There is a frightening amount of truth in the shopworn adage, “You are what you eat.”
Frightening because the American obesity rate in 2019 topped 35 percent (in McAllen, Texas—allegedly the fattest city in the country—it was close to 45 percent), and as of 2017, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, more than 30 million Americans had diabetes and another 84 million were pre-diabetic.
Coupled with all this is the fact that more and more Americans eat essentially one real meal a day, while snacking from wake-up to bedtime and beyond.
One report shows 27 percent of children’s daily calories come from snacks—mostly salty, sugary “food” and sweetened beverages. For adults, the Journal of Nutrition reports, snacks comprised 24 percent of daily energy intake. In the last 30 years, says the U.S. Department of Agriculture, the average number of snacks consumed per day has doubled, and the percentage of adults snacking on any given day hit 90 percent.
In response to all this, the words “better for you” have entered the snack industry vocabulary, and there’s even a snack company called Better For You Brands.
Better For You tends to follow two parallel dietary pathways. The first excludes or radically reduces sugar, gluten, GMO, carbs, and artificial anything. We could call that the “paleo path.” The second eliminates most of that, along with dairy. Which we’ll call the “vegan path.” A growing number of Better For You snack space entries combine both paths.
All of which has led to an explosion of new snack foods that really are better for you than most of the junk we grew up on, witness the examples that follow.
This compilation was enhanced by a visit to the Winter Fancy Food Show, in San Francisco, where some 1,400 exhibitors displayed a mind-boggling, stamina-demanding variety of delicious and, frequently, better for you snack foods, and a few products with which you could make a delicious, better for you meal.