Our duo of dietitians report on the foods, flavors and fads worth paying attention to in 2012.
Nutrient-of-the-moment. Americans aren’t getting enough potassium, a heart-healthy mineral that helps offset excessive sodium consumption and regulates blood pressure. Women get only about half the recommended 4.7 grams/day; men about two-thirds. Pump up the potassium in your diet by including at least one of these sources in each meal: bananas, papayas, dried fruit, potatoes, avocadoes, pumpkin, beans, milk, yogurt, fish, seeds, oranges or orange juice.
New-school fish. Little fish like sardines, anchovies and smelts are competing for a spot in fish-eaters’ hearts. Rich in vitamin D and packed with flavor, they’re available fresh, frozen, smoked and jarred or canned in sauces or spices. If you’re a small fish “newbie”, try grilling milder-tasting fresh sardines or mashing canned anchovies into tomato sauce or bean soups.
Water, with a twist. A staple in Latin cuisine, beverages infused with herbal extracts and whole fruits are growing in popularity as all-natural, low-calorie alternatives to diet soda. Get them at your local market or make your own aqua fresca (“fresh water”): Blend water with mashed whole fruit, a little sugar and a splash of lime juice.
Baby food (for mom and dad). Promoted as a way to slip extra nutrients and flavor into home-cooked meals, shelf-stable pouches of baby food-like fruit and vegetable purees are hitting the shelves at Costco and Whole Foods. Use in soups, smoothies, sauces, casseroles and even dessert (chocolate-squash pudding anyone)? Or, save a few bucks and toss leftover cooked veggies in a blender to make your own.
DIY food preservation. Our grandparents’ daily chores are now retro hobbies as we look to stretch our dollars and be more self-sustaining. The reason for the surge of cookbooks, Twitter chats and blogs on everything from canning to meat curing: You control where the food comes from, and what’s added to it—or not. Where to start? Check out the Food In Jars blog (www.foodinjars.com), or the book Charcuterie by Michael Ruhlman.
Immune boosters—in a shot glass.Probiotics, those beneficial bacteria that give yogurt its good-for-your-gut reputation, are also showing up in individual, shot-size servings of fruit juices and fermented soy, rice and oat beverages. Available at Whole Foods and some big chain supermarkets, brands like Bio-K+ and Good Belly BigShot are also promoting the probiotics’ immunity benefits. But don’t think a shot of this stuff substitutes for a healthy diet, exercise and adequate sleep.
Another natural sugar substitute. Used for many years in China and Japan, an all-natural, calorie-free extract derived from the Chinese monk fruit is just starting to show up here in ready-to-eat products like Kashi cereal and Bare Naked granola. It joins stevia, which made a splash last year under the Truvia brand name.
Garlic from the dark side. The popularity of black garlic, made by fermenting garlic bulbs at high temperatures, is soaring after appearing on TV cooking shows and at food conventions. With a syrupy taste with a touch of tang, this Asian staple has the heart-health benefits of regular garlic and boasts double the amount of antioxidants of raw garlic. Bonus: No garlic breath!