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11 new trends taking health food from cardboard to crazy good

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image: Mitch Mandel/Prevention

1. So Old, They're New
Ancient grains from the farthest-flung soils are the ones flying off the shelves the fastest. They're heartier and more versatile than rice, and we love their earthy, toothsome flavors. Bob's Red Mill reports that in the past 3 years, sales of ancient grains have soared. Millet, a gluten-free grain, has tripled in sales. Sales of the heirloom wheat kamut have grown more than 10-fold!

MORE: 10 Gluten-Free Grains Worth Getting Familiar With

2. Butter Me Up
Another nearly ancient classic? Peanut butter. But the peanut's not the only nut worth crushing. Finding new butterables wasn't a tough nut to crack for the can-do industry: The nut-and-seed-butter business has boomed 52 percent since 2011. Shelves are crowded with newcomers, and these are our favorites.

MaraNatha All Natural Coconut Butter. One in four new products in the food-and-drink world is coconut based, and you'll see why when you add a velvety dollop of this to your next smoothie, or melt it and drizzle over fresh pineapple. ($9; maranathafoods.com)

The Pistachio Factory Roasted Sea Salted Pistachio Butter. Pistachios are finally coming out of their shells. Melt and mix into fro-yo for the best faux pistachio ice cream. ($17; thepistachiofactory.com)

Dastony Sprouted Pumpkin Seed Butter. Make next-level pesto--or your favorite vinaigrette--with this raw, stone-ground butter. ($13; dastony.com)

Big Spoon Roasters Almond Brazil Butter. Outside of the mixed-nut tin, the Brazil nut hasn't had an outsize influence. But we're loving its new all-spread-out look. ($10.50; bigspoonroasters.com)

3. Dairy-Aisle Upgrade
We're spooning 113 percent more yogurt than we did in 2001, and thankfully, our tastes have evolved beyond syrupy fake fruit. Yogurt looks less like poorly disguised dessert every day. Our newest obsessions all have 16 g of sugar or less. (Add some excitement to your go-to snack with these 8 tasty yogurt add-ins.)  

So Delicious Unsweetened Vanilla Cultured Coconut Milk. This plant-based, dairy-free cup gives you all the benefits of the classic, minus the moo. ($4 for 16 oz; sodeliciousdairyfree.com)

Blue Hill Sweet Potato Savory Yogurt. Powerful enough to recalibrate your palate from sweet to savory by the last spoonful. ($3; bluehillyogurt.com)

Maple Hill Creamery Plain Drinkable Yogurt. Gulp-worthy goodness from grass-fed cows. ($3.50; maplehillcreamery.com)

Siggi's Icelandic-Style Skyr Strained Yogurt, Pumpkin & Spice. Quenches our pumpkin-spiced-latte craving, without the sugar coma. ($2; siggisdairy.com)

The Epic Seed Greek Yogurt + Chia, Strawberry. Packs the omega-3 equivalent of a serving of salmon, plus 17 g of protein. ($3; theepicseed.com)

Redwood Hill Farm Goat Milk Yogurt. Tastes like a smooth, mild, truly great goat cheese. ($2.50; redwoodhill.com)

4. Raising the Bar
In the bar world, too, sweet is so last year--41 percent of consumers want more savory bars. Some brands dipped a toe into the savory pool, adding an herb or two; others embraced the idea full-on. The boldest new kid on the block is Kind's new Strong & Kind Roasted Jalapeno Bar. The seriously spicy bar is downright mouthwatering, and with 10 g of almond-powered protein, it's a perfectly executed sweet-to-savory snack transformation. ($2 per bar; kindsnacks.com)

MORE: 9 Clean Energy Bars You Have To Try

5. Salt's da Bomb!
Savory's in, and sales of salty snacks have shot up 28 percent since 2008. But shoppers are concerned about getting too much salt: Label readers check sodium more than any other nutrition fact. We hear you, shoppers. We stock our Prevention chip drawer with snacks that satisfy with less than 110 mg of sodium per serving, like these.

Boulder Canyon Ancient Grains Sea Salt Snack Chips. With seven grains and seeds, hearty easily trumps greasy. ($3.50–$4; bouldercanyonfoods.com)

RW Garcia Mixt Bag Sweet & Spicy Salsa Tortilla Chips. Rivals the cheese-dusted chips of childhood. ($4; rwgarcia.com)

Late July Organic SubLime Multigrain Snack Chips. Tinged with lime and speckled with chia seeds, these organic chips add a kick of citrus. ($3.50; latejuly.com)

6. What's Poppin'
Popcorn's become a force in the eat-clean world: It's light and minimalist and can actually be good for you. Sales have popped 16 percent from 2008 to 2013, and more popcorn innovations happen in the United States than anywhere else. Is popcorn the perfect snack? Seems so, thanks to healthy takes like these.

SkinnyPop Original Popcorn. The brand grew 274 percent in sales last year alone. Just three ingredients--who says simple doesn't sell? ($4; skinnypop.com)

Angie's Boomchickapop Sweet & Spicy Popcorn. One garlicky flavor fiesta. ($4; angiespopcorn.com)

Quinn Popcorn, Cheddar & Chipotle. Trace the ingredients to their farms online! ($4; quinnpopcorn.com)

7. Um, Is There Gluten in That?
Since 2011, the market for everything wheatless has grown at a rate of 44 percent, reaching sales of $10.5 billion in 2013, finds Mintel. And those numbers are set to skyrocket soon, thanks to whoa-this-actually-tastes-good innovations in the GF world.

Banza Chickpea Pasta. It isn't the first bean-based pasta, but it's one of the best we've tried: al dente in just 4 minutes, with 13 g of protein power. ($4; eatbanza.com)

Cup4Cup Wholesome Gluten-Free Flour. Gluten-free flours usually require some measurement finagling, but you can evenly swap this one into any recipe calling for whole wheat flour. ($20 for 2 lb bag; williams-sonoma.com)

MORE: 10 Gluten-Free Portable Lunches

8. A Market Sweet Spot
The cookie market mostly crumbled after the recession, but sales of healthy cookies grew twice as fast as standard kinds. We dig Nothin' But Granola Cookies, gluten-free and full of chocolate, coconut, and espresso. Almonds are the first ingredient. ($2.50 for 2-pack; nothinbutfoods.com)

9. Meet Maple Water
Water. The most elemental drink we humans know. Can ambitious, show-us-anything-and-we'll-make-it-healthier packaged-food companies improve on it? Of course they can. This is the era of "naturally functional foods"--2014's single biggest trend, according to New Nutrition Business--when whole foods are packaged in convenient, nothing-added forms. This year we're tapping maple water, the springtime sap straight from maple trees. (Now, that's natural.)

Happy Tree Maple Water ($4; drinkhappytree.com or Whole Foods). Prevention Health Director Kate Lowenstein says to drink it really cold to taste the subtle maple flavor even more.

10. Flavor Amnesty Now
The ethnic-food sector is expected to grow more than 20 percent over the next 3 years, and shoppers--4 in 10, finds a Mintel report on the topic--are asking for more options in the freezer aisle. Finding lower-sodium gems is tough, but we're putting these new flavors on ice.

Evol Foods Lean & Fit Chicken Tandoori. A satisfying 300-calorie take on Indian-style tandoori, with chicken marinated in Greek yogurt and roasted to spicy red perfection. ($4–$5; evolfoods.com)

Tres Latin Foods Black Bean & Sweet Corn Pupusas. These Salvadoran stuffed corn tortillas are gluten-free and made from organic corn masa. ($6; trespupusas.com)

Saffron Road Chicken Tikka Masala Chapatti Wrap.That you can hold this fragrant meal of cream-simmered chicken and basmati rice in your hand is a protein lover's lunchtime dream. ($4.50; saffronroadfood.com)

11. YOWZA!
Have a glass of water at the ready...This year, peppers topped McCormick's Flavor Forecast report (the spice company's annual list of predictions), proving that products from crackers to condiments really are getting much spicier. Even the trendy chipotle is mild by this year's standards: Tongue-burning peppers like the aji amarillo and habanero are taking its place in snacks both sweet and savory. In the spirit of feverish flavor, these foods set our hearts and taste buds aflame.

Mary's Gone Crackers Hot 'n Spicy Jalapeno Crackers. The more you crunch, the spicier they get. Spreading with sweet apricot jam is not a sign of weakness. ($5; marysgonecrackers.com)

Hotmaple Smokey Habanero Hot Sauce. Sweet heat is all the rage, perfect for those who want a slap of habanero without the teary-eyed after-burn. ($6; hotmaple.com)

Ortaggi Red Pepper + Peach Frozen Organic Goodness. It's mild in heat, but this creamy gelatoesque treat is high in deliciousness. ($8; ortaggigood.com)

MORE: Get Tons Of Clean, Tasty Eats With Our Cleanest Packaged Food Award Winners