I RECENTLY RETURNED from the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics' 2018 Food & Nutrition Conference & Expo in the District of Columbia, where one of my main objectives was to identify new food trends. Sometimes, I’m a fan of what's trending; other times, not so much. (Personally, I find identifying fashion trends just a tad easier.) This year, though, after roaming the aisles of over 370 exhibits, I managed to identify these six trends:
1. Plant-Based Protein
While most of us get plenty of protein in our diets overall, it's an important meal component in order to stay full and satisfied. At this year's expo, plant-based protein like pea protein was hot, as were other legumes, nuts and seeds. They appeared in veggie burgers, non-chicken tenders and mac and cheese, just to name a few. I also noticed more snack-type foods touting few ingredients, but lots of protein coming from plants.
1. Plant-Based Protein
Legumes were not only popular as a protein source, but also as the main and sometimes only attraction in pasta. Noodles made from chickpeas and red and green lentils appeared to be the most popular. This is a category that has definitely taken off; even traditional pasta companies have joined in. I have always been a die-hard pasta lover, so this trend has been a little hard for me to accept. However, there really isn't any downside. If anything, the trend just gives the pasta-loving consumer another healthy option.
Probiotics, or live microorganisms that can benefit digestive health, are nothing new, but the products they appear in are no longer limited to yogurts. This year, I saw probiotic sparkling water, dairy-free beverages and oatmeal. Just keep in mind that there are many different strains of probiotics and not every strain will have the same effect on everyone.
4. Low-FODMAP Foods
Speaking of gut health, a lot of individuals who have trouble digesting short-chain carbohydrates and sugar alcohols have turned to a low-FODMAP diet to relieve symptoms of abdominal pain and bloating. For the first time at the conference, I noticed companies marketing products specifically toward people who need to follow this diet for health reasons – something I appreciated since many "diet" products aren't medically necessary for most people who fall for them.
5. Alternative Non-Dairy "Milk" Beverages
Just when you thought every type of non-dairy milk was already out there, some new ones joined the club. Say hello to oat, sesame seed, pecan and cashew milk. I even heard, but somehow missed in person, that one company was producing "milk" from bananas. What? While these milks are good options for people who avoid cow's milk for any number of reasons, remember that not all of these products provide nearly as much protein as regular milk. Do your due diligence when shopping this category by reading and comparing nutrition fact labels.
6. High-Smoke Point Cooking Oils
In today's kitchen, there are many more available cooking oils than ever before, and it can be hard for the consumer to differentiate between them. But one important difference is smoke point, or the temperature above which an oil is no longer stable. Cooking with an oil that's been heated past its smoke point does more damage than just imparting a burnt flavor to foods. Overheating also creates harmful free radicals. So if you're planning to turn up the heat, opt for high-smoke point oils like algae oil, which has the highest smoke point I saw at 485 degrees, or canola oil, which has a smoke point of 400 degrees.