We took a look at which trendy foods you should resolve to work into your healthy diet and which ones to ignore.
Eating sweets in the morning is nothing new. But the results of a 2016 study showing that people who eat chocolate at least once per week do better on memory and concentration tests has some trendsters giving license to eat cake, cookies, and brownies for breakfast. The best breakfast is one that is a good mix of carbohydrates, protein, and healthy fats. If you want to toss a few dark chocolate chips into your oatmeal or yogurt, that’s fine. But a chocolate doughnut or muffin isn’t going to give you the nutrients you need.
If 2016 was the year of veggie burgers that "bleed" like meat—such as the Beyond Burger and Impossible Burger—2017 is poised to be the year of veggie pulled-pork sandwiches, courtesy of jackfruit. Before it ripens, this Asian fruit has a texture that’s similar to shredded meat, and it's low in sugars.
To see whether it makes a good meat-flavored replacement, professional food tasters sampled three flavors from the Jackfruit Company: barbecue, curry, and teriyaki. They then convened an informal panel of vegans and omnivores to get their take.
Overall, the three flavors tasted fine, with barbecue and curry having a lot of spicy heat. The teriyaki version was a mild sweet and sour dish. Some of the tasters said the spices in the curry version were overwhelming.
“Texture is a big factor here,” says one professional chef. “The pieces and chunks broke apart into shreds reminiscent of very soft pulled meat. The vegans on our panel were satisfied, but meat eaters probably won’t think they're eating real meat.”
Unlike other meat substitutes, jackfruit isn’t high in protein, supplying just 2 grams per half cup. The same amount of chicken and tofu have 32 grams and 22 grams, respectively. “Most people get more than enough protein in their diets, but if you don’t eat any animal products, don't rely on jackfruit to help you meet your protein needs,” Siegel says. “You want to be careful to eat a variety of plant-based proteins.”
Another concern with the packaged products is the added sugars and sodium in the sauces. A half-cup serving had 1 to 2 teaspoons of added sugars and 220 to 500 mg sodium.
First there was coconut water, then maple water. In 2017 you’ll be seeing more beverages made from plants such as artichoke, cactus, and cucumber. They’re promoted as natural hydrators and alternatives to sports drinks. But nutritionists recommend sticking with the most authentic hydration beverage of all: water. “Few people exercise so vigorously that they need to replenish sodium and other electrolytes,” says a dietitian. “And these specialty waters can be pricey. For example, we paid nearly $3 for 8 ounces of artichoke water.”
That said, these newer plant waters are lower in calories than typical sports drinks—25 to 30 in 8 ounces, compared with 53 for Gatorade. Many contain no sweeteners at all or the sugars are naturally present in the plants, but some do have small amounts of added sugars. In a tasting some of the newer plant waters, experts found that the flavor of the particular plant came through, but just slightly.
Paleo dieters looking for a lower-carbohydrate substitute for potatoes and pasta started the riced cauliflower craze. But now this food trend has gone mainstream, with food manufacturers such as Birds Eye and Green Giant introducing frozen versions.
You can make it at home simply by grating raw cauliflower or chopping it in a food processor. But fresh and frozen packaged products were easier to use and didn’t differ in taste or nutrition from freshly prepared riced cauliflower. The three varieties had 20 to 38 calories, 4 to 6 grams of carbs, and 2 to 3 grams of fiber per cup.
Alternative pastas made from chickpeas, lentils, and other legumes are gaining ground because people want more protein and fewer refined carbs in their diets, plus the gluten-free trend continues. These noodles have about the same amount of calories as regular pasta (200 per cup, cooked), but the bean pastas are higher in fiber and protein. Early results suggest that red-lentil varieties come out on top in terms of flavor.
Cumin instead of chocolate, beets instead of berries—savory yogurts are growing in popularity. They’re a great source of calcium and protein but are often lower in calories and added sugars than fruit yogurts. Many are made with whole milk, another yogurt trend that will likely grow in 2017. If you want to make your own savory blend, try adding chopped tomatoes and cucumbers, pitted black olives, and a sprinkle of the Middle Eastern herb blend za’atar to a bowl of plain yogurt. You can use this blend in place of fatty sour-cream dips.
As more research comes out about the role your microbiome—the ecosystem of good bacteria that reside in your gut—plays in your overall health, the fermented food trend won’t just endure, it will likely get bigger. Between 2014 and 2016, natural grocery stores saw a 50 percent increase in the sale of probiotics and prebiotics supplements—live bacteria and plant fibers that have been linked to a healthy microbiome. But you can get also get probiotics in fermented foods such as kefir, kimchi, kombucha, sauerkraut, and yogurt.
We’re all guilty of beauty bias in the produce aisle. But in 2017 expect to see more food producers and retailers focused on getting misshapen fruits and veggies out of the trash and back onto your plate. Unsold produce costs supermarkets $15 billion each year and contribute to the estimated 40 percent of food wasted in the U.S. Unlike an extra soft avocado or a moldy apple, “ugly” produce items are just as nutritious and tasty as their impeccable counterparts.
You’ll be seeing more purple cauliflower, asparagus, potatoes, rice, cereal, and other foods in stores, according to Whole Foods’ food-trend list. “Mixed with other colors, purple veggies and whole grains make for a beautiful presentation and boost the food's healthfulness,” Siegel says. “The color comes from anthocyanins, an antioxidant that has been linked to a lower risk of heart disease and some cancers.” But check labels carefully on packaged foods, she says. “Cereal, chips, or other packaged products may have just as many calories, sugars, and sodium as the less colorful options.”
If your Instagram feed hasn’t already been flooded with shots of these combos of vegetables, whole grains, and a protein, get ready. Bowl foods are on tap to be popular again this year, and you can expect to see more of them on restaurant menus and in supermarket freezer cases. But they’re only as healthy as the ingredients they contain. Look what happened with salads—some have as many as 1,000 calories and 1,000 mg of sodium or more. Bowls could easily go the same route.