Snacks + Sides · Student-friendly · Sweet · Zero Waste

Zero Waste Snack Ideas

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I love the challenge of travelling zero waste (see my previous post: Zero Waste On the Go). But travelling as a vegan is challenging enough without also having to worry about being zero waste as well. There are so many times when I have bought convenience foods in plastic packaging because it’s the easiest option when on the go. Not only was it a waste of money, but I can just imagine that all of that packaging is still out there, somewhere, leaching into a landfill site. It’s an awful thought.

I’m lucky enough that I get to work outside for a lot of my PhD study, which is great, but it does mean that when it comes to food, I definitely need to be prepared on the snacking front! No one wants to be stuck in the field in the middle of nowhere and get peckish. With no supermarket within walking distance, I need to get creative and prepared!

Here are my favourite zero waste, vegan replacements for some common snacks!

A general tip is to always overestimate how much you think you will eat – that way you are less likely to go hungry and resort to buying snacks on the go! Also, going for small amounts of energy and nutrient dense foods will mean you have to carry less weight around with you.

1. The Granola Bar


Up until very recently, I used to be a granola bar fanatic. In fact, along with dark chocolate, they are still an occasional non-zero waste weakness.

I really did take my granola bars everywhere. On hikes, camping, field work, you name it, I always had a granola bar with me!

However, unlike a lot of chocolate, the packaging of energy bars, granola bars and equivalents is nearly always un-recyclable plastic.

My absolute favourite bars are Pulsin Protein bars. Unfortunately. the company told me that their packaging is non-recyclable, “due to the cold pressing technique” they use to make their bars. How bizarre is that? Hopefully soon, things will change but until then I need to find alternatives.



Make your own granola bars


A super simple recipe is just to mix 2 cups oats with 2 tbsp water, 1 mashed banana and 1/4 cup liquid sweetener of your choice, press into a greased baking tray and bake for 15-20 minutes, until golden. From this base, you can add optional ingredients such as chopped nuts, rice crisp cereal, raisins, chopped dates, pumpkin or sunflower seeds, flax or chia seed, chocolate chips, dried coconut…the possibilities are endlesss! Make your granola bars more decadent by adding melted coconut oil or rapeseed oil, nut butter, cocoa powder, and cinnamon too. If you make a big batch to take with you on a weekend away, or a hiking or camping trip, then you will definitely save money and never go hungry! They’re so easy to make, too.

Wrap them up using a tea towel or napkin, carry them in a reusable food container, or wrap them in reusable food wrap made from soy wax or beeswax if you’re not vegan (make your own, or buy them here or here). There’s really no need for clingfilm or another wasteful alternative.

10 second oatmeal

This is my absolute favourite go-to snack on the go, and it makes a great alternative to energy bars or granola bars. Simply bring a small tupperware of oats in your bag – if you like, you can mix them with 1 tsp of chia seeds for an omega 3 boost! When I get hungry, I pour over some boiling water over the oats (or even cold water if I don’t have access to a kettle), leave for a couple of minutes, and then enjoy instant oatmeal!

This makes a great hotel room breakfast. I almost never go anywhere without a glass jar of nut butter. Along with some chopped banana as well, these instant oats are the perfect super quick travelling breakfast that is compact enough to carry in your suitcase.


2. The Bag of Crisps

If you can buy them in bulk (I’m lucky enough to be able to from a local market stall), or paper packaging, coconut chips make a delicious alternative to a bag of crisps, as they still have a bit of crunch!

Toast them in the oven for a couple of minutes, mix with raisins (and a pinch of cinnamon if you like!) and carry with you in a container.


Another great alternative to crisps is to carry a little container of trail mix with you. You can make your own trail mix using whatever nuts, seeds and dried fruit is available to you to buy in as little packaging as possible. A lot of greengrocers and market stalls sell unpackaged nuts and dates – bring your own container or fill a large reusable or paper bag, and you will be stocked up with snacks for a long time to come.



 3. The chocolate bar

When we eat chocolate, we are craving a snack that is high in both sugar and fat. But there’s no reason why this has to be refined sugar, or saturated fat – some snacking ideas that are packed full of healthy fats include:

a banana dipped in nut butter (yet another great reason to always carry a pot of nut butter…)

dates stuffed with nut butter

dried figs and walnuts/almonds (a traditional Christmas snack in Portugal, this combination is so tasty!)

homemade brownies / cakes: these 4 ingredient carob brownies from Steph Yu are one of my favourite super quick and easy recipes to make, I just sub carob for cocoa / cacao powder and they work great!


homemade “bliss balls” or energy balls – these are particularly great to take on planes where you are really limited in luggage space. I took about 20 homemade bliss balls on a memorable long haul flight to Beijing via Switzerland back in 2015. Of course, neither airlines had any vegan options, but I was absolutely fine with my energy balls! Be wary of using nut butter in them if you are going on planes though – other passengers may have nut allergies. Instead, stick to dried fruit, seeds, coconut and coconut oil to bind, spices and superfood/protein powders. Again, whatever you can buy in bulk! Get creative! I like coating mine in extra coconut / chia seeds to make them look super pretty!

Other snacking ideas

When in doubt, a piece of fruit, or even vegetables (think thick skinned ones that travel well, like apples, nectarines, pears, raw courgette, carrot or cucumber) is a perfect quick snack. I also love bringing containers of cherry tomatoes.

For a long day of walking or hiking, I sometimes bring “dateorade” – blend 2-3 dates with water and a generous pinch of cinnamon. It’s a delicious, refreshing drink which will give your blood sugar levels a hit!


I also love bringing an energy dense smoothie with me in my hydroflask if I go on a long walk or hike. I generally blend 1 ripe banana, 1 tbsp hemp seeds, 1 tbsp tahini or nut butter and maybe some berries (if they are in season) with water to make my smoothies.


For a full day of snacking, I normally bring with me 1-2 pieces of fruit, a small container of an energy dense snack such as nuts and seeds, or a homemade brownie, cookie or granola bar, plus some extra dried fruit like raisins or medjool dates. And don’t forget to bring your reusable water bottle too!

I hope this has given you some ideas for some cheap, easy and quick vegan snacks that can be zero waste too! Let me know your favourite vegan snacking ideas!

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