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The Future of Healthy Snacks Is Here

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Each March we attend a huge healthy foods expo—Natural Products Expo West—to see the new products that brands big and small will either launch nationwide or hope to get into your local supermarket (or, frankly, Whole Foods). We came home with a bunch of new snacks that none of us had ever seen before. These 10 reveal some tasty trends in the food industry.

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1. Healthy desserts. Cracked Nut Butter in Brownie Batter flavor is a great example of how more and more options are hitting shelves that are incorporating healthier, more natural ingredients into sweet treats. So whether you eat this “brownie batter” straight from the pouch or on graham crackers, you’ll get omega-3s, whey protein, pecans, almonds and more.

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2. More and more nuts. If nut butters aren’t your thing, don’t fret, because nuts are coming out with all kinds of different flavorings and twists. Bobalu Nuts has come up with an in-shell almond that doesn’t require a nut cracker. You can simply open them with your fingers—as you would a peanut.

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3. Eat your meat. Just about every aisle at the show had some company sampling jerky or a trail mix laden with meat or bars that might include a wide variety of mix-ins. Organic Prairie has two new beef bars—one with cranberry and sunflower seed and the other with bacon and apple—that give you a taste of the creativity in this arena.

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4. Sneaky veggies. The number of products trying to help people up their intake of kale, spinach, broccoli, squash (and the list goes on and on) is staggering. Instead of simply eating fruit leather, a popsicle, bread, french fries, pizza or a bar, such as Larabar with Superfoods in Coconut, Kale & Cacao, why not eat one that has more healthy ingredients?

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5. Freeze-dried fruits. You may have had the opportunity to taste this astronaut food in the past, but this space museum novelty is going mainstream. There were quite a few really tasty freeze-dried options at the show, so we think the technology must be improving. Natierra Chia Crunch Mango takes the basics of freeze-dried mango and turns it into a little cracker-like snack with lots of omega-3s from the chia.

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6. Unprocessed foods. Have you seen a little single-serving packet of figs or olives? With the whole foods movement (we don’t mean the store!), many people are trying to eat less-processed foods. Enter Mediterranean Organic Green Pitted Snack Olives With Herbs.

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7. Superfood fever. Seems like every company is touting a different “superfood” and each has different benes, so the key is finding what your body needs and responds to. Four Sigmatic makes a Mushroom Coffee and Hot Cocoa and other drinks based on the traditions of medicinal mushrooms. It’s not the only company making something “weird” that could totally catch on.

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8. Pack in the protein. More and more products and brands have been jumping on the protein bandwagon, and we’re seeing a lot more creativity from cookies to pastas and more. I Won! Protein Chips are pretty much like a tortilla chip. You wouldn’t necessarily expect your chips and salsa to be a good post-run snack, but you could be branching out soon.

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9. Water, water, everywhere. Remember when water came as regular or sparkling? Forget it. We saw waters with all kinds of different features: in environmentally friendly boxes, with the right alkaline, from a volcano, from the deep sea. Really. Formula Four Oxigen water touts it’s benefits for athletes: “recover faster, improved endurance, increased stamina and greater mental clarity.” Sounds good.

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10. Like it hot. Americans’ taste buds are definitely getting more adventurous and lots of products are working to please them. For runners, the source of that fire spice—capsaicin—has been shown to help fight inflammation. Paqui Tortilla Chips come in a bunch of flavors with different levels of hot, but Haunted Ghost Pepper is “the scariest of them all.”

Nicki Miller

Nicki Miller

Nicki Miller is the managing editor for Women's Running and spearheads our nutrition coverage. She’s an avid runner but also loves cycling (both on and off-road), yoga and all kinds of crazy videos to do at home. Formerly the editor of Martha’s Vineyard Magazine, Nicki started her journalism career at The Washington Post. Her first races were duathlons (run, bike, run) in her twenties with her husband, and then triathlons, completing the White Lake Half Ironman in North Carolina. Since joining Women’s Running in 2013, she’s been more focused on half marathons and trail running. Some of her proudest moments have been running the Boston Marathon (first 26.2), and becoming an RRCA certified running coach and helping others take up the sport.