Healthy snacking is important. We all know that; it helps us pack in the nutrients we need throughout the day. And while I'm constantly munching on fresh fruits and veggies both at home and at the office, I easily get bored of the same-old, same-old (as I'm sure you do too). Because, really, how many days in a row can one eat sliced bell peppers and hummus?
I'm always keeping my eyes peeled at the grocery store for packaged products that offer more convenience and variety than my typical (and, at times, boring) snacking routine but still fit the nutritional criteria I'm looking for in a good-for-me snack--Basically: low in calories and saturated fat while offering a decent amount of protein and fiber to help me stay satisfied.
But if you're only hunting out nutritious snackage on your weekly grocery run, you might miss a little hidden gem our staff recently discovered: A healthy snacking line at CVS.
Surprised? We were too. Turns out, the pharmacy chain is good for more than just picking up cotton balls and travel size toothpaste. We taste-tested several new Gold Emblem abound products and were pleasantly surprised by their flavor, texture, and nutritional stats. All of their snacks are free of artificial flavors and preservatives, and there are options to meet every nutritional need out there (think: organic, gluten-free, low in sodium, and more).
Here's a breakdown of a few of our favorite products, in order, and what our staff had to say after tasting these health(ier) bites.
#1. Almond Butter - $8.99
Almond butter at CVS? We were pleasantly surprised, for sure. But that isn't why this tops our list--the nutty, full-on almond flavor in this spread is top-notch. And one serving (2 tablespoons) of this no-stir nut butter offers 6 grams of protein and 3 grams of fiber. It's creamy and rich, pleasantly salted (but not overly), offers a delicately toasty sweetness, and delivers impressively on pure almond flavor. Comments from our staff included:
"Yum! As good as any other almond butter I've tried."
"Really likes this almond butter. Rivals my favorite brand at Publix--but the price point is a little steep."
"Good texture. Extra nutty and salty!"
If you like cheese puffs, I'd definitely recommend giving these a try. These gluten-free puffs are addictive and spicy--seriously, these have a definite peppery kick. I'm not a big fan of spicy flavors, and while I wasn't expecting the intensity, I still found myself reaching for seconds and thirds. While they aren't available online yet, you should be able to find them in stores. These crunchy jalapeño puffs are notably low in sodium and saturated fat. And unlike most popular cheese puffs on the shelves, which predominantly rely on corn, these offer a nutritious twist by highlighting protein- and fiber-rich quinoa (but don't deliver that weird bitterness a lot of quinoa-based snacks have going on).
#3. Dark Chocolate, Fruit & Nut Trail Mix - $2.99
I'm a sucker for any kind of trail mix, but I definitely have my favorites--and they're typically not too salty and offer some sort of sweetness from dried fruit or chocolate pieces. Our staff found this blend to be an A+ mix in terms of taste and variety. The dark chocolate chunks here are actually good, and we all loved the blend of nuts--especially the hazelnuts which aren't a typical component of your basic store-bought trail mix but are a great match for chocolate and sweet dried fruit. With a 1/4 cup serving, you'll get 4 grams of protein and 2 grams of fiber. One note: with 7 grams of sugar per serving, I'd definitely say this falls more into the "treat" category.
#4. Almond Coconut Granola - $3.99
Collectively, our staff found this nutty granola to have an awesome, toasty coconut flavor. It packs 34 grams of whole grains per serving and is low in sodium. Additionally, the sugar numbers are totally reasonable here--with just a little honey to add sweetness. A few of our staffers commented that they wished it were "clumpier," but all in all, we'd definitely pick up a bag of it to top our morning yogurt.
#5. Fuji Apple Crisps - $3.99 (per 1-ounce package)
We dig these in-season treats and think your kids will too (say hello to a new lunchbox favorite). The crisps are intensely fruity with concentrated apple flavor, but if that's not your (or your little ones') favorite, try the Strawberry Crisps. A number of our editors preferred these. Unfortunately, the price point is a bit steep for only a few handfuls of the snack, so we had to move this one down on our list.
#6. Dark Chocolate & Peanut Butter Snack Bar - $1.67
I'm a sucker for peanut butter and dark chocolate, but this bar was just okay--which is why it lands at #6 on our list. The flavor and texture are enjoyable enough and the price point is decent, but it didn't stand out from similar energy bars we've tried. Plus, this one hits at that awkward calorie point where I'm like, "Is this a splurge of a snack or a really skimpy meal?" It's a solid choice if you happen to already be running through CVS and are in need of sustenance, but I won't name it as a bar worth seeking out.