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(Photo: Fotolia)
(Photo: Fotolia)

When you think of American snacks, you probably picture edibles that are no friend to your waistline, things like Twinkies, Slim Jims and S’mores. But a minute on the lips doesn’t have to mean a lifetime on the hips, and there’s a wide range of nibbles and beverages marketed in the U.S. as “health foods,” many of which may not be familiar to British newcomers. Here are five such options on Uncle Sam’s snack menu.

Trail mix
Trail mix is a little packet of nuts, dried fruit, and sometimes bits of candy. It became a popular snack with hikers (hence the name) during the late 1950s and remains so today. Its nutritious value, light weight and ability to keep from spoiling make it an ideal food to take on long rambles through the American wilderness. The carbohydrates in the dried fruit give you a kick of energy, and the protein-packed nuts are great at repairing any tissue that may have been ripped apart by bears. On a recent episode of The Graham Norton Show, American actress Anna Kendrick had to explain the trail mix phenomenon to a befuddled Eddie Redmayne and an equally bemused British audience:

Bars, billions of bars
The look of sheer confusion on Eddie Redmayne’s face said it all: Power Bars are not as widely known in Britain. But in America there is a bar for every occasion: weight loss bars, meal replacement bars, protein bars, energy bars, getting over your ex bars (although admittedly this is a different type of bar). In all seriousness, the market for health bars in the U.S. has been saturated to the point of being grossly overwhelmed. There are some good ones out there, though. My personal favorite is the Clif Bar chocolate brownie, which offers a healthier alternative to a traditional sweet treat because as Cookie Monster taught us, cookies are a sometimes snack.

Coconut water
Sometime during the late 2000s, boxes of coconut water suddenly started appearing on the shelves of every bodega, pharmacy and grocery store in America. From 2004 to 2013, coconut water became a $400 million industry. Indeed, Zico, the country’s second largest brand, which is now owned by Coca-Cola, has grown from a $100,000 business in 2007 to an $87 million megacorp in 2013. Coconut water has been marketed as a healthier alternative to sports beverages such as Gatorade, but some nutritionists claim it lacks the carbohydrates, sodium and protein necessary to make it a satisfactory recovery drink. Britain was late to the coconut water party, but sales have been growing rapidly since 2011, with leading brand Vita Coco reporting an average 122% sales increase year after year.

Ants on a log
I know this may sound about as appetizing as eating your own hand in Times Square during a polar vortex, but just hear me out. Ants on a log is made by spreading peanut butter over a celery stick and sprinkling raisins on top. If that doesn’t quite float your boat then there are some fun variations to choose from: “Ants on vacation” is the same snack without raisins. “Ants on a Slip ‘N Slide” is when you drizzle honey over the peanut butter before adding the raisins. The peanut butter can also be swapped out for cream cheese should the mood take you.

Kale chips
Similarly to coconut water, kale exploded onto the United States’ snack scene a few years back and has become so popular so quickly that cultivators are struggling to keep up with demand. In fact, the Daily Mail reported last summer that there is now a worldwide kale shortage, which they attribute to hipsters’ penchant for putting the veggie in green juices. Well if that’s true then those tight-panted mustachioed men are getting lots of great stuff: an abundance of vitamins A, C and K as well as minerals like potassium, iron and phosphorus. Kale on its own has an earthy, bitter taste, but usually kale chips (and by chips I mean crisps) are seasoned with salt or spice. After baking the chips come out thin, light and airy, and take on a not dissimilar texture to packaged seaweed snacks.

What are some of your favorite healthy American snacks? Do you think it’s easier to snack healthily in the U.S. or the U.K.? Tell us in the comments below:

See more:
10 British and American Store-Bought Items You Can Make Yourself
Pass the Vitamins, Please: An Expat’s Guide to Staying Healthy U.S.-Style
10 Ways Living in America Will Improve Your Life

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Filed Under: American Food, Health Food
By Kevin Wicks
Kevin Wicks is the founding editor of Anglophenia.