foods in general. It might be better to choose a snack that doesn't contain a lot of artificial colors and flavors, but that doesn't make it a healthy choice.

I wonder how you handle your snack food cravings. Do you avoid snack foods altogether, opt for greener choices, or just allow yourself the occasional indulgence? I'd love to hear - and I promise not to judge.


Green Bean said...

Snacks are a hard one. It seems the less I buy, the more my kids crave those snack foods in crinkly, one time use bags. When I can stay on top of baking, that seems to solve the problem for us. Homemade muffins, crackers and such. But, when I'm overly busy or unwell, snack food creeps in.

Betsy (Eco-novice) said...

I agree -- crunchy, salty, sweet has a certain appeal. Whenever my husband does the shopping he returns with bags of chips, which he then shares with the kids. Like Green Bean, my main focus is in trying to make snack foods myself. My kids love popcorn, which often fills the yen. I'm trying to learn to make crackers and have a few cookie/bar type snacks. Hard to replicate crunchy pretzals and ridged potato chips though...

Julia (Color Me Green) said...

i have an addiction to eating food that is crunchy. the healthier options i've found are nuts (from bulk section of grocery store), popcorn as mentioned above, and also roasted chickpeas! another new one i've discovered is plantain chips.

Green Bean said...

Okay, now you guys have inspired me. I'm scouring the internet for good snack recipes. Anyone have any favorites?

Betsy (Eco-novice) said...


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