By Sara Kate Gillingham

Special To The Washington Post

These days, the packaged snack food industry has exploded into an $80 billion-a-year affair. According to David Sprinkle, research director for Packaged Facts, a division of, snack bars alone represent almost $7 billion in annual sales. People are quite literally living off packaged snacks.

Many of these snacks claim to be “healthy,” but I am skeptical of packaging claims. Besides, to me the concept of health is related not only to ingredients and daily allowance of sugar, fat and carbs, but also to the health of the planet. What about packaging? What about the process of making processed ingredients?

So I set out to make some popular packaged snack foods at home.

Kind Bars

The most popular Kind Bar flavor is Dark Chocolate Nuts & Sea Salt, and, incidentally, this bar never carried the “healthy” label. A single bar has 200 calories, 15 grams of fat (3 grams saturated), 5 grams of sugar and 6 grams of protein. With my homemade recipe, I was able to get the calories, fat and sugar all down a bit.


What’s different about a homemade Cheez-It vs. the store-bought kind? The option to choose fresh ingredients. My recipe contains butter instead of vegetable oil, and fresh full-fat cheese, so even though you get more protein and fat per serving, the total calories remain the same (150 calories, the same as packaged Cheez-Its). Like the ingredients that go into them, these crackers won’t last for months in a dark corner of your pantry. However, I’m guessing this won’t be a problem; they are addictive.

Fruit snacks

When I started this DIY snack project, our house was most excited about the fruit gummies, particularly in choosing which forms we should use. You can buy a silicone candy form that will make exact replicas of the classic gummy bear, but silicone ice cube trays work just fine, or even a glass baking dish treated as a blank canvas to slice, dice or stamp out shapes.

You’re basically making Jell-O with a lot more heft and a natural juice base. The big difference is the gummies are glossier and less chewy than gummy bears or Welch’s Fruit Snacks. Commercial gummy snacks stay stiff and rubbery thanks to carnauba wax, also used in shoe polish, car wax and mascara. The wax is derived from a natural source (the carnauba palm tree, native to Brazil), but it is highly processed, and as a mom I just find that repulsive. My homemade versions weren’t as shelf-stable as a bag of Welch’s, but they get vacuumed up by little mouths anyway, so no need for stabilizers and wax.