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Awards reveal tastiest good-for-you grocery snacks

Oct. 3, 2012 at 12:12 PM ET

"Healthy" and "delicious" don't always go hand in hand. Thankfully, Cooking Light magazine's editors and registered dieticians were willing to sample mountains of good-for-you groceries. The magazine announced the winners of its third-annual "Tasties" awards, honoring 30 winning products in 13 categories that are as friendly on your taste buds as they are for rest of your body.

Cooking Light contributing editor Allison Freeman visited TODAY on Wednesday to reveal some of the victors, and snack on them in celebration with Kathie Lee and Hoda. These products are available in most major markets nationwide. And the winners are…

Category: Gluten-free rice chips

Grand prize winner: Lundberg rice chips

Every day the market seems more crowded with chips made from "non-traditional" ingredients, like lentils and other legumes. We narrowed it down to gluten-free rice chips  because we like that brown-rice options are whole grain and their nutty crispness. Lundberg offers these super-thick chips in nine flavors. The sea salt variety has a manageable 110mg sodium per serving, and complements the toasty rice flavor of the chip. 

Category: Honey-toasted Os

Grand prize winner: Malt-O-Meal Honey Nut Scooters

A sweet malty note complements nutty, whole-grainy goodness and a serving provides 25% of the 48g of the daily whole-grain recommendation.A fun note from the tasting: We tried all the honey-toasted Os on their own first, then we added milk to see how they stood up. We wanted to see if they'd "sog out." It was really interesting to see how it affected the taste.

Category: Almond butter

Grand prize winner: Marantha all-natural no-stir

Almond butter has become a trendy substitute for peanut butter. The good thing is that it's filled with heart-healthy fats, fiber, vitamin E, and potassium, so it's a healthy alternative. Marantha's is tops for taste with a powerfully nutty flavor and an ideal salt level — just enough to bring out the almond flavor, but with a harmonizing note of sweetness. 

Category: Frozen lasagna

Grand prize winner: Michael Angelo's natural vegetable lasagna

Lots of frozen entrees load up on salt or saturated fat, but not this one. The vegetables hold up to a spin in the microwave without losing flavor or texture.The noodles maintained their firmness, the sauce was nicely seasoned, and the veggies (carrots, mushrooms, broccoli) were substantial.

Category: Fat-free strawberry yogurt

Grand prize winner: Chobani

Greek yogurt has really grown in popularity in recent years. It's an excellent high-protein breakfast or snack.Texture is everything with Greek yogurt, and the winner is a crowd-pleaser — not too firm, not too creamy. It has a tart edge with a hint of sweetness and chunks of strawberries keep the flavor real. 

Category: Quinoa

Grand prize winner: Pereg Gourmet

Within the whole-grain category, quinoa is a top source of protein with 8 grams per cup.Plus, in just 15 minutes, you've got a gluten-free side dish ready to go.Pereg Gourmet cooks to fluffy perfection with a hint of nuttiness and a pleasantly crunchy bite. 

Category: Reduced-fat cheese

Grand prize winner: Kerrygold reduced-fat cheddar

Cheeses claiming to be reduced-fat must contain at least 25% less fat than the original. This Irish company has developed its own interpretation of English cheddar. It has a firm, slightly crumbly texture that makes it seem like full-fat. This is worthy of any cheese plate. 

Category: Semisweet chocolate chips

Grand prize winner: Hershey's Special Dark

This tasting was fun! We tasted plain chips and we had our test kitchen bake them into cookies. The grand prize winner was equally good for baking or snacking. They have a perfectly balanced ratio of sweet to bitter, with smooth-as-silk meltability. And because they are smaller, you get more per serving. That makes them chocolate chip cookie champs, but they're great added to granola or trail mix, too. 

Category: Bottled flavored green tea

Grand prize winner: Arizona green tea with ginseng and honey 

Bottled tea is a good alternative to soft drinks, with less sugar and fewer calories. And green tea is a good source of antioxidants. The winner is a little less tea-intense than green tea purists might prefer, but with a gently honeyed flavor that's refreshing.  

Julieanne Smolinski is a TODAY.com contributor and frozen lasagna expert.

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