News to Nutritionists

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Nutrition Trends

Every time I set foot on the expo floor at the Nutrition & Dietetics annual Food and Nutrition Conference & Expo (FNCE), I have an experience that completely changes the way I think about my health. FNCE 2016 in Boston, October 15-18, had even more surprises and some much anticipated trends.

For me, the most memorable moment was when a representative from Abbott Nutrition asked me if I wanted to feel what it would be like to be 20 years older. She then outfitted my torso and limbs in weights and I started to maneuver like my mother who is 30 years my senior. That demo was a real eye opener for me about what lies ahead if I gain weight and lose muscle and balance as I age – all of which I hope to prevent through nutrition and exercise.

The expo floor was packed with solutions for health problems and nutrition aimed at prevention. I asked influential Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics spokespersons Alissa Rumsey, Angel Planells, Lori Zanini and Toby Smithson to share what they learned and trends they spotted at the event with me as well.

The top three trends in nutrition this year were apparent.

# 1 – Savory sweets

Savory flavors were all over the expo, especially in bars. The academy nutritionists were happy to see the shift!

“Savory showed up in place of its sweet counterpart in yogurts, nutrition bars, individual snack packs and cereal combinations,” said Toby Smithson, MS, RDN, CDE, Author of Diabetes Meal Planning and Nutrition for Dummies.

Angel Planells MS, RDN, CD explained that taking foods that are considered “sweet” and making them with a savory twist is an excellent way to increase consumption. Many of the new savory bars emphasized a “Mediterranean style” of eating and included more seeds and herbs. “It’s a nutrition professional’s dream!” said Lori Zanini, RD, author of Eat What You Love, A Diabetes Cookbook.

Savory is great but manufacturers are using it to get people to eat more. As I’m sure nutrition experts will tell you, you have to continue to read labels. Mediterra bars are good savory alternatives.

“These grab and go Mediterranean inspired nutrition bars are super helpful for our busy lifestyle,” said Smithson. These are plant based, a good source of fiber, have appropriate amount of calories for a snack (approximately 140 calories), and contain some protein while maintaining a low amount of carbohydrates.”

# 2 – The year of the pulse

Pulses include lentils, chickpeas, peas and beans. They are a good source of plant-based protein and fiber. Companies are thinking out of the box and adding pulses to a variety of products. “We saw many varieties of lentil and bean chips, chickpea pasta, lentil lasagna noodles, and a really tasty roasted chickpea snack, said Alissa Rumsey MS, RD, CDN, CSCS.

# 3 – Fodmap has the potential to be the next gluten-free

FODMAPS are a type of highly fermentable carbohydrate that are often not easily absorbed and can cause gastrointestinal discomfort.

“Research is emerging to help people optimize their gut health and FODMAPS appears to be the new “it” trend”, said Planells.

Zanini, as well as other nutritionists, have personally confirmed that clients experience tremendous success with low Fodmap foods, making it exciting to see food products promoted this way.

FODYFoods, for example, offers salsas, sauces, oils and bars that make it easier to comply with the FODMap diet.

Savory, pulses and low fodmap foods dominated the conversation and there were plenty of them and more to experience.

In general there were more plant-based, Mediterranean, natural, simple foods made easy.

Here are a few of the favorites:

  • Pea proteins become mainstream with brands like Protes Chips and Orgain making them taste great and allowing them to be more convenient for snacking.
  • Science helps people who don’t want to drink water (or have to relieve themselves too often) with Hydralyte electrolyte tablets.
  • You can drink away bad sugar habits with Good Idea, Sweden’s scientific-based sugar buster, proven to lower blood sugar spikes by 25-30% after eating carbohydrates.
  • Ice cream is getting more guilt free with Wink, Arctic Zero and Thrive which uses ice cream as a delivery system for nutrition.
  • Juice on delicious, organic and premium fruits & vegetables such as Biotta’s Swiss Vine & Field Ripened Beet, Carrot and Cherry juices. And try their elderberry juice to stave off colds and flu’s and then there’s their Sauerkraut Juice.

As even these top nutritionists know, there is always more to learn at FNCE with new scientific research coming out.

“I tasted sprouted watermelon seeds which surprisingly contain 10 grams of protein in a one ounce serving, making them a good plant based protein option,” reported Smithson.

Smithson also found studies on prunes interesting. Prunes offer nutrients which are important for bone health. Ten to twelve prunes per day can help build stronger bones, and five to six prunes per day was shown to prevent bone loss.

There were plenty of prunes in new forms including high-end D’Noir SunSweet prunes and other shredded varieties.

At the a2 Milk booth, Rumsey learned that while some people are sensitive to lactose, others have trouble drinking milk because they can’t digest milk’s A-1 beta-casein protein. a2 Milk is made from cows that produce only A-2 beta-casein, allowing many people to better tolerate milk.

“I really enjoyed the virtual reality booth at the Food & Nutrition Magazine exhibit.  I was able to take an almond farm tour!  This could be the future for many educational offerings such as virtual attendance at FNCE, farms, or factories,” said Planells.

Other than those interesting findings, there were two basic take-away’s from this year’s event – sugar is the new smoking and don’t believe everything you read!

“As a Registered Dietitian and Diabetes Educator, I realize that there are many products that hide under a ‘health halo’ that confuses consumers,” admits Zanini. “Many individuals don’t realize that ‘natural’ and ‘gluten free’ do not necessarily indicate a product that is healthy for them because indeed, sugar is both natural and gluten free.”

Sugar has made its way into so many different foods that people end up consuming way too much.  “Even if you avoid sweets and soda, you could still be eating too much sugar,” warned Rumsey. “Sugar is added to many foods that don’t even taste sweet, like bread, tomato sauce, and salad dressing. Too much sugar raises your risk for diabetes, heart disease, tooth decay and obesity.”

Nutrition is and will continue to be an emerging science. “Many consumers feel paralyzed by the daily nutrition and health pieces that demonize food and/or nutrients,” said Planells. “One day fat is the enemy and the next we are not eating enough fat. Click-bait nutrition articles sometimes stretch nutrition into an art and science especially when it comes to weight management with “detoxes,” “cleanses” or any other “it” topic. Also everyone who eats claims to be an expert! If Joe B or Susie Q has lost weight trying the XYZ diet, clearly everyone can do the same.”

The best thing to do is to consult certified nutrition and diet experts and valid organizations such as the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics for up-to-the-minute information revealed at events like FNCE.


Nancy TrentNancy Trent is a writer and speaker, a lifelong health advocate, a globe-trotting trend watcher and the founder and president of Trent & Company, a New York-based marketing communications firm. Trent & Company grew out of Nancy’s personal commitment to helping people live longer and healthier lives. A former journalist for New York magazine, Nancy has written seven books on healthy lifestyles, serves on the editorial boards of several magazines and travels around the world speaking at conferences and trade shows on trends in the marketplace. She is a recognized expert in PR with more than 30 years of experience creating and managing highly successful campaigns. Nancy can be reached at (212) 966-0024 or through e-mail at nancy@trentandcompany.com.  You may also visit www.trentandcompany.com.

NOTE: WholeFoods Magazine does not endorse any specific brand or product. The opinions expressed in bylined articles are not necessarily those of the publisher.

Posted on WholeFoods Magazine Online, 11/2/2016