It’s that time of year again.
Gyms are crowded. Diet books aplenty. And everyone is talking about how to best achieve your 2013 goals.
Now that we’ve been in this field for awhile, we continue to see things come and go and often come and go again.
I remember sitting in my first nutrition class at Penn State. My professor taught us all about the benefits of a low fat diet. Low fat for heart health. Low fat for weight loss. Low fat, low fat, low fat.
As years went on, I learned a little more, that wasn’t quite true. And, lo and behold, then it became low carbohydrate — that was the newest/hot trend. And more recently we’ve seen some other diets and diet philosophy’s rise in popularity.
We’ve also seen certain foods and ingredients grow in popularity.
All that being said, it’s time to check in and predict some of the biggest Nutrition Trends for 2013, looking at individual ingredients/foods and some general principles as a whole.
- Balance. Seems that we’re moving away from low fat and away from low carbohydrate. Instead, many are moving towards a more balanced approach to eating. Of course you’ll still see and hear various media reports, articles, etc supporting both ends of the spectrum, but balance seems to be a big "driver" in the diet world and will be for the year.
- Simple. We’re all busy. Work. Kids. Life. If there was a way to simplify cooking and meal prep, it would be an instant success. As savvy consumers grow more privy to marketing, you’re looking for less "fluff" and less ingredients. Simple, basic foods. And a lot of companies are starting to move in this direction.
- Paleo Diets. These diets have grown in popularity from Crossfit. On a very simple level, it’s basically getting away from processed foods, very limited in carbs, low-no grains, no gluten, and high in veggies, fish, healthy fat, and fruit. As a whole we do like some of these principles; who can argue with eating less refined foods, less ingredients, less junk? Though we do think some quality grains (see #4) have their place, particularly among athletes.
- Popcorn. Yes, good ‘ol basic popcorn is growing in popularity. In fact, we were recently at a high end restaurant in DC that had popcorn all "fancied up" on the tables instead of bread. We’ve even seen more and more popcorn themed stores popping up in airports and malls and there are now a good amount of popcorn based products sold at higher end grocery stores as well.
- Carbs are in. But and this is a big but, only if they are the "real deal" carbs that actually have nutrients. Quinoa, barley, beans, bulgur, sweet potatoes, etc. These are all in. Fortunately fiberless, junky carbs are out. So toss the sugar laden cereals, Pop Tarts and whatever else is lurking in your cabinet and choose from those choices above.
- Greek yogurt. This is one trend that has been on a massive upward trajectory the last few years. With Chobani leading the market, it’s a trend we love and have recommended for years — with double the protein and half the carbs as "regular" yogurt, Greek yogurt is a winner!
- Raw cacao powder and cacao nibs. Dark chocolate is hot — and is only getting hotter, particularly with the evolution of the industry and super high quality products out there. We use Navitas Naturals Raw Cacao in smoothies, yogurt, and occasionally make a little hot chocolate treat with it. It’s loaded with antioxidants and other powerful nutrients that are fantastic for you. You’ll be seeing more of these products in foods and in restaurants.
- Gluten is out. Interesting to say carbs are in, but gluten is out. Well, there are plenty of gluten free carbohydrates — like those listed above and others. We’re not of the mind that gluten is the enemy, unless there is a specific allergy, but many of the naturally gluten free grains are fantastic choices, so enjoy healthy portions of those (about 1 handful/meal).
- Natural sugar "alternatives." Two are leading this fight — coconut sugar, coconut nectar and monk fruit sweetener. You’ll see a lot more of all of these this year. Coconut sugar is simply the dehydrated form of coconut nectar. We do like them both better than traditional table sugar, but of course encourage limiting the use of any added sugar. Monk fruit sweetener is a non calorie containing sweetener that is marketed as "natural." Of course that term should be used lightly as there’s of course a whole lot of processing that goes into making a sweetener from the monk fruit, but it’s not a chemical smorgasbord like many of the other current artificial sweeteners.
- Farmed fish is back (and healthy?). It was really easy when we could say this is bad or this is good. But, it’s not black and white. There’s certainly gray and, very often, the answer with nutrition is "it depends." And that’s the same with fish. Farmed fish got a bad wrap and for very good reason. It was higher in contaminants, lower in omega’s. But some forward thinking companies — like Australis — that sustainably farm Barramundi are changing that. Here’s a link to a video I did about them awhile back. And there is a similar company doing the same with sustainably farmed salmon. Keep an eye out for this one down the road.
- Coconut Water Powder. Coconut water emerged several years ago and still remains hot. What’s even hotter now coconut water powder. So rather than shipping heavy, already bottled/packaged coconut water across the world from where it’s produced, which of course comes with an environmental impact, companies like Navitas Naturals and others have packaged freeze dried coconut water powder that you simply add water to reconstitute it and enjoy a delicious alternative to higher calorie drink options.
- Coconut oil/coconut. Seems to be a lot of coconut themes in this Nutrition Trends newsletter — well, coconut as a whole is hot. It’s a saturated fat that, because of it’s specific fatty acid makeup, has some solid support in terms of its health benefits. And it tastes great, so you’ll see more and more of it in restaurants and recipes.
- Whey protein. As the data continue to mound in support of adding whey protein to the diet, whey makes more and more inroads into our food supply. No longer is it only found in tubs of protein at your local GNC to add to smoothies; now mainstream foods like Special K bars, cereals, oats and many other food products have added whey to boost their nutritional profile. And for a good reason — most people could benefit from more consistent protein intake, so whey is an easy to make that happen.
And there you have it. Our 13 Nutrition Trends and Predictions for 2013. Let’s see how we do.
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