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Low-waste winter snacks

Cut the trash and keep energized with foods that won’t freeze

I remember my first day backcountry skiing in Rocky Mountain National Park—not for its stunning scenery, unfortunately, nor the great company I was with. I remember it so well because I thought, standing in the alpine’s harsh winds and sub-freezing temperatures, that I might die of hunger: I’d brought two granola bars, and they’d frozen on me: two rock-hard blobs of inaccessible calories. I didn’t want to risk breaking my teeth so I tucked the bars between my mid- and base-layer, and waited the longest thirty minutes of my life for them to thaw.

Lesson learned: Bring snacks that won’t freeze on you in the snow. Since then I’ve experimented with all sorts of winter-proof snacks—from thermoses of hot beverages to baked goods and bulk trail mixes—and I’ve also learned about waste-reduction in my snack game. Making snacks at home drastically reduces the packaging waste that accumulates when buying snack foods from the grocery store.

Try these low-waste, cold-weather-friendly snacks when you hit the slopes or snowy trails this winter.

Photo by Kalisha Ocheni on Unsplash

Peanut Butter Chocolate Chip Banana Bread 

Put your compost-destined bananas to good use. This snack is not only delicious, freeze-proof, and dense in calories, it also gives you a blood-sugar boost without being overly sweet.

Recipe: Backcountry Banana Bread (adapted from Cindy Rahe)

  • 2 to 3 very ripe bananas, peeled

  • 1/3 cup melted unsalted butter

  • 1/2 cup milk (coconut milk works, too!)

  • 1 large egg

  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract

  • 1 cup sugar

  • 1/2 cup creamy peanut butter

  • 1/2 teaspoon baking soda

  • Pinch kosher salt

  • 1/2 teaspoon cinnamon (optional)

  • 1 1/2 cups all-purpose flour

  • 3/4 cup chocolate chips


  1. Preheat the oven to 350°F. Spray or grease a 4.5 x 8.5-inch loaf pan.

  2. Mash the bananas in a mixing bowl using a fork. Whisk in the melted butter, milk, egg, and vanilla. Mix in the sugar.

  3. In another mixing bowl, using the hand mixer (or a whisk), beat peanut butter until smooth. Beat this into the banana mixture. Scrape the bowl down and beat in the baking soda, salt, and cinnamon.

  4. Fold in the flour until completely combined, followed by the chocolate chips.

  5. Spread the batter in the prepared pan. Bake on the center rack for 55-60 minutes (or until the bread is deeply golden and a toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean).

  6. Remove the bread from the oven and place on a rack to cool completely before turning out.

  7. Wrap in eco-friendly wax paper or storage sacks and enjoy outside!


Full-Fat Trail Mix

Easy does it with this anti-tooth-breaking trail mix. Head to the bulk section of your grocery store (and bring your own containers—simply note their tare weight [empty weight] before you fill them up to avoid being charged extra!) to pick out your favorite ingredients. Avoid dried fruits and other chewy foods, as they’ll be quick to freeze in cold temps. High-fat, low-weight ingredients like coconut and nuts can pack a giant punch, providing all-day fuel for your mountain adventures.

Recipe: Inner Oven Trail Mix (adapted from Bluebird Backcountry)

  • Toasted coconut flakes

  • Cashews

  • Dark chocolate chips


  1. Mix all ingredients together in a large bowl, then transfer to reusable snack bags/low-weight containers.


Miso-Chicken Broth

While not high in calories, a hot thermos of miso broth provides a salty, probiotic-packed warming agent that’s filled with B-complex vitamins and helpful minerals like calcium, iron, zinc and magnesium. Miso paste (used to make the broth) is a mixture of fermented soybeans, brown rice, barley, and other grains—due to the paste’s density, a few tablespoons of miso provides nutrients similar to a quarter cup of legumes. (Find miso at your local Asian grocer, in the refrigerated section of the health food aisle, or the grocery store’s international aisle.)

Recipe: Savory Miso Soup (adapted from Laura Levy Shatkin)

  • 12 cups water

  • 1 onion, quartered

  • 2 large carrots, peeled and sliced into ¼-inch thick rounds

  • ¼ cup dried seaweed, either wakame or crumbled nori

  • 2 slices fresh ginger, peeled, quarter-size

  • 2 chicken breast halves, bone-in, skin removed

  • Pinch salt and pepper

  • 4 to 5 tablespoons miso paste

  • 2 teaspoons sesame oil


  1. Heat the water to a boil in a large pot. Add onion, carrot, seaweed, ginger, chicken breasts and a pinch each of salt and pepper. Heat to a simmer; cook at a simmer, 10-12 minutes.

  2. Remove chicken and reserve for another use (post-snow-adventure dinner?; simmer broth by itself, 10 minutes.

  3. Remove pot from heat. Dissolve 4 tablespoons miso paste in a quarter-cup of broth; return mixture to the pot; stir in sesame oil. Adjust miso level to taste.

Photo by American Heritage Chocolate on Unsplash

Protein Pancakes 

Flipping flapjacks at the cabin for breakfast? Don’t let leftovers go to waste (or intentionally make a few extra) and pack the pancakes as easy, delicious mountain fuel.

Recipe: Power Cakes (adapted from Pinch of Yum)

  • 1 cup oats

  • 1 banana

  • 2 eggs

  • 1/2 cup egg whites

  • 4 teaspoons baking powder

  • a pinch of salt

  • a pinch of cinnamon

  • 1–2 scoops vegan protein powder


  1. Add and run everything through a blender on medium-low speed until very well mixed.

  2. Heat a nonstick pan to medium high heat. Add batter in small circles (sprinkle with blueberries or chocolate chips if you’d like).

  3. When the edges begin to look dry (2-3 minutes), flip and cook another 1-2 minutes on the other side.

  4. Enjoy them hot, or turn them into sandwiches to take into the field. Adding maple syrup adds more energizing sugar; butter and peanut butter add more calories.

If you do need to purchase pre-made goodies, here are some companies that participate in TerraCycle’s packing recycling program. (It’s free to participate—you ship them the packaging and they’ll recycle it for you; visit their website for details.)

Emma Athena is an award-winning journalist and fresh-air lover. She writes about adventure and the environment, where humans and nature intersect at their most impactful moments. When she’s not glued to her keyboard or curled up with a book, she’s running in the mountains with her dog or camping with people she loves. To read more of her work and get in contact, visit

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