Take it from a couple of girls who love to snack…finding healthy and tasty snack foods is key! That’s why we were so thrilled to discover Klusters Kale-Trail Mix. We recently had the chance to catch-up with Klusters creator Michelle Spring to talk healthy snacking, superfoods and so much more.
Well TO Do: Please introduce yourself and Klusters to the Well TO DO readers.
Michelle Spring: Hi WTD Readers! My name is Michelle Spring and I am the founder of A REAL HANDFUL Whole-Food Snack Co. and creator of Klusters Kale-Trail Mix.
WTD: What was the inspiration for starting the company?
MS: A few major influences in my life inspired me to quit my desk job, become a holistic nutrition coach and start a health-snack biz in my early 50’s:
- MY PARENTS: My interest in holistic nutrition became heightened after losing my dad to colon cancer. I wanted to learn, practice and teach all I could about preventing, treating, and reversing disease through the exploration of whole and natural foods, and all the health benefits and healing properties associated with them. In doing so, I have adopted a diet rich in plant-based foods and have encouraged my clients to lean in that direction as well. My love of being in the kitchen, developing recipes and creating wonderful food and treats comes from sweet memories of baking and cooking with my mom, from a very young age! As a result, I inherited the love of bringing joy to others through my homemade food, full of my heart & soul.
- MY CLIENTS: In my coaching practice, I began to recognise a common need and desire amongst my clients; The need for a snack to be delicious, to nourish with balanced nutrients like slow-burning carbs, plant-based & grain-free protein, omega-3 healthy fats, and soluble fibre, and be free of refined sugar, gluten, dairy, egg, corn, and soy. It had to satisfy their desire for something crunchy AND chewy and sustain them with enough energy to get them through breakfast-on-the-fly, a mid-day slump, pre or post-exercise, a long commute, or simply something that would tide them over to their next meal, when fresh fruit with nut butter or veggies & hummus just wouldn’t cut it. They wanted a snack to feel more like a treat but without the “empty calories” of traditional packaged snacks. Convenience, as well as cracking down on cravings were also important to them. And a full spectrum of flavours too… sweet, salty, tangy, and savoury! So I started thinking of / experimenting with different ways of putting healthy foods and flavour combinations together in my then newly purchased dehydrator. It had to be unbaked, and have a green leafy vegetable in it, fresh fruit, nuts & seeds for maximum nutrients, so I coated a mixture of kale pieces, sliced apples & strawberries, walnuts, and a variety of seeds (hemp, chia, pumpkin & sunflower) with a paste made from seed butter, dates and cinnamon. (Inspired by my mom’s charoset recipe – a traditional Passover treat). It became a well-loved staple snack amongst all my clients, family, and friends.
- MY DAUGHTER: Melanie was a major influence in encouraging me take my newly-created kale concoction to market… farmers markets to start. She loves to snack healthy. She and I both saw a growing awareness and appreciation for getting back to basics with our food choices, a farm-to-table approach, eating organic when possible, knowing where your food is coming from and that it’s produced responsibly, ethically and sustainably, and certainly without genetic modification. We ourselves started supporting many other small food businesses by purchasing their products (often locally made) instead of products from well-known food corporations and big-chain grocery stores. With her newly acquired marketing degree, Melanie was instrumental in re-branding my kale snack as “Klusters Kale-Trail” and helped me take my business to the next level… with everything from helping me choose the right packaging, tweak the label design, write informative and engaging copy and build a wonderful and comprehensive website.
WTD: Tell us about the product and how you make them.
MS: Each “Klusters kombo” is a unique blend of organic kale, fresh fruit, a featured nut & several seeds that are held together with a paste made from either nut or seed butter, ground flax (or chia seed) and a small amount of either dates, figs, or banana – to give it a slight sweetness and make it more of a treat! Then I form individual clusters onto my dehydrator sheets, and in they go for a gentle 110 degree blow-dry for about eight hours. They come out crunchy from the kale, nuts & seeds, but slightly chewy from the freshly dehydrated fruit. It’s a symphony of flavours, textures, and bio-available nutrients in every bite!
WTD: How do you come up with the flavour combinations?
MS: My favourite food combination growing up was peanut butter and banana, so that one was a no-brainer for me. Pear Pecan Spice was born because I love the sweet baking spices like cinnamon, nutmeg, allspice, and ginger and I got my inspiration from a Ginger Pear Pecan muffin recipe that I love. And Chipotle Lime Pistachio was created when clients started asking for a more savoury blend and I intuitively knew the tartness from the lime and green apple would compliment the sweetness from the pistachio and the smoky flavour from the chipotle pepper really well.
WTD: Klusters are grain-free, gluten-free, organic, vegan, and packed with superfoods. How important was it to you that you covered all of these things?
MS: It was highly important that I covered all of these features. Being an expert in holistic nutrition, I knew there was a need for a nutrient-dense, real-food snack that could help re-educate people and make them feel good about snacking again…to help remove any negative connotations, associations, emotions, confusion or stigmas that we’ve all drummed up at one point or another from the world of mass marketing (think fat-free, sugar-free, low-carb processed foods) and what it has done to our western society, actually making us fatter and sicker! My goal is to get people who love to snack and/or have a sweet tooth to feel like there are great options for them without having to compromise their health with chemical and preservative-laden processed snacks. I wanted the snack to have real food ingredients that promote vibrant energy, vitamins, minerals and cell food from the greens, gut health by removing any traces of gluten or grain, glowing skin, hair and nails from the healthy fats, and an extended energy supply from slow-burning carbohydrates from the fruits and other veggies. I’m also a very animal-compassionate person and support a vegan diet, so I knew I wanted to make my product 100% vegan.
MS: The superfoods currently on my radar are kale, of course (and every other leafy green) berries of every kind, nuts, flax, chia, hemp, and sacha-inchi seeds, coconut oil, avocado, matcha green tea, cacao, seaweed, turmeric, ginger, garlic, yams, cauliflower and fermented veggies.
WTD: We noticed that you have some great “non-traditional” ideas for incorporating Klusters into your meals…like as a salad topping. Tell us about some other uses and benefits of Klusters.
MS: Klusters make a fantastic topper for yogurt, hot (or cold) cereal, soup, salads, smoothie bowls, cottage cheese, stir-frys, etc. It adds a nutritional boost, enhances flavour and adds a great crunch and texture. Adding a few Klusters to your meal can also help to balance it out nutritionally and make you feel more satisfied! It’s a tasty way to get your greens in, at the very least! Here are some great examples of how to incorporate Klusters into your every daymeals and snacks:
- Dip Peanut Banana Klusters into some vanilla yogurt.
- Pour almond milk over some Pear Pecan Spice Klusters for the real cereal of champions.
- Top Klusters onto some butternut squash soup for an extra taste of fall.
- Chipotle Lime Pistachio Klusters give a fantastic kick to salads…bye bye boring bloating croutons.
WTD: If you could give WTD readers one tip to snack healthier, what would it be?
MS: Eat clean, unprocessed food whenever possible. Always have fresh fruit & veggies, organic whole-grain (preferably wheat-free) crackers, nut butters, bean & chick-pea spreads, and avocado on hand. Cut up some veggies in advance for easy access and dipping. Also, read ingredients more than “nutrition facts” labels and avoid eating (or applying to your skin) anything you cannot pronounce!
WTD: What’s next for Klusters?
MS: Klusters Kale Trail has moved on from the summer farmers markets and will now be available in stores! The beautiful Pestacio on Yonge (at Fairlawn) now carries all three varieties as well as The Energy Shack on Midland Ave. Klusters will soon be available at Ambrosia Natural Foods, Healthy Planet, and fresh-pressed juicers around T.O.! And you can follow us on Facebook and Instagram (@a_real_handful) for updates.
WTD: What’s exciting you most right now about the Toronto wellness scene?
MS: Oh wow, what isn’t exciting me about T.O.’s wellness scene? There is so much happening in the city to promote healthy choice living! In the past several weeks, I have participated as a vendor at the Vegan Food & Drink Festival, an exhibitor at the CHFA (Canadian Health Food Association) annual trade show, and the Yoga & Wellness Show. It was evident by the number of attendees and wide variety of vendors at all of these events that the healthy and clean-living trend is alive and well and will continue to thrive and help us thrive! Also, the large variety of vegetarian and vegan restaurants opening up around town is very exciting, as well as many regular restaurants now offering a much wider variety of these options on their menus.
To find out more about Klusters, and for purchase information, click here.