Last month the annual Food and Nutrition Conference and Expo (FNCE) took place in Philadelphia. With over 10,000 attendees from the food and nutrition community this is the place to be for the latest healthy eating trends. The event consists of two areas: educational sessions and the expo floor that showcases products and services, offering an insight on what the top nutrition trends and themes will be for the upcoming year.
Below I list the trends I noticed along with photos of products that I felt showcased this trend. The list and products below are not an endorsement or a recommendation.
1. Gluten Free and Grain Free
I thought people had understood by now that gluten is not the cause of all the health issues in the western world. In any case there was a huge selection of grain free and gluten free, products. Useful for people who actually have celiac or a verified allergy, but not healthier or useful for the rest of us.
Make it Mediterranean: Try and consume less processed types of bread, consume a variety of grains.
2. Healthyish Indulgence
Think of a favorite indulgent snack or food and then make it gluten-free, sugar-free, grain-free etc. You get the point. Some of these snacks were tasty and really good, but really how often would you be eating these snacks anyway? If you are eating these indulgent foods on a regular basis, then they are not really an indulgence. Having a bag of Cheetos or ice cream here and there is fine and will not destroy an otherwise healthy diet, so I find these snacks a bit redundant.
Make it Mediterranean: Within the traditional Mediterranean diet sweets and desserts are for special occasions. Processed foods are rare, you may enjoy them sometimes, but they should not be part of your regular diet.
Prominent protein content was a recurring theme in a large number of the products at the expo. Years ago, protein was associated with more of a sports persona, today protein is important as a way to provide satiety and also as a replacement for carbohydrates particularly for individuals following a keto or paleo type of diet. In addition, many of these protein sources are plant protein, appealing to vegetarians and vegans.
Make it Mediterranean: The Mediterranean diet has plenty of protein sources particularly plant protein in the form of beans, nuts and nut butters such as tahini.
I put dairy in quotes because not only was regular dairy all over the expo but dairy substitutes, particularly nut milks. This goes with the plant-based trend, and also with the belief that dairy is the cause of many health issues (just for some people). Most nut milks are fortified, however the nutrients that are added are not always well absorbed.
Make it Mediterranean: If you have an intolerance to lactose as many adults do, consume only yogurt and cheese which are better tolerated.
5. Plant Based
This is an ongoing trend. Yes, eating more plants is good for you and the planet. Westernized countries eat way too much meat, but not everything plant-based is necessary healthy, particularly snack and processed foods. True and healthy plant-based diets are mainly composed of vegetables and fruit, good fats, nuts and seeds and moderate amount of grains.
Make it Mediterranean: The Mediterranean Diet is the ultimate example of a plant-based diet, meat is consumed in small amounts and not on a daily basis. Most meals are vegetable based.
6. GMO vs Non-GMO
It feels that FNCE is getting more and more, how should I put this? Political. Whether it is gmo’s vs non-gmo, or organic vs. non-organic there are a lot of strong opinions out there, and yes, plenty of shaming on both sides. For the time being, I would suggest that it is a bit naïve to have such strong and absolute opinions as it is just too early to make any solid conclusions. More time and more research is needed. The main focus should be that you should eat more plants, less processed foods and follow a sustainable diet for yourself and the planet.
Make it Mediterranean: Eat as local and as seasonal as possible.
7. Digestive Health
Dietitians have always stressed the importance of digestive health, so this trend is on point. Apart from many GI friendly products on the expo floor, there were scientific sessions focusing on GI health and the gut microbiome, the group of microorganisms including bacteria that are present in our GI tract. Research in the past few years has showed that changes in our microbiome is related to several diseases; such as metabolic syndrome, obesity, diabetes, and even cancer. A plant rich diet with plenty of fiber and prebiotic and probiotic foods can have a positive effect on the microbiome.
Make it Mediterranean: We already the Mediterranean diet is good for the gut (see study). But make sure to include these probiotic and prebiotic rich foods from the Mediterranean diet: garlic, onions, leeks, greens (horta), yogurt, kefir.
What About the Mediterranean Diet?
Considering that everybody now accepts it as the gold standard of diets, I did not see much of a presence, neither in the sessions nor on the expo floor. I also did not see really any foods or products calling themselves “Mediterranean diet friendly” in the way many products mention that they are paleo, keto etc. That’s a good thing, because honestly it is rather misleading to call a highly processed food that you would not even find in a traditional Mediterranean diet, “Mediterranean”.
Photos by Elena Paravantes © All Rights Reserved