Sure, we’ll all still be talking about gluten-free in the coming year, but there are plenty of exciting new nutrition trends, too. Check out our list and get a jumpstart on healthy eating the 2013 way.
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Cauliflower and mini greens: Move over, kale. One of the hot nutrition trends in the veggie category this year is expected to be cauliflower. Like the curly green, it’s versatile and packed with nutrients: One cup has nearly 90 percent of your recommended daily value of vitamin C. “Cauliflower has been a staple lately on the menus of NYC’s fabulous restaurants,” says registered dietitian Laura Cipullo, owner of Laura Cipullo Whole Nutrition Services in New York, who’s sampled broccoli’s cousin mashed, curried and caramelized. “I personally love to coat an entire head of cauliflower with Dijon mustard, nonfat plain Greek yogurt or canola oil mayonnaise and bake it for an hour.”
If you’re specifically looking for a trendy new green, check out “tiny leafies” like baby romaine, mini bok choy and microgreens, which are increasing in popularity, says registered dietitan Julieanna Hever, host of Veria Living TV’s “What Would Julieanna Do?” “Enjoy them as you would other mixed lettuce varieties or in smoothies, stir-fries, and grain or pasta dishes.”
Veggie-centered meals: Speaking of vegetables, don’t be surprised to see them moving to center stage more often, as an increasing number of Americans adopt at least a “flexatarian” approach to their diet, enjoying more meatless meals.
“2013 is predicted to be the year of the plant-based diet, and stores are reflecting the interest,” Hever says. “I’m seeing more faux meat and dairy products, as well as bigger raw food sections in the market.”
Restaurant industry forecaster Techtomic also predicts that chefs will step up to the plate to embrace this nutrition trend with more meatless meals—particularly seasonal or exotic vegetable plates. But consumers should be careful not to assume those are the healthiest meals on the menu.
“I think it will be an eye-opening experience when restaurants all start posting calorie counts—some vegan meals are no healthier than a burger!” says Biggest Loser nutritionist Rachel Beller, a registered dietitian and author of Eat to Lose, Eat to Win: Your Grab-N-Go Action Plan for a Slimmer, Healthier You. “You still need to watch the calories and fat.”
Bulgur: Burned out on quinoa? Try bulgur, the Middle Eastern grain predicted to be one of the top nutrition trends in 2013. “I think we’re going to see a lot of bulgur for breakfast,” Beller says. “A cup cooked is about 150 calories, just like oatmeal, but fiber-wise, it has double the amount.” Try it with almond milk and a sprinkle of cinnamon, she suggests. But beware: unlike quinoa, this grain does contain wheat, which rules it out for gluten-free diets.
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Coconut water: One of the biggest nutrition trends of 2012—sales rose 100 percent in the U.S. according to New Nutrition Business—coconut water’s popularity hasn’t yet peaked, experts say, especially with powdered versions popping up for on-the-go consumption. It’s high in potassium, which helps flush excess sodium from your body, but don’t forget it’s not calorie-free—you’re getting about 50 calories in an 8-ounce serving.
“If you are spinning and drinking calories to replenish fluid, this negates the calories burned in the exercise—water with electrolytes is a better option,” Cipullo says. “However, if you are exercising for a long duration and in high heat, coconut water is great way to get electrolytes and carbs quickly to replete and reload.”
Monk fruit: Natural sweeteners made from this Chinese melon have been on dietitians’ radar for several years, due to their popularity in Asian markets. But as zero-calorie sweeteners made from monk fruit got a wider rollout in the U.S. late in 2012 (under brand names Nectresse and Monk Fruit In the Raw), it’s likely to be one of the nutrition trends that has everyone talking this year.
But while fans of the flavor say it’s less bitter than Stevia, experts caution against heralding a new miracle sweetener. “Monk fruit is a natural source, and if you’re going to use a little of a sweetener, that’s fine,” Beller says. “But the hesitation I have is that it’s so much sweeter than sugar that you’re training your palate to want more intense sweetness.”
Cipullo, a certifed diabetes educator, agrees. “Ultimately, I don’t think there will ever be a sugar alternative that’s the answer to America’s sweets obsession,” she says. “Eating real food in its natural state is usually the best way to meet our needs—less calories and more nutrition—without trying to confuse the brain and belly communication.”