What Secret Superfood is Used in High End Snacks? (Hint: Not Kale)

Fancy Food ShowThis is a guest post by Carol Harvey, Director of food/nutrition labeling and product development at Palate Works.

After 20+ years of attending the Winter Fancy Food Show, it’s clear to me that food companies (and consumers) have learned a thing or two about nutrition… and are using it to create better products in many cases. Twenty years ago there was little love for whole grains or nutrient-dense veggies (don’t get me started on how soy/tofu was mercilessly bullied), but even foodies can evolve.

Now that everyone is turning green from kale, sweet potatoes are popping up in everything from chips to pasta. Vegetable purees and freeze-dried powders are great ingredients for replacing other starches and liquids, especially when they provide a nutritional boost (mostly vitamin A). Here are some examples from this week’s Fancy Food Show in San Francisco:

Millchap Sweet Potato Granola

Millchap Sweet Potato

Just when you thought no one was crazy enough to launch another granola, along come three flavors from the state that grows half of our sweet potatoes – North Carolina. Serving size should be twice what is shown (55 g vs. 25), so vitamin A is actually much higher – at least 16% DV – and despite the website claims, these granolas are not low in calories or fat. Good taste and texture; all flavors are vegan and non-GMO.
Nutrition Facts LabelThe company also makes a decent Sweet Potato Cracker with only 90 calories per (correct) 1 oz serving, and an impressive 30% DV for vitamin A.

Brad’s Raw Chips – various veggie flavors

Brad's Raw Chips

These dehydrated chips (low-temp cooking supposedly preserves raw foods’ “enzymes,” but your body’s digestive juices will deactivate them anyway) come in varieties that contain substantial amounts of multiple veggies, including a Sweet Potato one with 35% DV for vitamin A. The “Cheddar” flavor (vegan) actually contains more vitamin A (60% DV) and C (40%), because of the carrot and bell pepper, but also more sodium.

Brad's Raw Chips - Cheddar

It’s always good to check the nutrition panel and ingredients rather than relying on the name/description of a product. The dehydration process makes these chips fairly pricey, but it allows more nutrient retention. All are gluten-free, vegan and non-GMO.

Viviana Sweet Potato Fettuccine

Viviana Sweet Potato Fettuccine

Unlike the many “spinach-in-name/color-only” pastas, this one apparently contains enough sweet potato to not only give a nice color, but also make it high in vitamin A (20% DV) and fiber. However, because the nutrition data isn’t properly rounded (often a red flag), we can’t be sure if the data is correct. Gluten-free and vegan.

Viviana Sweet Potato Fettuccine Nutrition

“Sweet Potato” in name only

Then there are the many food products with veggies, including sweet potato, being splashed across the package, but lacking much of it – and the nutrition you might be expecting – inside.

Creative Snacks Veggie Chips:

Mixed Veggie Chips

With only 2% DV for vitamin A and 1 gram fiber, you can be sure there is little sweet potato in these. In fact, vitamin A content is the best clue as to whether there is much sweet potato (or carrot, or pumpkin, etc.) in any food product. It should have at least 10% DV.

Ingredient List

Carol Harvey has been a nutrition labeling and product development consultant for over 15 years. She can be reached at palatemail@yahoo.com.