We're all dazzled by the array of star-quality offerings on our health food store shelves-everything from raw foods to organic snacks to international offerings. And while there are literally hundreds of great products out there, we've managed to find a few that shine even brighter than the rest. Just check out these superstars, and you'll discover exactly why we love our natural grocery stores.
Quick meals. A star-quality fast meal should have moderate amounts of sodium and fat, and a high convenience factor. Skillet meals should be versatile for different diets.
Superstars:Frontera Taco Skillet Sauce; Mrs. Leeper's Gluten-free Chicken Alfredo Mix;St. Dalfour Gourmet on the Go Wild Salmon Salad; Evol BurritosVeggie Fajita.
Fast breakfast alternatives. The shining stars in this category are super-easy, with a balanced ratio of protein, fat, and carbs, a good dose of fiber, and little if any added sugar.
Superstars:Bakery on MainGluten Free Nutty Cranberry Maple Granola; Cascadian Farms Organic Raisin Bran; Nature's PathOrganic Buckwheat Waffles; Amy'sBreakfast Burrito.
Frozen desserts. The best have a moderate sugar content and alternatives for dairy and gluten sensitivities. Bonus points for those that contain most of their calories from whole fruit.
Superstars:LaLoo'sDeep Chocolate Goat's Milk Ice Cream; Diana'sBanana Babies Dark Chocolate Frozen Bananas; Wholly WholesomeOrganic Spelt Pie Shells; Luna & Larry'sCoconut Bliss Ginger Cookie Caramel Dairy-free Ice Cream.
Gluten-free pasta.It should hold together, without getting sticky, and have a firm bite and plenty of flavor. Some are made with low-calorie or high-protein ingredients such as seaweed or quinoa.
Superstars: Sea TangleKelp Noodles; Ancient HarvestQuinoa Elbows; BionaturaeOrganic Gluten-Free Fusilli; Tinkyada Brown Rice Lasagne.
Nut and seed butters. Star-quality offerings are creamy, rich in flavor, with a good dose of protein and healthy fats. Bonus points for products that are tested for salmonella and aflatoxins.
Superstars:MaraNatha Organic Raw Almond Butter; Once AgainAmerican Classic Peanut Butter; SunbutterSunflower Seed Spread; WowbutterSoy Spread.
Jams, jellies, and spreads. The best are made with high-antioxidant, organic fruits, with little or no added sugar.
Superstars: Crofter's Organic Superfruit Spread; Mediterranean Organic Raspberry Organic Preserves; AveAgaveBlueberry Pomegranate Fruit Spread; Bionaturae Organic Sicilian Orange Fruit Spread.
Condiments.From plain ketchup to designer mayonnaise, the best are low in sodium and sugar, with healthy fats and enough flavor to complement sandwiches, burgers, and hot dogs.
Superstars: Organicville Organic Ketchup; Annie'sOrganic Horseradish Mustard; The OjaiCook Green Dragon Lemonaise; Spectrum Organic Omega-3 Mayonnaise with Flax Oil; Nasoya Nayonaise.
Baby and toddler foods. The best are organic, with a baby-friendly texture, balanced nutrition, and no added salt. Sweetness should come from whole fruit concentrates, not sugar.
Superstars: Earth's BestBaby Food; Plum Organics Tots Mish Mash Fruit Purée; Healthy Times Teething Biscuits; SproutOrganic Baby Food.
Cookies. They should have a smooth, even texture with no grit. Bonus points for those that use fruit juice or alternative sweeteners, or come in an itty bitty size.
Superstars: Mi-Del Honey Grahams; Pamela's Old Fashioned Raisin Walnut Cookies;Ian's Chocolate Chip Cookie Buttons.
Snack crackers. The best have a crunchy but not hard texture that can hold up to spreads and toppings, with stand-
alone flavor and a good dose of whole-grain fiber.
Superstars:Late JulyOrganic Classic Rich Crackers; Eden Organic Brown Rice Crackers; Mary's Gone CrackersOrganic Herb Crackers.
Chips, dips, and salsa. Superstars in this category are low in fat and sodium, with extra fiber and healthy oils. Bonus points for the addition of high-nutrient grains.
Superstars:Terra Sweet Potato Chips;Salba Smart Organic Blue Corn Tortilla Chips; Late JulySea Salt by the Sea Shore Multigrain Chips; Frontera Tomatillo Salsa; Muir Glen Organic Chipotle Salsa.
Energy and snack bars. At their finest, they're organic, high in protein and fiber, and low in sugar, with added greens or fruit, and enough substance to make them a true snack, not a cookie.
Superstars: KIND Plus Peanut Butter and Dark Chocolate Bar; Amazing Grass Organic Green SuperFood Chocolate Bar; Clif Builder's Bar; Detour Lower Sugar Peanut Butter Cream;Greens Plus 22 DaysEnlightened Pumpkinseed Bar.
Raw foods. Packaged raw goods, such as cookies, chips, and cereals, are great for people who stick to a strict raw foods diet. But they're pricey. The best in this category are organic; made with dried fruits, nuts, and seeds; and a little easier on the wallet.
Superstars:Kaia FoodsBuckwheat Granola; Go Raw Spirulina Super Chips; TerrAmazon Organic Yacon Slices.
Cold beverages and sodas. The best contain sugar alternatives such as fruit juice, agave, or stevia. Even better if they're rich in phytonutrients from tea, or closely replicate mainstream favorites.
Superstars:Zevia Dr. Zevia and Caffeine Free Cola; Guayaki Yerba Mate Pure Mind; Oogavé Root Beer; Santa Cruz Organic Sparkling Beverages.
Healing teas.All teas contain healing polyphenols, but star-quality contenders have an extra something-such as the addition of soothing herbs, or a blend of green and black teas for maximum antioxidant benefits-that makes them shine.
Superstars:Numi Organic Magnolia Pu-erh blend;Choice Organic TeasChamomile Herb Tea; Yogi Tea Bedtime Tea.
Vegan milk alternatives. The best are creamy with little or no added sugar, and versatile enough to pour over cereal, lighten coffee, or drink alone with cookies.
Superstars:Living HarvestTempt Hempmilk, Eden Organic EdenBlend Rice & Soy Beverage;Hain Coconut Dream Coconut Drink; Pacific Organic Unsweetened Almond Vanilla Non-Dairy Beverage.
International offerings. From sauces to snacks, they should have a low to moderate sodium profile and calorie content, with maximum flavor and convenience.
Superstars:Annie Chun'sOrganic Frozen Potstickers; Sea's GiftRoasted Seaweed Snacks;Seeds of Change Tikka Masala Simmer Sauce.