Every year a new nutritional craze appears.
Companies eager to market to every dietary fad produce gluten-free pizzas, paleo brownies and a dozen different nondairy milks.
“Anything you see on the front of a box, it’s because there is a demand for it,” says Brooke Schoonenberg, a dietitian at Woman’s Hospital.
Some of these foods will become part of our regular diets, while others will disappear after only a short stay in the pantry.
Schoonenberg, who has been regularly monitoring the grocery aisles the past few months, offers these new food trends predictions for 2016:
Ancient grains. These grains have been grown for centuries and have not been scientifically tinkered with, such as rice and wheat. Farro, kamut, spelt and amaranth are among the most popular ancient grains sold as rice replacements or as ingredients in yogurt, bread and cereal, Schoonenberg says.
“Amaranth is kind of the new quinoa,” Schoonenberg says, mentioning another alternative grain that has grown in popularity in recent years.
Added protein. Processed foods from Cheerios to breads are bragging right on the label about added protein. While protein is important for building muscle and bones — especially for those leading an active lifestyle — the fad is a little too much, Schoonenberg says.
“We just don’t need all the excess protein they’re putting in our food,” she says.
Sparkling water. An alternative to sugary soft drinks, fruit-flavored sparkling waters provide fizz and taste without calories, Schoonenberg says. LaCroix produces dozens of flavors, and major brands like Coca-Cola’s Dasani have created their own line.
“It’s just water, but it’s really refreshing and nice,” Schoonenberg says.
Cold brew coffee. Cold brew lovers say their coffee has a mellower, smoother taste. Created by soaking coarse grounds in water for 12 to 14 hours and straining it, this method creates a cup of joe lower in acidity, a plus for people with acid reflux issues, Schoonenberg says.
While specialty cold brew systems are commercially available and bottled versions are for sale, many cold brew drinkers make it at home with a French press or a Mason jar and a sieve.
Kombucha. This fermented drink made of tea, sugar, bacteria and yeast has grown in popularity in recent years as researchers learn the importance of healthy gut bacteria. Kombucha is rich in probiotics, which promote these bacteria. Traditionally made at home, commercially brewed kombucha is now available nationwide.
Switchel. Made of apple cider vinegar, water and sugary maple syrup or molasses, this sweet and spicy drink was drunk by American and European farmers while toiling in the heat.
“It was like their Gatorade almost,” Schoonenberg says. “It’s like nature’s energy drink.”
Today, the artisanal foodie movement has resurrected the drink, which is easy and cheap to make at home and available at some stores.
Meal delivery services. New services Blue Apron and Hello Fresh send you all the ingredients and instructions for home-cooked, near-gourmet meals. These easy-to-create meals often replace a night out at a restaurant for most families, Schoonenberg says.
“There has been such a need for people to move back to the home and cooking again,” she says. “I like it. I think it’s going to be around for a while.”
Relaxation drinks. Brands like Neuro Bliss and Just Chill advertise their produces as the cure for “mile-a-minute mind,” Schoonenberg says. They contain ingredients like L-theanine, an amino acid also found in green tea, and melatonin, a hormone that helps regulate sleep.
“It’s like the anti-energy drink,” Schoonenberg says.
However, many of the claims made by these beverage companies have not been substantiated by scientific studies, she says.
Plant-based eating. As diets built on plants rather than animal flesh become common, “meatless Mondays” and the “flexatarian diet,” are attractive to more people.
Diets that reject meat entirely like veganism and vegetarianism “seem too extreme for some people,” Schoonenberg says.
Allowing room for meat while primarily eating lots of veggies, fruits, grains and beans is set to become more normal.
Beans. Legumes like beans and lentils are being used to replace high-carbohydrate foods as the top ingredient in Beanitos brand tortilla chips and Ancient Harvest pastas.
Beans are also replacing beef in burgers. High in fiber and protein, legumes are inexpensive and beneficial.
Like the playground rhyme says, “Beans, beans, they’re good for your heart.”
Editor’s note: A paragraph that appeared to claim ancient grains were gluten-free was removed on Tuesday, December 29, 2015.