Walk down the snack food aisle of your favorite grocery store and you will quickly learn that the snack food industry has evolved dramatically over the last few years. The time-tested and always popular potato chips and tortilla chips now must share shelf space with far healthier options. These newcomers are lower in fat, carbohydrates, and sodium, but at the same time are good sources of protein and fiber. Many custom blending seasoning companies are working with snack manufacturers to develop new combinations that will wow your taste buds. With these product innovations, snacking is no longer considered an indulgence. In fact, the new offerings satisfy the cravings while at the same time deliver the benefits of health and wellness.
Some of the first healthier, high in protein snacks were chips and pretzels formulated with a high percentage of soy. While better for you, consumers found the soy-based products had a very dry mouth feel and an unpleasant after taste. Soy also presents allergenic issues and disagrees with many people who have digestive problems. Product developers quickly shifted to more agreeable plant proteins such as peas, lentils, pinto beans, and chickpeas.
Healthier whole wheat grains and vegetables are also moving to the forefront of this snacking revolution. Superfood grains such as Brown Rice, Quinoa, Flax, Chia and Barley are now the key components of healthier snacks. Some of the superfood vegetables used to make snack chips include Broccoli, Spinach, Cauliflower, Kale, Sweet Potatoes, and of all things, Kelp, which most people think of as seaweed. What most people do not know is seaweed quite possibly provides more nutritional benefits than any of the other superfood vegetables.
The latest trend with healthy snack food makers is to take the seeds of superfoods and use a practice known as “sprouting”. Although the seeds of vegetables, grains, and beans are nutritional powerhouses, they are also difficult for the body to digest due to the natural barriers’ seeds use to protect themselves. Sprouting breaks down those barriers, breaking open the seed, making it easier to digest and unlocking the goodness inside.
Evolving in lockstep with the more nutritious approach to snack food ingredients are the custom blending seasonings used to flavor these snacks. The makers of healthy snacks challenged their custom blending manufacturers to develop flavors that are lower in fat and sodium but are also gluten free and allergen free. This means the all-time best-selling flavors of Nacho Cheese, Cool Ranch, Sour Cream & Onion, and Cheddar Sour Cream had to be jettisoned or go through a major overhaul. Amazingly, with the advancement of flavor technology, popular dairy and cheese-based flavors can be created without dairy ingredients. Healthy snacking is now also allergen-free snacking!
Mainstream snack food seasonings have also traditionally contained a ton of artificial flavors and colors along with flavor enhancers and fillers. The makers of healthier snacks have opted for more simplified seasonings and spices, which are now used in larger proportion than ever before. The upside to this approach is product developers are at liberty to use more of the flavorful spices that are also considered superfoods such as turmeric, cinnamon, coriander, and cumin just to name a few. Snack food seasonings can also be blended with a variety of other ingredients to deliver even more nutritional value. Probiotics, nutritional yeast, and botanicals are just a few of the options that will enhance the health benefits of any seasoning, snack or otherwise.
Healthy snacks were once relegated to the natural food stores and the product lines of online diet plans. They can now be found at your corner convenience store. So, the next time the munchies hit, rather than grab a bag of the fried potato chips or corn chips, do your body a favor and reach for a snack that will crush the craving without the guilt!
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