I recently attended the Natural Products Expo West in Anaheim, California. While there, I found that with this year’s healthy trends, there’s a little something for everyone.
If you love cereal, there were loads of options at the Expo, many emphasizing ancient grains, less added sugars, or more protein. If you’re a nut lover, there were seeds and nuts in the form of low-carb granola, wrapped nuts (roasted with the skin still on), as well as snack blends and new nut butters.
For those who like nutrition bars, products came in all shapes and types. There were squares, rectangles and ball shapes, and they ran the gamut of high protein, high energy source, high fiber, omega-3 fortified or just healthier snacking. Yogurt is still a big player in nutrition, and the trends showed the more protein and less sugar, the better (there was even high-protein gelato and Quark). The Expo also boasted lots of plant-based waters, turmeric-flavored water, and bug-based protein, as in “cricket” nutrition bars.
If you follow the Paleo Diet (which apparently now has 3 million followers), you might be relived to know it hasn’t lost any steam. Its presence at the Expo was evident in the many food offerings that referenced this diet (bars, meals), and the gluten-free label found pretty much everywhere. Seaweed products (chips and crackers) also had a strong showing and there were loads of baked goods with “healthy and organic” ingredients.** The question that begs to be asked however, is whether or not all these food options are really healthy or healthier?**** Navigating Healthier Foods**
I recently discussed the health halo surrounding coconut and coconut products. Despite its saturated fat content, there has been a push to elevate it to a unique health status. However, many health experts, dieticians and cardiologists included, have suggested that as with all sources of saturated fat,** you need to think about portion size, and how often you eat foods with higher fat ingredients.** Foods made with coconut should not be considered a better-for-you option compared to mono and polyunsaturated fat sources. Despite these food facts, it is out there and trending strong. So are many other ingredients.
Let’s Talk Healthy Trends
At this year’s expo it seemed to be all about protein. It was also good to see less added sugar, front and center on many labels. Cereals are now using ancient grains (which were also featured in the rice sector). Hot and cold cereals with higher protein content and muffins with simple ingredients and good protein levels mean better blood sugar balance. In the nutrition bar category, pea protein, protein blends (whey, soy, pea) were evident. The dairy and non-dairy frozen sector also showcased products with less sugar, more protein and simple ingredient labels. And yes, there was a gelato with less calories and a protein boost.
**Some other interesting trends included: **
Meat substitutes, which included soy, pea protein, and fungi-based offerings, as well as bean-based burgers and pastas.
Snack packs with hummus and baked crackers, and granola made with only nuts and seeds highlighted the focus on "low sugar, more protein."
Cold brew coffee has really taken off. Buying the simple black, unsweetened options without milk or cream can be a zero or very low calorie drink - pending skim or low-calorie nut milks. Makers claim that cold brewing coffee provides more of coffee’s antioxidant activity.
Chia, chia everywhere, in cereals, nutrition bars, snack mixes, chips, puddings, and even beverages. Try making a chia pudding yourself by mixing chia seeds with dairy, soy or nut milk, adding a bit of cinnamon and letting the mixture set in the refrigerator overnight.
Savory nutrition bars and teas, were a strong trend (turmeric anyone?). It’s a nice change, because these new products tend to have less or little added sugar, if any.
Next Up: When Healthy Labels and Trends Stretch the Truth
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Known as The HealthGal, expert contributor Amy Hendel is a popular medical and lifestyle reporter, nutrition and fitness expert, columnist, and brand ambassador, as well as a health coach. Trained as a physician assistant, she maintains a health coach private practice in New York and Los Angeles. Author of The Four Habits of Healthy Families, you can find her on Twitter @HealthGal1103 and on Facebook at TheHealthGal. Her personal mantra is “Fix it first with food, fitness, and lifestyle.”