March is always a wonderful month for experts in lifestyle and particularly nutrition, because the yearly Natural Products Expo West guarantees us new trends, prevailing trends and lots and lots of products to taste and test, at an event that gathers over 5000 vendors. The most prominent "natural" categories showcased at this event include: nutrition bars, yogurt, frozen treats, alternative meats (showcased in a variety of offerings), nuts and seeds, chips and snack items, dips, cereals, crackers and other grain products, nuts and nut butters, fruit snacks, kid nutrition, waters and other "health" beverages, coffees and teas, supplements and "health ingredients", skincare and pet food. Not everything is low calorie, because obviously healthy ingredients can still be quite caloric. But many of the products have fewer fillers, fewer preservatives and coloring agents, and are consistent with a healthier moniker.
Some of the trends this year:
Water companies like Hint and Ayala's Herbal waters are now offering sparkling versions of their flavored waters. I like both and again, you get fresh taste with zero calories.
Chia seed snacks, like those offered by Living Fuel are popping up and chia seeds can also be incorporated into cereals, foods like homemade muffins and can also be found in new nutrition bars and trail mix snack packs.
Quinoa and other grains are available in a variety of "colors"
so expect to see products like purple rice and rainbow quinoa. The colors correlate to certain nutrients found in those particular blends.
Vegetable and soy protein meat alternatives continue to explode, with sauces and reformulations helping them to more closely resemble their meat counterparts.
Nutrition bar companies are trying to (a) clean up their ingredient list a bit, minimizing fillers and dyes and extra sugars and fats. The companies are also addressing calories to help people identify snack bars (up to 150 calories) and meal bars (between 200 and 300 calories). One of my personal favorites is NuGo Slim which I combine with fruit or a skim latte for a lighter meal. I also like the lower calorie KIND bars.
Large companies continue the foray into prepared entrees, again with more wholesome ingredients and an awareness of sodium content. Kashi Steam Meals offers 3 chicken options and one vegetarian spinach and artichoke pasta choice. All 4 meals are 300 calories or less and average 450 to 630 mgs. of sodium per serving. Add a salad or even top steamed or sautéed vegetables with the entrée, and enjoy. You will taste delicious whole grains and actually see real vegetables. Gardein offers several new entrees, and a repertoire of other mainstays using soy protein, relatively low sodium levels per serving, and options including "chicken" fingers, beefless sliders, "turk'y" cutlets, buffalo wings and burgers. I taste tested the beefless tips, prepared by a chef at the booth with grilled onions on a whole grain open-face bun. Savory and substantial are the words that came to mind as i enjoyed this tasty, satiating sandwich.
Next up: Nut butters, kale snacks, and more