It used to be that if you were a snacker looking to dodge sugar bombs, your options were fairly limited. Celery with peanut butter got old pretty quickly, as did trips to the health-food store to stock up on fruit leather.
Then along came places like Whole Foods, whose health-conscious mantra sent shockwaves throughout the Snackdom. Kale went mainstream, and debates about healthy fats, carbs, and gluten dominated public conversation. It could make a snack-lover’s face turn blue, to be honest. But like all creatures, we adapt to our environment, and try to embrace the wave before it comes crashing down. So what if a snack doesn’t need partially hydrogenated corn oil or Yellow #65794 to taste good?
Chia, coconut, kale, nuts, quinoa, chickpeas have quickly proven to be revelations for us snack skeptics, and you won’t be hard-pressed to find similar products now at your local bodega or gas station. In an amazing turn of events, we’ve arrived at a place where you’re no longer a herb for showing up to a party with an “alternative” or “organic” snack-pack. Hell, even notorious weed heads like Jadakiss are giving into the fruits-over-chips lifestyle.
In light of these changes, I, the Snack Gawd, bring to you my bangers of the month.
Sahale Thai Cashews Glazed Mix
Why you need it: Sahale Snack Mix is a triple-threat: spicy, sweet, and savory, benefitting from dried pineapple chunks and peanuts. Incorporating rice-wine vinegar, lemongrass, sake, lime, and sesame seeds, this snack has the elements of an entrée at your favorite Thai takeout joint.
Asturi Black and Green Olive Bruschettini
Why you need it: Yo, you like olives, fam? Okay, so no one says that, but even so—olives have entered the mainstream in full force. I used to eat black olives and chickpeas as a snack as a kid, but finally branched out in the past few years, hitting up the olive bars to sample Picholine, Greek, and Nicoise. Which is why I respect the idea of the olive-flavored bruschettini, a perfect pairing with cheese or salumi. The olive flavor is not subtle, but also not too salty or aggressive. You can enjoy these alone on the couch, even when the fridge is empty.
SunRype Wildberry Fruit Strip
Price: .50 cents each
Why you need it: Another day, another kids’ snack fit for adult consumption. Based in Canada, SunRype is not only a snack company, but like Welch’s, it also manufactures great snacks using its juice products. The Wildberry Fruit Strips contain apple, lemon, elderberry, grape, cherry, and wild berry juices that hit the mark. SunRype may suggest pulling the strips apart a la Twizzler Pull & Peel, but odds are these kid nibblers will be gone before any play goes down.
Good Health Avocado Oil Lime Ranch Potato Chips
Why you need it: Lime and ranch may seem like an odd pairing at face value, but Good Health have clearly done their research. Maintaining the creamy and tangy notes associated with ranch, as well as the acidity associated with limes, these chips strike the right balance. It doesn’t hurt that they’re cooked in avocado oil.
Pop Art Jalapeno White Cheddar Popcorn
Why you need it: Decades ago, Smart Food changed the game with its white-cheddar popcorn variety. But with the healthy snack boom in full swing, other competitors like Pop Art are giving the OG company a run for its money. Though Pop Art touts selections like Nori Sesame, Tandoori Yogurt, and White Pepper Parmesan, I started with the more basic Jalapeño White Cheddar to see if the entry point was dank enough to delve further. And dank it is. The cheddar is rich enough to satisfy Smart Food lovers, while the jalapeño provides a nice added kick.
Peeled Tropical Paradise
Why you need it: It never hurts to throw some dried fruit into the mix, even if you’re a self-anointed Snack King like myself. No, I’m not trippin’ on mescaline, you read it right. Peeled mixes sweet, tangy mango, pineapple bits, and banana slices to create a combo that pairs well when that afternoon snack crave hits. Unlike other dried-fruit purveyors, Peeled does not add any sugars, preservatives, or oil, so you’re getting the minerals, fibers, and nutrients that are naturally contained in these babies without the cloying sweet flavors. You may not have time for a smoothie at work, but you can definitely crush this pouch instead.
Blvd Ice Cream Caramel Dulce Slam
Why you need it: Blvd is one of those new-fangled ice-cream companies with attractive packaging and flavors like Classic Tortoni and Banana Split. When I sample a new brand of ice cream, though, I like to stick with simpler flavors; it’s my litmus test to see if the brand can execute the basics. Blvd’s Dulce de Leche Slam is that gateway flavor that will lead me back—a smooth creamy core of dulce de leche and a ribbon of Caramel laced therein.
Vermont Real Sticks Peppered Pork & Beef
Why you need it: As a meat-snack enthusiast, it always gives me pause to try a product that doesn’t have the usual preservatives, nitrates, or GMOs; it’s just what I’m used to. Full disclosure: The Vermont Real brand makes a BBQ flavored beef stick that I do not care for, but I forged ahead and gave the Peppered variety a whirl. Unlike the BBQ variety, there is nuanced flavor here, a welcome spiciness that isn’t biting enough to overpower your palate. The meat product is what really shines (not literally, like Slim Jim’s), as Vermont Real uses only vegetarian-fed pork and beef. This is a meat stick you can feel good about snacking on.