If there’s one thing that foodies and nutritionists alike get excited about, it’s this: food trends.
We make it our business to know what’s trending and what our clients, patients, family, and friends will latch onto in the coming year. Remember kale, quinoa, and cauliflower-everything? As a dietitian, these are food trends I can get behind. But cronuts and rainbow bagels? To these I say, “bye Felicia.”
To stay in the know, I spend a lot of time perusing grocery store aisles, reading new food and nutrition studies, and scrolling through my social media feeds (and no, not just for the dog videos). I also attend food events and nutrition conferences to see what people are talking about and what’s being studied.
After attending the 2016 Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics’ Food and Nutrition Conference and Expo, here are my top six food trend predictions for 2017. (As for the next cronut? Your guess is as good as mine).
1. FODMAP-Friendly Foods
This one requires a little background to fully appreciate. FODMAP is short for “fermentable oligosaccharides, disaccharides, monosaccharides and polyols.” (You can understand now why they went with “FODMAP,” right?) These foods are carbs and sugar alcohols that are difficult to digest and can cause some serious distress in your gut.
The low-FODMAP diet is a fairly new regimen that can be followed to help people manage irritable bowel syndrome, which impacts 10 to 15 percent of people globally. Food manufacturers like FODY and SimplyProtein are onboard with the growing interest in the diet, creating products that might otherwise be off limits for low-FODMAP diet followers.
2. Sustainable Eats
I’m not here to debate global warming because, well, science, but I was thrilled to learn about some socially responsible food companies doing their part to help.
One of my newfound faves, 88 Acres, makes seed blend bars. OK, nothing novel there, but they also make granola out of what’s left after the bars are cut, drastically reducing waste.
GF Harvest has created a plastic-free oatmeal-to-go product with a built-in paper bowl (I’m definitely packing these for my upcoming trips). I also love Luvo plant-based frozen meals. They’re easy, taste like real food, and are another win for Mother Earth.
3. “Guilt-Free” Ice Cream Pints
I have to admit, I’m not a huge fan of this trend for two reasons: First, I believe that if you’re going to enjoy dessert, then you should truly enjoy dessert, not some half-calorie, low-sugar knock-off of what it’s supposed to be.
Also, I worry that the marketing around these foods (“with probiotics” or “higher in protein“) gives them a false health halo, and the green light to indulge in them a little more on the reg, thus displacing food that has actual health benefits.
4. Plant-Based Snacking Convenience
As a plant-based nutritionist, I’m pretty excited to see the explosion of new convenient snack food brands and products falling under this umbrella. Kite Hill has, hands down, the best plant-based yogurts and cheeses. If you’re looking for crunch, Enlightened has both savory and sweet-roasted broad bean crips. Do yourself a favor and try the Cocoa Dusted flavor. Other wins are seed-based cookies and bars.
5. Fermented Foods
Gut health has been sporting a trending hashtag in the food and nutrition world as of late and I don’t think it’s going anywhere any time soon. Just take a look at your supermarket shelves — seems like there’s a new type or brand of kefir on the shelf each week.
And remember wheat grass shots? Look out for Gut Shot, Farmhouse Culture’s newest fermented food darling that you drink like a shot (or sip) with flavors like Ginger Beet and Kimchi, and brimming with live active cultures, aka, your gut’s closest friends.
6. Elevated Culinary Pairings
Healthy food producers are taking it up a notch with more complex culinary flavors to attract the more discerning customer. More unique offerings are challenging our go-to standards.
Instead of strawberry yogurt, you’ll find Chobani’s Chipotle Pineapple or Pear and Honey. ZUPA NOMA’s new “whole without the bowl” juice concept includes unique food pairings — Cucumber, Avocado and Fennel; Beet and Basil; and Tomatillo Jalapeno, to name a few. Yogurts, snack bars are no longer just for the sweet: Mediterra does sweet, but it’s popular for its Mediterranean-inspired savory pairings, such as Black Olives with Walnuts and Sun-Dried Tomato with Basil.
Most of us are waiting on pins and needles to see what 2017 will bring but as far as food trends go, my predictions are set. I say get ready for Instagram feeds full of delicious and convenient plant-based foods — lots of whole grains, veggies, and nuts. And while most of us worry about our waistlines, I expect our actual gut health to play a bigger role in the foods we choose to eat — and share on social media.