Saturday morning is my favorite time of the week. While the vast majority of people use this time to get in their weekend Netflix fix, I'm likely traversing the smog-filled streets of NYC en route to my local health food store. I say this not to elicit guilt, but rather to let you know that while I can't tell you the recipient of this week's final rose on the Bachelor or who killed who on Game of Thrones, I CAN offer you a crackin', guilt-free snack list to help you through those Saturday marathons.
I thoroughly enjoy spending hours sifting through the shelves of Whole Foods, learning about local brands and new ingredients, and taking them home to experiment in the kitchen. I admit to this fully accepting the risk of coming across as some sort of health-nut, kale-obsessed hippie. Don't worry, I'm not a huge kale gal, and I'm absolutely down for a cup (read: pint) of fro-yo every now and again, but for the most part, I try to be relatively health conscious. My mom's famous saying, "everything in moderation" couldn't be more fitting as my food philosophy. This year has been a huge health journey for me, during which I've seriously re-evaluated what I'm putting into my body and how it's affecting both myself and the planet (digestion, environment, skin, wellness, etc.).
As a self-proclaimed snack guru, I wanted to start sharing some of my favorites with you, starting with a list of grace-approved items that are all available at Whole Foods. I also put together little blurbs about each company, as I believe it's just as important to understand and appreciate the mission behind a product.
I hope you enjoy these just as much as I do. Get snackin'!
DISCLAIMER: I am fully aware that eating healthy, organic, local, etc. is often more expensive than going with some of the mainstream food offerings out there. I rarely drink or go out, so my weekly shops and healthy food escapades account for a good chunk of my monthly expenses. I wouldn't have it any other way. Healthy eating is not only a huge passion of mine, but also a priority. That said, I know many of us are on tight budgets, and I would never want anyone to feel judgement or pressure to purchase. If anything, I hope that you can come away from these "snack guides" with a fun item or two to add to the cart on a rainy day or a deeper appreciation for some of the brands that are working so hard to share their incredible stories through food.
#1: Siete Farms Grain-Free Cassava Flour Tortilla Wraps & Chips
First up on the list is the killer tortilla duo from Siete Farms. They're both grain-free, dairy-free, and made with cassava flour, so if you're gluten intolerant or just trying to keep the inflammation to a minimum, these are the snacks for you! If you haven't heard of cassava flour before, it's a complete game changer for the GF world and, unlike coconut flour and almond flour, can be used 1:1 as a gluten-free substitute for tons of recipes. I love gently heating the tortillas for veggie wraps, egg salad, and tacos. The chips are addicting (this is your warning). I've only tried the plain and lime so far, but there's also a nachos flavor that I'm dying to get my hands on since Doritos were my #2 guilty pleasure as a child (right after Oreos, of course).
The story: Veronica Garza, one of the founders of Siete Family Foods was diagnosed with multiple debilitating autoimmune conditions as a teenager. She was fatigued, overweight, and depressed. Together, her family of seven (siete) embarked on a mission to turn Veronica's life around through exercise and a low-inflammation, grain-free diet. As a Mexican-American family from South Texas, they yearned for a flour and corn tortilla replacement. Veronica came up with a killer grain-free recipe that her Grandma Campos said was way better than the homemade flour tortillas she’d made for decades! Siete Family Foods is a mission-based company, passionate about making and sharing real food, gathering together in authentic community, and advocating for healthier lifestyles among Latino families.
#2: Paleonola Grain Free-Granola
Stop what you're doing right now, run to Whole Foods, and get yourself a bag of this stuff. Not only is the name genius, but the taste is NEXT LEVEL. In college, I used to get a highly addictive (not healthy) granola called, "Hippie Crack" (LOL) from a bakery in Georgetown. Since graduating, I haven't found anything quite as good... until now. Paleonola is the perfect mix of crunchy, chewy, and sweet. It's 100% grain free, so there are no oats needed. The original flavor is simple and spectacular with a more traditional honey & cinnamon taste, but the real standout IMO is the pumpkin pie. It's a pricy item at $8.99 a bag, but the serving size is also smaller since it's pure nuts and seeds. That definitely doesn't stop me from taking down half the bag...
The story: Paleonola was started by a former professional hockey player, Dinos, and his wife Katelyn, who used to work in the professional golf industry. After they got married, they wanted to start fresh with their careers and create something meaningful together. Paleonola only uses ingredients sourced directly from Mother Nature and their unique recipe doesn't have the heavy carbohydrate load and sugar crash you'll find in most other granola mixes.
#3: RXBAR Honey Cinnamon Peanut Butter
I used to eat a Chocolate Sea Salt or Peanut Butter RXBAR every single day, so when I discovered these little packets on the shelves of Whole Foods, I was psyched. Their new line of nut butters have three flavors so far, and I think they blow the bars out of the water! The Justin's-inspired squeeze packs have 9 grams of protein each and are perfect on their own or drizzled over some apple slices. If you can only buy one, make sure it's the Honey Cinnamon Peanut Butter. You'll be licking every last drop clean from the packet.
The story: RXBAR was started by Peter Rahal and Jared Smith, two Crossfit-loving best friends from the suburbs of Chicago with the goal of breaking through the protein bar market with a clean, 100% natural paleo bar. They definitely hit the nail on the head with this idea... Less than five years into business, they just sold RXBAR to Kellogg for $600 million. Peter was recently on one of my favorite podcasts, NPR's How I Built This, to explain the whole story. Incredibly inspiring (listen here)!
#4: Kite Hill Unsweetened Yogurt
If you're steering clear from dairy, but not a huge fan of coconut, Kite Hill has you covered. Their products are made with a soy & dairy free almond milk base and packed with probiotics. I like their Greek and European-style yogurts for breakfast or a snack. I will warn you, if you're trying the Greek yogurt (my favorite of the two), but don't like the tangy and bitter taste of regular Greek yogurt, you're not going to like this stuff. It's definitely an acquired tasted - very tart and well, unsweetened. I mix mine with a teaspoon of maca (read: maca NOT matcha) powder, and top with frozen berries, granola, a dollop of nut butter, and a generous sprinkle of cinnamon.
*I always steer clear of the flavored Kite Hill yogurts (and flavored dairy yogurts in general) as they usually contain a ton of sugar.
The story: If you put two chefs and a biochemist in a room together, they're likely to cook up some culinary greatness, right? That's exactly what Tal Ronnen, Monte Casino, and Patrick Brown did when they embarked on their journey to create a plant-based non-dairy revolution. Their team figured out how to take traditional cheese-making techniques and apply them to nut milk instead of milk from an animal. Kite Hill sells items like ricotta, nut milk yogurts, and pastas that are all non-dairy. Their mission is to create products that everyone can enjoy, whether eating a dairy-free diet or just curious about a healthier lifestyle.
#5: GT's Gingerade Kombucha
I couldn't get through my first snack guide without including 'booch on the list! I credit this discovery to my roomie, and Kombucha-lovin' friend Maddy. In college, we had a farmer's market on campus every Wednesday that sold Kombucha, but I never liked their flavors. Maddy told me to try GT's Gingerade (I love anything and everything ginger), and I was instantly hooked! I'm also a huge fan of Health-Ade's Ginger-Lemon version (thanks, Johnny Boy!).
The story: Founder, GT Dave (yes, this is his name) was raised by parents practicing Eastern philosophy. At a young age, he was gifted a Himalayan Mother SCOBY (main ingredient for Kombucha) and decided to try his hand at brewing his own batch of the fermented tea in his parent's kitchen. It was a huge success and the family drank it daily. A few years later, GT’s mom, Laraine, was diagnosed with a highly aggressive form of breast cancer, but made a full recovery. She attributed her healing to GT’s Kombucha. Inspired the positive effect his Kombucha had on his mom, GT wanted to make the drink accessible to everyone. He became the first person to bring Kombucha to stores in the U.S.
#6: Roots Hummus
There are a few things in this world that I can't live without, and a good pot of hummus is one of them. To be completely honest, I am a bit of a hummus snob. My favorite recipe in the world is from a little shop close to my family home in Chicago, called Foodstuffs. It's the perfect consistency - not too thin and not too thick - and topped with a swirl of olive oil and a sprinkle of paprika (yes, I am aware how food-bougie I sound right now). Up until a few months ago, I couldn't find anything as good. That is, until I discovered Roots. This stuff is the REAL DEAL, people! Simple ingredients, the perfect texture, and an excellent range of flavors. My favorites are the Spinach and Roasted Garlic, but they have a ton of other ones I'd love to try. I can go through a pot of this stuff a night if I don't restrain myself.
Other flavors: Original, Roasted Red Bell Pepper, Hot Chipotle, Oil-Free Original, Thai Coconut Curry, Mango Sriracha, Black Bean, Lima Bean
The story: Matt Parris first started making batches of his hummus in the 200 square foot kitchen of Roots, a local organic café in Asheville, North Carolina. Customers were crazy for the hummus and eventually convinced Matt that he had to take his special dip to market. Known locally as "The Microbrew of Hummus", Roots is still prepared in small batches at their headquarters in Asheville, NC and the company prides itself on supporting the businesses and local community that made Matt's hummus a possibility.
#7: Lily's Salted Almond Dark Chocolate
If you know me well, then you'd be shocked if my snack guide didn't contain chocolate. I have a problem, okay? It's fine guys. It runs in the fam. My mom is a certified chocoholic and she's infected all her kids with this dangerous sickness. There's not much else to say about Lily's except that it is out-of-control good and guilt-free. It's sweetened with stevia and erythritol, natural sweeteners that are 100% safe and do not cause blood sugar spikes like other artificial sweeteners. Due to the stevia, the chocolate contains 25% less calories than normal chocolate. So I'm basically telling you it's fine to eat the WHOLE bar. I'm partial to dark chocolate these days, so my favorite is the Salted Almond 70% dark (vegan). For you milk chocolate lovers, the Salted Almond & Milk is incredible. They also do amazing vegan baking chocolate chips (shoutout to my sister Annie for introducing me) that are perfect for cookies or brownies!
The story: In 2011, Cynthia Tice recognized an opportunity to offer chocolate with all the pleasures, but none of the added sugar. She teamed up with her friend and fellow chocoholic Chuck Genuardi to create Lily's Sweets, replacing the high amounts of sugar traditionally present in chocolate with the plant-based sweetener, stevia. They named Lily's Sweets after Chuck's niece, Lily, an inspired childhood brain cancer survivor who recently celebrated her 5-year diagnosis anniversary and is currently cancer-free. Cynthia and Chuck donate a percentage of profits each year to various non-profit organizations that provide services to children with cancer and their families in honor of Lily's bravery.
#8: Dr. Praeger's California Veggie Burgers
Okay, this doesn't technically qualify as a snack, but I couldn't pass up the opportunity to include my favorite veggie burgers in the world on the list. Since discovering the burgers at the beginning of the summer, I've probably eaten them at least twice a week. Simple ingredients and delicious flavors. My favorites are the California (carrots, peas, broccoli, and spinach) and Mushroom Risotto burgers. Roast some sweet potato fries on the side and slice up a watermelon, and you're all set with the perfect summer meal.
The story: Dr. Praeger's was started by two cardiothoracic surgeons who became fast friends. They decided to start a food company to encourage sensible, wholesome eating based on the types of cases they witnessed on a daily basis in their profession. They believe that a few small changes to our diets can make all the difference for our health. Their entire line of products is pescatarian, which I LOVE.
Trader Joe's guide to come shortly, stay tuned!
*Items are NOT listed according to preference. They are ALL equally delicious!
*Availability may vary due to the local-nature of some of the smaller brands, but you should be able to find most of the products with a quick Google search if your Whole Foods doesn't carry them.