Healthy diet trends on the horizon

By Shauna Schultz, RD

Health and diet trends come and go. Some are good, some are re-discovered, and some are better left in the past (bacon everything, anyone?). Luckily, 2018 brings plenty of healthy new trends, many of which include foods that promote health and are easy to include in your regular meal planning. Let’s explore a few of these that deserve a permanent spotlight:

Sales of plant-based products continue to rise. According to the Plant Based Foods Association and The Good Food Institute, sales reached $3.1 billion in 2017, up 8 percent from last year. The shift towards plant-based products is more than just a trend – people are eschewing animal products for a variety of reasons, including sustainability, health, animal welfare, and preference. Whatever the reason, there’s something for everyone, with plant-based ‘milks’ and ‘meats’ being the most popular. When choosing plant-based products, it’s best to keep it simple – choose products with few ingredients and skip the temptation of vegan ‘junk’ foods.
Better-for-you beverages continue to be popular, especially with the endless flavor combinations that are available. In fact, Beverage Industry reports that bottled waters are now the most consumed beverage category, finally surpassing soft drinks. Sparkling waters are a fun and healthy way to hydrate – and you can even make them at home with small appliances like the SodaStream, which also reduces the waste from bottles and cans.
As we continue to learn how gut health and the body’s microbiome affect health conditions ranging from digestive disorders to depression to inflammation, probiotics continue to gain interest. A happy and healthy gut is dependent on a healthy microbiome, which is exactly what pre- and probiotics help foster. Cultured dairy products and supplements aren’t your only options, as many other healthy foods are widely available such as miso, fermented and pickled vegetables, tempeh, kimchi, non-dairy cultured products, and kombucha. Look for products with live and active cultures, and which also include information on strains and dosages.
With all the research, documentaries, popular diets and consumer advocacy out there, lots of people are now shunning sugary foods. And with good reason, given that higher intakes of sugar are associated with chronic conditions like obesity and diabetes. There’s so much sugar “hidden” in processed and prepared foods that many are surprised to find out how much they are actually consuming. With labeling requirements now scheduled to change, it will become easier to identify added sugars. Look for “includes ___grams added sugars” on products from firms such as Nature’s Path, who has updated their Nutrition Facts Panel. In the meantime, scan the ingredients for added sugars and try to stay below the recommended daily limit of 24 grams for women, 36 grams for men, 12 grams for children, and 20 grams for teens. Want something sweet? Try fruit, which has intact natural sugars and comes nicely “packaged” with fiber, vitamins, and minerals.
Other healthy trends to look out for include the use of mushrooms, “super food” powders, transparency regarding how food is grown, manufactured, and raised, and a return to traditional bread-making. Anyone can benefit from these healthy trends! You might try experiencing one new trend a day: plant-based foods on Monday, sparkling water on Tuesday, miso soup on Wednesday, traditional bread on Thursday, and no added sugar on Friday. Happy explorating!

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