Food and nutrition trends come and go. Back in the late ’80s and early ’90s when I first started attending the Food & Nutrition Conference & Expo™ (FNCE®), cholesterol was a hot topic, so the Expo Hall was filled with low-fat and fat-free food products, and oat bran was sprinkled into just about everything. Fast-forward to last year’s FNCE®, and gluten-free and high-protein were all the rage.
As I tracked the hottest food trends at FNCE® 2017, I was drawn to the Healthy Gut Pavilion where I sampled fermented vegetables, Kraut Krisps, kefir, and probiotic gut “shots.” I tasted several products free from the top eight food allergens and spotted many plant-based milks. In addition to the new and noteworthy, I noticed modern makeovers of old-time favorites like cottage cheese, canned soups, and even V8.
My specialty is family nutrition, so I made my observations in the Expo Hall through that lens.
What’s Old Is New Again
New food trends are fun to track, but sometimes those tried-and-true favorites make a comeback.
Muuna Cottage Cheese: If eating cottage cheese makes you feel like you’re back in your grandmother’s 1950s kitchen, you haven’t tried Muuna Cottage Cheese. It’s got a melt-in-your-mouth creaminess and comes in single-serve cups with real fruit on the bottom. I loved the mango and pineapple flavors and the impressive 15 g protein per serving.
Campbell’s Well Yes! Soups: Move over cream of mushroom soup. Campbell’s new lineup of Well Yes! mostly plant-based soups are made with real ingredients, no artificial flavors, and BPA-free cans. I tried the Chickpea And Roasted Red Pepper Soup and the Black Bean With Red Quinoa Soup, and the flavors were fresh and bold. The sodium in the soups I sampled clocked in at 590 mg (not bad for a soup), and they contained 5 and 6 g fiber, respectively. My boys would love these soups, and I sure appreciate the variety of whole grains and pulses in the lineup.
V8 Healthy Greens: When I think about the V8 juice of my youth, tomato juice comes to mind. But this old, familiar brand has jumped on the green juice bandwagon with their new Healthy Greens variety. Healthy Greens is made with yellow carrots, spinach, apples, and pineapple, and there’s no added sugars, colors, or preservatives. One 8-oz glass is equal to one vegetable serving.
The Power of Probiotics
With so much buzz about the health benefits of good bacteria, it’s no surprise probiotic food products are popping up everywhere.
Farmhouse Culture: A crunchy corn chip with 1 billion good bacteria per serving may sound too good to be true, but the Kraut Krisps from Farmhouse Culture offer just that. They’re made with ingredients like sauerkraut and Bacillus coagulans, and they have a slightly salty, zesty flavor. Other probiotic products in the Farmhouse Culture lineup include fermented vegetables, Sparkling Probiotic Gut Punch (the Ginger Lemon flavor was really refreshing), and Gut Shots with 11 servings per bottle. I sampled the Ginger Beet Gut Shot, and while the flavor of these probiotic drinks may take some getting used to, it was great to see so many new probiotic foods trending at FNCE®.
Kefir: I’ve been giving my boys kefir, a fermented milk beverage, for years; they’ve always loved the slightly sweet, slightly tart flavor of pomegranate, blueberry, and peach varieties. The brand available in my area is Lifeway Kefir, so I was happy to see them at the Expo. In addition to kefir, the company now sells a variety of Kefir Cups, which it describes as a tart, tangy, and spoonable snack. I also had an opportunity to sample Nancy’s Kefir, which comes in both a 32-oz carton and a convenient single serve 8-oz carton for on-the-go snacking and lunch boxes. Each serving provides 56 billion live probiotic cultures.
GoodBelly: Watermelon Lime, Orange Pineapple Basil, and Lemon Ginger are varieties of GoodBelly’s juice-infused waters, with 20 billion probiotics per bottle. They’re thirst quenching and a quick and easy way to add more probiotics to the diet. I loved the Watermelon Lime, and I’m pretty sure my kids will like it, too. GoodBelly also sampled its StraightShot, described as a gently flavored, dairy-free oatmilk with 20 billion live and active probiotic cultures per serving with no added sugars.
Soy and almond milks are nothing new, but now you can add pea protein milks to the list of nondairy options on the market. At the Expo, I sampled Bolthouse Farms Plant Protein Milk with 10 g protein per serving and Veggemo with 6 g protein. Both are available in various flavors including original, vanilla, and unsweetened.
Food allergies are a reality for many families, and food companies are responding with everyday foods made without the top allergens. Spotted on the Expo floor were Bizzy Bee grain- and nut-free snack bars and Cybele’s Free to Eat rotini with inventive flavors such as Red Lentil, Pumpkin, and Butternut Squash.
Why fill up on empty calories between meals when a world of nutritious snacks awaits you? I couldn’t stop eating Biena’s roasted chickpeas, especially its new dark chocolate flavor, and I appreciate the 4 g protein and 4 g fiber per serving. KIND had a large booth at the show, top yogurt companies had a major presence, too, including Siggi’s (technically Icelandic-style skyr), Dannon, and Stonyfield.
Other Favorite Finds …
After walking the Expo Hall, my overall sense was that food companies, both big and small, are listening to consumers and responding to their desire for transparency, sustainability, and foods that are clean and minimally processed, and provide value to the diet. While not a health food, I do appreciate Unilever’s Simply Popsicle line, colored and flavored from natural sources. Dannon is doing the same thing with its Danimals Squeezables and Yo-Tubes, colored naturally with ingredients such as grape juice concentrate and black carrot juice. And, of course, gluten-free was still a trend (though not as big as last year) with products such as Cali’flour Foods Cauliflower Pizza Crust—I tried the plant-based Italian flavor and liked it a lot—and sorghum, an ancient, gluten-free grain with more than 6 g fiber and 4 g protein per one-half cup. For recipe inspiration, visit wondergrain.com.
But nutrition evaluations aside, if you asked me to hand out an award for the most creative booth at the show, it would have to go to Ocean Spray. They literally created a cranberry bog smack in the middle of the Expo Hall where RDs could don waders and experience the harvest first hand!
— Liz Weiss, MS, RDN, is a mom of two with a specialty in family nutrition. She’s the voice behind the family food podcast Liz’s Healthy Table, and the blog and website by the same name. Liz has written several cookbooks including No Whine with Dinner: 150 Healthy Kid-Tested Recipes From the Meal Makeover Moms, The Moms’ Guide to Meal Makeovers: Improving the Way Your Family Eats, One Meal at a Time!, and the playful new coloring book series Color, Cook, Eat!. Liz hosts the Meal Makeovers video series for CNN Accent Health, which runs in doctor’s offices nationwide.