Every day, we're bombarded with hype about the new health-food trend. More often than not, this year's hot product becomes next year's lawsuit when we all discover that the latest and greatest wonder-food isn't the miracle the packaging promised. The truth is, it's not hard to discern the healthy foods from the nonsense. Those with staying power stay on the shelves for a reason. Still, some not-so-healthy foods persist in haunting our fridges with the empty promise of high nutritional content and low calorie count. We've already pointed fingers at those not-actually-health-foods, but what about the ones you can count on?
Ahead, you'll find nine foods you may already know and love — and should keep on loving. Some have shot to the top of the healthy-food heap and become trendy for the right reasons. Some are ones that may have already had their fifteen minutes of fame, but should stay in your kitchen nevertheless. Put down your $11 coconut-water smoothie, and eat something real.
Image: via Smári Organics.
Smári Icelandic Yogurt
Can you imagine the mass panic that would ensue if it turned out that yogurt was bad for you? Think: Pirate's Booty times a billion. But, fear not. Yogurt, in its purest form, is very good for you. Obviously, you can't just buy that (delicious) birthday-cake flavored nonsense and call yourself a health nut. But, strained yogurt is absolutely loaded with protein, calcium, and all those live-cultures that keep your insides happy. If you haven't yet taken the plunge, start with Icelandic yogurt. Skyr, as it's known in Iceland, is naturally fat free, and even thicker than most Greek yogurts on the market. We're digging Smári, the new kid in the dairy aisle. One container (which leaves room for your berries or granola on top) contains a whopping 20 grams of protein — that's more than any other yogurt on the US market.
Smári Organic Icelandic Yogurt, $2.39, available at Whole Foods and other nationwide supermarkets.
Image: via Quinn.
Real talk: Most microwave popcorns are a health-food fallacy. They have a low-cal reputation and feel like a light snack, but in fact they're usually loaded with hidden oil — not to mention chemicals coating every kernel. Quinn is the only brand on the market that's doing it right. Packed in a compostable paper bag, this organic popcorn has zero preservatives or artificial flavor. You pop the corn, then open two prepackaged containers, adding oil and flavor to your taste. The flavors also beat the pants off your old bag of Pop Secret. Aside from the basics, Quinn offers Meyer Lemon & Sea Salt, Olive Oil & Herb, Vermont Maple, and Hickory Smoked Cheddar. It's your afternoon office-snack dream come true.
Quinn Popcorn, $5, available at Quinn Popcorn, and other retailers.
Image: via Amy's.
Amy's Organic Soups
We've often touted the benefits of a healthy, hearty soup. It's a great way to pack in extra veggie goodness, and is one of the most convenient, no-brainer ways to make your diet healthier. If it comes in a can, even better. But, many of the traditional canned-soup brands come loaded with preservatives and an ungodly amount of added salt. Next time you grocery shop, check out the label on a can of vegetable soup. Even the "healthy" versions rarely escape the added chemicals and additives. Amy's Organic is a very important exception. By some kind of soup magic, it manages to create products that have all that big, chunky, filling flavor — without any surprise junk. If you're a fan of Hungry Girl, you already know what a versatile ingredient Amy's tomato soup is for many recipes, but these soups stand on their own, too. Not to mention the variety is such that you'll never get that boring-healthy-food feeling: French Country Vegetable, Mushroom Bisque with Porcini, Indian Golden Lentil...who else is suddenly hungry?
Amy's Organic Soups, $2.83, available at Amy's and supermarkets nationwide.
Image: via Dang.
Dang Coconut Chips
Good Lord, do we love coconut chips. The first time we tried these, no one even bothered to ask about nutritional content. We were too busy Googling the nearest bulk-supplier of coconut chips to care. When we finally took a peek at the label, we expected the worst. After all, we'd been burned by coconut water
before. Imagine our jubilant surprise when we discovered that coconut chips are legit! Not only are they loaded with fiber, but you get all the benefits of coconut oil and lauric acid with just a small portion. And, believe us, that is all you'll want. When baked, the flavor of the coconut shavings becomes dramatically amplified as the natural sugars begin to caramelize. The result is an utterly decadent treat that you can also justify as a pre-gym snack. We are obsessed (OBSESSED) with Dang coconut chips. There's no point in describing the faces we made when we first tried them — just get to a grocery store and make that face yourself.
Dang Coconut Chips, $4.50, available at Whole Foods and other nationwide supermarkets.
Image: via Crunchies.
Crunchies Freeze-Dried Fruit
It's a myth that dried fruit is bad for you. If properly done, dried fruit is just as good for you as fresh, but the key is portion control. If you eat a cup of raisins, that's like eating 2 1/2 cups of grapes. But, think about it: Who wants to eat 2 1/2 cups of raisins? Dried fruit is super flavorful, meaning you probably don't need much to satisfy your sweet craving. However, not all dried fruits are created equal. It's important to check the label and make sure there are no added sugars or sweeteners. Crunchies is one of our picks because it's freeze-dried, adding a satisfying crunch to our fruit snack. Plus, the ingredients list reads simply: strawberries.
Crunchies, 4.99, available at GNC and other retailers.
Image: via KIND.
We could write a ten-part series on nutrition bars alone (Ed Note: Should we?
), but if you're looking for a no nonsense, no lies, no crazy additives purporting to make you a superhero, you can't do better than a KIND bar. Make no mistake, this is not a "diet" bar, and shouldn't be eaten five in a row. But, the good news is, you won't want to. KIND bars are so jammed with good-for-you ingredients that you'll probably be full halfway through. Rather than ground down and bound into a smooth, consistent layer (like most of those vitamin-tasting nutrition bars), KIND bars are simply nuts, seeds, and fruits bound together with their naturally occurring sugars and oils. Keep an eye out for the jazzier, chocolate-drizzled bars, but most of the standard fruit-and-nut combos are absolutely knock-out delicious on their own. If you're the kind of person who frantically stuffs breakfast in their mouth on the walk to the subway, then at least stuff something like this in it. Your blood sugar, digestive system, and energy levels will thank you all morning.
KIND Bars, $1.39, available at KIND and other retailers.
Image: via Sambazon.
Sambazon Unsweetened Açaí Smoothie Packs
We've all heard the myriad benefits of açaí, and odds are you've been guzzling juices and smoothies filled with what we imagine is pure, unadulterated health. Sorry, kids. Like a Jimmy Kimmel twerking video, we all got punked on that one. However, if you hunt, you'll find a few unsweetened labels out there that will help you get your antioxidant boost without a mysterious sugar crash two hours later. Sambazon's Unsweetened Açaí Smoothie Packs are one of our favorite versatile ingredient-snack-food hybrids. Use it as a base for a DIY açaí bowl, or throw it in the blender for a smoothie boost. Whatever you do, make sure you double check that you're buying the unsweetened variety. Sambazon also makes a smoothie pack with added sugar, which (though admittedly delicious) doesn't quite count as a health food.
Sambazon Unsweetened Açaí Smoothie Packs, $5.99, available at Whole Foods and other retailers.
Image: via Evol.
On those days when Mexican take-out feels mandatory, Evol burritos are the best. The all-natural brand offers varieties for virtually every dietary concern and desire: gluten-free, vegetarian, low-fat, high-protein. In addition to their regular-sized burritos, Evol also carries Big and Mini sizes...because everyone's burrito-needs are different, but we all need burritos. Knowing that we also all need guacamole, Evol provides optional guac packs to go with its burritos — in a portion-controlled size, because frankly, who can control themselves around guacamole?
Evol Burritos, $2.74, Available at Evol and supermarkets nationwide.
Image: via Bell & Evans.
Bell & Evans Chicken Breast Tenders
There is no logical explanation for Bell & Evans chicken. It's low-fat, organic, antibiotic- and chemical-free — and it tastes like fried chicken. If you are sick to death of plain, bland, criminally boring chicken breasts, then get thee to a supermarket and stock up on these. As a prepared, frozen food, they're easy to prep (20 mins in the oven = done) and satisfy your fast-food craving like no other. Don't do breading? No problem — Bell & Evans makes a gluten-free variety, too. Nutritionists and foodies alike rave about this healthy brand. Be warier of the flavored varieties (the Coconut Breaded and Garlic Parm both carry significantly higher fat content), but the straight-up breaded chicken tenders are an absolute must . According to our own highly unscientific research, keeping these in your freezer means you're 87% less likely to order cheese fries for dinner.
Bell & Evans Chicken Breast Tenders, $7.50, Available at supermarkets nationwide.