Frankenfood is out — way out. Today's hottest food trends are all about keeping it real. When it comes to what we put in our bodies it seems that clean is the new black! Check out these four trailblazing food trends and one that has at least some health merits.
Research finds half of consumers deliberately steer clear of preservatives, and over 40 percent shun artificial flavors and colors. Bravo! As a result trendologists have seen a decrease in the average number of ingredients in 56 percent of the food and beverage categories they track. The popular term used to describe this trend is ‘clean.’ Examples of products that pull it off deliciously include Larabar PB&J (complete ingredient list: dates, peanuts, unsweetened cherries, salt — yup really, that’s it!), Haagen Dazs Five Ginger Ice Cream (complete ingredient list: skim milk, cream, sugar, ginger puree, ginger, ginger juice, egg yolk), and Arrowhead Mills Puffed Rice Cereal (complete ingredient list: puffed whole grain brown rice). My rule of thumb: if the ingredient list reads like a recipe you can whip up in your own kitchen you’re good to go. If it reads like a chemistry experiment there’s probably a better option.
Design Your Own
We’re not a one-size-fits-all society, so it just makes sense that a slew of customized products would become trendy. A few that are making waves include
You Bars – build and brand your own energy bar by choosing a base (options include organic almond butter and sunflower seed butter), optional vegan and vegetarian protein, nuts, seeds, dried fruits, whole grains, chocolate and spices like cinnamon, ginger and vanilla, and Me & Goji custom artisan cereal. My personal mix includes raw 5 grain muesli, barley and quinoa flakes, ground nutmeg, mulberries and sliced almonds. I call it Mulberry Me Baby!
Forgoing the Math
According to recent research from the Dietary Guidelines Alliance many consumers don’t understand the concept of calories and some think it's merely a nutrition fad. When asked about five behaviors that could be used to improve diets, consumers ranked monitoring calories as the least likely to make a difference. Only 52 percent agree that paying attention to calories is important and just nine percent said it would be the easiest thing to do on a regular basis. I agree. I eliminated calorie counting from the weight loss plan in my new book and instead emphasize building each meal as a puzzle with specific portions of 5 easy pieces (produce, whole grain, lean protein, plant based fat and natural seasonings). And guess what? It works! So match schmath I say!
Cooking at Home
Last year, more than half (55 percent) of grocery shoppers prepared more meals at home than in 2009, which means the number of people preparing DIY dinners is approaching a 20-year high. That trend is expected to continue, but shoppers say they want a little help, specifically simple instructions, and fresh takes on old favorites. My personal approach to home cooking typically involves “assembling” whole foods in creative ways, like covering a bed of wild rice with sliced tomatoes, fresh basil, and cannellini beans, drizzling with balsamic vinegar and garnishing with chopped walnuts. And my favorite twist on an old favorite: mac & no cheese – I toss whole grain elbow macaroni with shredded zucchini, top with a pureed mixture of roasted cauliflower and red onions, tahini, sunflower seeds, garlic and lemon juice, and bake in the oven until the edges turn golden brown.
And one food trend that's sort of healthy...
Pies, Pies & More Pies!
Pies may just be the new cupcake. Especially exotic varieties like strawberry balsamic and apple bacon and in lots of new forms, such as ‘pie pops’ (pies on a stick) and ‘pie shooters’ (pie served in a shot glass). One healthy advantage to pie, unlike many other desserts, is they often incorporate fruit, nuts, or dark chocolate, three of the most nutrient rich ingredients on the planet. And you can make the crust from whole grain, bean or nut flour, or omit the crust altogether, or leave just a little behind. Mmm...
Cynthia Sass is a registered dietitian with master's degrees in both nutrition science and public health. Frequently seen on national TV she's a SHAPE contributing editor and nutrition consultant to the New York Rangers and Tampa Bay Rays. Her latest New York Times best seller is Cinch! Conquer Cravings, Drop Pounds and Lose Inches.