All snack food is not created equal. Some are sweetened with high fructose corn syrup while others use honey. Some are stuffed with white flour while others use more creative — and healthier — options.
Snack and candy-makers launched their newest, healthiest options during a recent candy expo in Chicago. We went, we tasted, we researched and we checked with nutritionists to whittle down the selections until they satisfied our two main criteria: treats that taste great and aren't ridiculously bad for you.
And while we don't claim that any of these choices are healthier snack foods than a carrot with humus or a slice of apple with peanut butter — sometimes, you really want to indulge with a cookie or a candy bar. So go for it.
N'Oatmeal Raisin Without Oats by Mary's Gone Crackers
Why we love them: They're quinoa-based organic, gluten-free, vegan cookies.
Main ingredients: organic gluten-free flour blend, organic quinoa flakes
Calories: 60 per cookie Total fat: 2g Saturated fat: 1g Sugar: 9g Vitamins: nothing significant
Research says: Diets rich in fiber from whole grains — such as quinoa — can help prevent breast cancer for pre-menopausal women, according to a study published in the International Journal of Epidemiology. Eating more than 30 grams of fiber daily can reduce your risk by 52 percent. Each cookie has nearly a gram of dietary fiber.
Experts say: "So many Americans fall very short on whole grain intake. At the same time, we overdose on refined grains. So it's always a great idea to swap out some refined grains in favor of whole grains like quinoa. Quinoa is a whole grain that fills you up, it contains protein, and it's a good source of dietary potassium." — Elisa Zied, registered dietitian and author of "Nutrition At Your Fingertips"
Goji Ginger Walnut Cookies by Goji Gourmet
Why we love them: They're stuffed with a superfruit that offers antioxidants — the goji berry; they contain walnuts that provide fiber; and they've got ginger, often used as a remedy for heartburn or nausea.
Main ingredients: organic white whole wheat flour, organic goji berries, organic ginger and walnuts
Calories: 25 per cookie Total fat: 1g Saturated fat: 1/2g Sugar: 2g Vitamins: nothing significant
Research says: A study published in the Journal of the American College of Nutrition finds that adults with high cholesterol who ate 1.3 ounces of walnuts, 1 tablespoon of walnut oil and 1.5 tablespoons of flax seed oil daily reduced their LDL levels, lowered their resting blood pressure and increased their positive response to stress.
Experts say: "Walnuts have been related to lower rates of heart disease, and like all nuts, they have trace minerals and other micronutrients that can be hard to find in the diet. And, somewhat ironically, frequent nut consumption has been linked to lower body weight." — Mary Flynn, registered dietitian at The Miriam Hospital and assistant professor of medicine at Brown University in Rhode Island
Chocolate by Aero Shot
Why we love them: It looks like a tube of lip balm, and it can fit in your purse. Carry it around with you and when you want, quickly inhale or take a whiff of chocolate from the tube. You'll get a hint of chocolate without the calories or the fat.
Main ingredients: cocoa solids and cane sugar
Calories: 0 Total fat: 0g Saturated fat: 0g Sugar: 0g Vitamins: nothing significant
Research says: Simply smelling chocolate reduces fatigue and stress while increasing self-reported life satisfaction, according to a recent study by researchers at the Human Olfaction Laboratory at Middlesex University.
Experts say: "This is the first study to show that simply sniffing chocolate improves mood and makes people feel better about their lives." — Neil Martin, lead author of the study, professor of psychology at Middlesex University in England and author of "The Neurophysiology of Smell and Taste"
Dark chocolate cinnamon pecan bar by Kind
Why we love them: It's a fabulous low-sugar substitute for anyone who loves Snickers bars or candy bars containing nuts and chocolate.
Main ingredients: mixed nuts
Calories: 200 per bar Total fat: 16g Saturated fat: 3g Sugar: 5g Vitamins: Magnesium (15 percent daily recommended value)
Research says: Eating two Kind bars a day doesn't make you gain any weight despite adding the approximately 350 extra calories to your diet, according to a study by the Yale-Griffin Prevention Research Center partially funded by Kind LLC.
Experts say: "The bars' primary ingredients are nuts, which are nutrient dense and highly satiating — making you feel full longer and less likely to snack on other foods." — Dr. David Katz, lead author of the study and director of the Yale University Prevention Research Center
Chocolate Pomegranate Honey Patties by Heavenly Organics
Why we love them: The short list of ingredients limits the amount of preservatives; the dark chocolate is good for your heart; and honey is preferable to sugar.
Main ingredients: honey, dark chocolate, natural pomegranate flavor
Calories: 110 per bar Total fat: 5g Saturated fat: 3g Sugar: 18g Vitamins: nothing significant
Research says: Substituting alternative sweeteners such as honey or molasses for refined sugar increases your antioxidants, according to researchers in the biochemistry department at Virginia Tech.
Experts say: "While honey and sugar are comparable in terms of calories per weight, honey is much sweeter than table sugar, which means you can use less of it for the same sweet taste. Compared to refined sugar, honey also has a lower glycemic index, can improve your immune system and contains health-boosting vitamins and antioxidants." — Rania Batayneh, nutritionist and founder of Essential Nutrition For You, a nutrition consulting firmCopyright © 2014, The Baltimore Sun