I live, sleep, eat, and breathe nutrition, so I would rather spend time at a farmer’s market or health food grocery than a department store or mall any day. When I discover brand new, healthy (and delicious) products I feel like a kid in a candy shop. That’s why I was so excited to attend the Natural Products Expo West in Anaheim, California over the weekend, where thousands of natural products were featured. I scoured the booths so I could share my 10 favorite finds (note: while not all of these products are available nationwide, awareness and demand can change that—if you’re interested in a product ask your local grocer about it).
Nasoya Black Soybean Tofu Plus
If you read this blog you know I’m a huge fan of organic tofu, and this one is truly unique. Made from both black and yellow soybeans, traditional tofu is made from yellow only, its speckled look adds a beautiful aesthetic to any meal. And the pigment that gives black soybeans their hue adds an extra dose of antioxidants to each serving (check out my previous post on the health benefits of black foods). The ingredients are also clean and natural, just water, organic whole yellow and black soybeans, calcium sulfate (a vegan form of calcium), nigari (sea water extract), and vitamin E. I know what’s going in my next stir-fry!
It was difficult to stop at two samples when I visited this booth. The Madras curry & cauliflower sauerkraut salad and red beet & red cabbage sauerkraut salad were so delicious I probably could have downed a jar of each. And these ‘veggies from the shelf,’ as I call them, also offer major health benefits. Fermented foods like these have been shown to improve digestive health, boost immunity, and fight cancer. They’re also super low in calories—a half cup serving provides just 40 calories, along with a healthy dose of vitamin C. In addition to being a great side dish, the shredded red cabbage would make a gorgeous bed for a serving of lean protein, such as tofu or salmon.
Hope Sweet Potato Hummus
I sampled each of this brand’s hummus varieties and they were all terrific, but the sweet potato really stood out. The ingredients are simply: organic garbanzo beans, organic sweet potato puree, water, organic tahini (sesame seeds), organic extra virgin olive oil, organic lemon juice, sea salt, organic spices and citric acid. The spices include a little nutmeg, one of my favorites, and experiencing those fall flavors in a new way was unexpected and downright delightful! I look forward to layering a generous helping between slices of grilled, chilled veggies like sliced eggplant and red onions, yum!
NibMor Daily Dose
When I saw this product I felt like the makers and I are kindred spirits. In my newest book which first debuted in Shape’s January 2011 issue, I devote an entire chapter to dark chocolate, and a Daily Dark Chocolate Escape (a dose of 100 calories worth of 70% or greater dark chocolate every day) is a mandatory part of the eating plan due to its health benefits and ability to curb cravings for both sweet and salty foods. NibMor’s newest product, Daily Dose, which debuted at Expo West, are individually wrapped 50 calorie squares of vegan, 72% dark chocolate, made with organic ingredients. Synergy!
Wild Squirrel Nut Butter
Before I even tasted this product I fell head over heals for the adorable logo, and the company’s owners have an awesome backstory. Friends Keeley and Erika, who were roommates at the University of Oregon, started making their own nut butter during their sophomore year. And when they began experimenting with creative additions like coffee and coconut, which were huge hits with their friends, they knew they had something special. The duo is currently making a go of it in the corporate world and having fun in the process (hence the rap video on their web site and YouTube). My favorite was the vanilla espresso almond butter, mmmmmm.
I’m always on the lookout for bars with ingredient lists that read like a recipe and this brand completely fits the bill. The only ingredients in the almond cookie pow-wow are organic apricots, almonds, almond butter, organic quinoa, pea protein, organic coconut sap, vanilla, and Bolivian rose salt. The bar was moist, delicious, and each variety is vegan, soy-free, gluten-free, raw, non-GMO, and handmade. And the icing on the cake: they’re eco-friendly! Each bar’s wrapper decomposes in six weeks.
Wild Veggie Soup
I’m all about taking healthy, wholesome shortcuts in the kitchen, and this product is a perfect fit for health conscious folks who are pressed for time. Wild Veggie is an all-natural, fresh frozen product that can be used as a soup, the base for a sauce or smoothie, or as a convenient recipe ingredient. The line includes broccoli, red bell pepper, carrot, butternut squash, beet, and edamame. Essentially frozen veggie purees with a touch of oil and seasonings, the company offers some unique suggestions for how to use the product on their web site, from broccoli flan to carrot mouse, and lots of savory ideas including curried leek and carrot soup. Smart!
Stash Organic Guayusa Tea
In my book S.A.S.S! Yourself Slim I recommend drinking up to five cups of tea a day, and I use loose tea leaves as a seasoning in smoothies, rubs, and marinades, so I get very excited about new finds in the tea aisle. Stash’s guayusa is actually not “tea” as we know it. Traditional teas (black, oolong, green, and white) come from the camellia sinensis plant. Guayusa, which comes from the rainforest in Ecuador, is a relative of the yerba mate plant and, like its distant cousin, it contains natural caffeine. The Stash collection includes delicious flavor infusions, like chai, mint, lemon, and chocolate. I tried it hot, but it would also be fantastic cold, and you can purchase it loose or break open a tea bag to use the leaves in cooking. Also of note: guayusa grows in the shade and requires a diverse ecological habitat to thrive, which means its demand creates economic incentives for farmers to keep the rainforest in tact.
If I could only eat one food for the rest of my life it would definitely be beans. They’re so hearty and satisfying and I feel like a health champion when I eat them. They’re chock full of nutrients, including protein, fiber, slow burning carbs, antioxidants, vitamins, and minerals. Better Bean makes ‘rethought’ beans, ready-to-eat skillet-sautéed, seasoned premium beans that are gluten-free, soy-free and vegan, in some fantastic flavors including rethought red, Cuban black, wholly chipotle bean dip and more. If you like it hot the Uncanny Refried Black contains a little kick. The ingredient are: black beans, water, onion, tomatillo, apple cider vinegar, safflower oil, jalapeno pepper, serrano pepper, sea salt, garlic, and habanero pepper. I can’t wait to use them as a dip for raw veggies, add them to a garden salad, or slather them inside a few whole corn tortillas.
Kettle Pop Organic Sea Salt Popcorn
This wasn’t the most unique product I saw at the expo, but this was one of the yummiest, and I’m a sucker for popcorn, a member of the whole grain family, a food group 90% of Americans aren’t getting enough of. This snack makes it easy to fill the gap. Made from just three ingredients: organic popcorn, organic soybean oil, and sea salt, a single serve bag (.75 oz) provides just 110 calories and only 96 milligrams of sodium, and the taste and texture are tops.
Cynthia Sass is a registered dietitian with master's degrees in both nutrition science and public health. Frequently seen on national TV, she's a SHAPE contributing editor and nutrition consultant to the New York Rangers and Tampa Bay Rays. Her latest New York Times best seller is S.A.S.S. Yourself Slim: Conquer Cravings, Drop Pounds and Lose Inches.