Full disclosure: Monsters & Critics received free samples of the products mentioned in this article for review. However, the opinions expressed are independent and our own.
Always one of our favorite destinations, the Natural Products Expo West is the largest trade show in the natural, organic and healthy products industry and it’s a total blast.
Monsters and Critics was at the Comic-Con for foodies for two days this past weekend, the annual Natural Products Expo West 2017 in Anaheim, CA., which wrapped Sunday, March 12.
We’ve waded through countless aisles in this behemoth of a food convention and tried some amazing new food products in the gluten-free, paleo, vegetarian and non-veg categories that will be at a grocery near you soon…if not already.
If you love healthy foods, delicious and good-for-you treats, alternative snacks and healthy beauty items, this is an epicurious Valhalla.
As we do annually, we’ve organized our notes from the Expo and have been eating our way through some exceptional new food items.
We recommend the following fantastic finds…
Townshend’s Tea Company Brew Dr. Kombucha
There’s a lot of Kombucha out there, and we tried many. This brand, Brew Dr. Kombucha, a newcomer to us, excelled for flavor profiles and variety and was a pleasant and refreshing drink. Our favorite from the whole show in this category.
The flavor we loved the most? Their bottle called “Love” a jasmine green tea, lavender, chamomile, Damiana and rose concoction that was so very refreshing.
Drinks for kids
Good 2 Grow Juicy Waters
Get those kids off the apple juice train. There’s too much sugar even in natural fruit juices, so this clever Good2Grow company designed a USDA organic non-GMO product with a low percentage of real juice and low-calorie refresher for thirsty little mites, with very cool packaging to boot.
Childhood diabetes is no joke, best to unplug their stream of sugar and try these watered-down organic “punches” which taste really good but will not wire your child out.
Zupa Noma no cook read-to-sip soups, 12 ounces
Meet one of our top finds, this California company Zupa Noma which has produced a fantastic array of fresh soups made portable to go like a juice, but this is a much more satisfying meal.
Made for someone who wants fast food on the go (but healthy) or, for a warmer day, an easy no-cook meal to serve with a salad.
Zupa is low glycemic food, and the company urges people to try this in place of a latte or juice mid afternoon before heading to the gym.
They use over four servings of whole, organic vegetables and superfoods for a high-fiber, low sugar meal.
Our favorite? Organic Tomatillo Jalapeno was phenomenal. Many flavors to chose from and try!
Explore Cuisine Organic gluten-free pasta
Man, there were a lot of gluten-free options for the pasta lovers at the Expo. The first of two that stood out from the pack is Explore Cuisine, a non-GMO, certified gluten free, vegan, parve, whole grain product that tasted really good.
These are pasta that are loaded with high plant-based protein and make a “sketti” dinner (Mama June may want to take notes here) a delicious and healthy option instead of a carbo-loading waistline expander.
We loved the Organic red Rice macaroni, fantastic with a basil and tomato sauce.
Make sure you give this a try if you are concerned about carbs and gluten. Their brown rice line of pasta is superb too.
We loved the Pow! Pasta Black Bean elbows, and tried it served up as classic macaroni and cheese.
This firm al dente elbow won’t go mushy if you bake your mac n’ cheese and it has a whopping 21 grams of protein a serving.
They have many varieties but this one, in particular, stood out. Non-GMO, gluten-free, make sure you try out the Black Bean enchilada pasta recipe on the box too!
Mikey’s Muffins – Double Chocolate Chip Muffin Tops
This is insanely good and satisfying for an on-the-go breakfast or a snack late afternoon pre-gym. Mikey’s Muffins have zero dairy, grain, gluten, soy and is also non-GMO.
Deeply chocolate, these slightly sweet (10 grams of carbs total) muffins will satisfy the chocolate monster and also fill your tummy.
Made with almond flour, honey and real chocolate and coconut flour, this minimalist ingredient deck is the way to go if you need a break from protein bars. Fantastic item.
Munk Pack Oatmeal Squeezes – 4.2 ounce
Weird! Squishy! Cold! Warm! Hikers, bikers, and kids heading to school will love a Munk Pack squishy fruit squeeze oatmeal, a fast, fun alternative to standard breakfast and protein bars and trail mix.
This is a non-GMO high fiber ready-made oatmeal-to-go that is gluten free, made with real fruit, vegan and packaged in BPA-free packs that make heading out a less tedious meal planning affair.
We loved the Maple Pear Quinoa Oatmeal fruit squeeze. Kept us feeling full, too, for quite a while.
Paleo dairy-free milk swaps
Mylk by Rebel Kitchen
Such a great milk substitute by Rebel Kitchen, but there is a HUGE caveat: Shake this product like a Polaroid as the solids that flavor the Mylk (especially the Chai) separate and you will get the chunks as you drink it which was not fun.
However once figured out, shaken like mad, you get a really refreshing highly addictive milk alternative that has no carrageenan or emulsifiers, and is gluten-free, soy-free, no refined sugar, dairy free and organic.
We absolutely loved the Coffee flavor and considered it the best, as it took us back to Rhode Island summers and regional “coffee milk” treats, without the junk.
4505 Meats – Chicharrones
Okay, get past the fact you are eating fried pork skin for a moment. Sometimes the salty crisp monster overtakes a person and instead of going for a carb-loaded tater chip, try 4505 Chicharrones instead.
The ethically sourced meat and the flavors are exceptional and the metallic packaging is portion perfect.
We recommend the Chili and Salt and the BBQ flavors, as the bag disappeared fast and the flavors most memorable. Paleo people rejoice!
Chef’s Cut Jerky – Assorted Pork, beef & pork, chicken sticks
If you could categorize meat jerky as healthy, this is it. Chef’s Cut Real Snack Sticks are chef-crafted, protein-filled and made with all real ingredients.
It’s a convenient snack that goes wherever you go. We honestly preferred the Pork and Beef sticks over the Chicken.
The bagged jerky we sampled was the Real Pork Jerky “Smoked Pork Backyard Barbecue” which was super tasty with under 100 calories and 12 grams of protein in a serving.
Great hiker, biker, office snack and kid school lunch addition. No hormones or steroids in the sourced pork they use.
What’s squishy and delicious and relatively good-ish for you? SmashMallow gluten-free organic cane sugar marshmallows that are lower in calories and have a quality ingredient deck.
The flavors are mind-boggling and we found that the Root Beer float and the Toasted Coconut Pineapple were or favorites that we got to try.
A nice twist on mass-produced marshmallows that you can do fun things baking-wise with for sure.
Popcorn – gluten-free
BOOMCHICKAPOP – Assorted
Every year we want to award top honors to a newcomer but every year Angie’s Artisan Treats keeps that bar raised so high, no one can steal her spot or best her neon pops of color fabulous Expo booth.
The exceptional Dark Chocolaty Drizzled Sea Salt, Caramel, and the Milk Chocolate Peanut Butter popcorn are just the standard bearers of pure perfection.
Not too sweet, not too globbed on by the add-ins, these guilty pleasure popcorns are hard to stop eating. Consistently a top product and easy to find in major grocers like Safeway, Shaws, Albertsons and Vons.
Okay, if we must go the Sophie’s Choice route and pick just one, we go Dark Chocolaty Drizzled Sea Salt as our favorite!
The Little Kernel – Assorted
Weird little popcorn but tasty and fresh, this is an oddball popcorn snack that is worth your time to check out.
The Little Kernel is literally half the size of the normal popped puff or corn and is made with 100% olive oil.
Gluten-free and non-GMO made in a healthy olive oil popping process.
The flavor that blew us away was the Truffle and sea salt. Kids will love this snack for their little hands too!
Gluten-free chips and flat bread
Primizie Thick Cut Crispbreads – Assorted
Did you know that the gluten-free snack category has doubled in a few years to $4.4 billion with a “B” in sales?
People want higher quality non-corn based chips and crisps and this Texas company delivers.
The Primizie Crispbread company turns out fantastic flavors for an alternative to crackers and crisps loaded with carb-y greasy ingredients.
Try the Ancient Sprouted Grains and see why you will likely never want to serve a saltine or Ritz cracker ever again.
RW Garcia Pulse Tortilla Chips – Assorted
Pushing the flavor envelope and the ingredient decks of chips to protein highs, perennial favorite RW Garcia introduced three new Pulse Tortilla chips at Expo.
Pulse crops are the edible seeds of plants in the legume family (beans) and the new flavors are Black Bean & Garlic, Lentil & Turmeric, and Hummus & Red Bell Pepper.
Like all RW Garcia chips, these are made with sustainable, clean ingredients. We loved the Lentil & Turmeric chips especially.
Enlightened – The Good For You Ice Cream – Assorted
This is a beefed-up protein enriched ice cream with less sugar and a wide variety of flavors to chose from. Most Enlightened servings clock in between 70 – 100 calories and 5 net carbs a serving, and are sweetened with erythritol and must be tempered (allowed to soften) a bit before tucking in. Gluten-free too.
We loved the Coffee and Red Velvet flavors, but you will find something fun if those are not your ice cream jams.