I am a believer in the tried and true when it comes to nutrition -- USDA's My Plate, with its emphasis on fruits and vegetables, lean protein and dairy and whole grains, still makes a whole lot of sense. Having said that, come January, we will see plenty of new diets pop up to take the place of Paleo, Atkins or the cabbage soup, but most of them are related to a book sale or cutting out calories.
When it comes to trendy foods, each year, there seems to be a new favorite -- last year it was coconut anything. This year, watermelon seems to be taking center stage. Truth be told, many of the top nutrition trends for 2017 are probably more fun and flavorful than actually nutritious, but we love to talk about our food.
Consumers are now more informed about what's in their food, how it is grown, and how it can affect their long-term health. Vegetarianism and veganism have had a lot to do with many of the new food trends, but meat may actually be making a comeback.
Here are some food choices that are likely to grab headlines in 2017, according to the Healthy Living Association.
Sunflower protein: This little protein powder is a trend that has staying power. Easier to digest than most other protein powders, sunflower is dairy-free, which means it's amenable to most kinds of diets. Brown rice, pea, hemp and soya protein powders have been market staples for vegetarians and vegans for many years, but sunflower protein is rapidly rising to the top of its market niche.
Watermelon water: With its combination of refreshing taste and powerful nutrients like lycopene, potassium and natural sugar, watermelon water is giving its coconut rival a real challenge. Wonderful for hydration and packing a wallop of antioxidants, watermelon water's potassium can help to regulate blood pressure as well. Advocates of the newest drink on the block say it makes a perfect post-workout cooler and an ideal alcohol alternative.
Butter: In light of scientific studies that point to the dangers of artificial butters and margarines, real butter is making a comeback, especially the organic variant. For one thing, it takes less to satisfy the appetite, contains no chemicals and in small amounts is considered a healthy food. The restaurant industry is already embracing this trend as once-scarce pats of real butter are magically starting to reappear on diners' plates.
Goat meat: This might seem strange to Midwesterners, but goat meat is nutritious and contains very little fat. It is higher in protein and iron than most other animal meats and goats are much easier on the environment than cattle. Goat meat does not taste like chicken, contrary to the old joke. In fact, it tastes a lot like lamb, but with an earthier, chewier texture.
Less sugar, but more natural sweeteners: Honey and natural syrups are taking the place of processed sugar, which is certainly the new "bad guy" in the modern nutrition landscape. Stevia has come out with a more "natural" blend as well.
Soups: Soups might just replace smoothies as the "fit" meal of choice. Advocated by medical groups and nutritionists, soups combine the great taste of smoothies but incorporate much more fiber and whole foods that are often lost in the juicing process. There's also a social element to sitting down and slowly eating a soup, with a spoon and taking one's time to do so. The soup trend is actually part of a larger social trend toward minimalism: fewer possessions, smaller living spaces, sparer diets, simpler lifestyles and less complicated lives.
Fruity desserts: Harking back to an early 20th century staple, all-fruit desserts are making a comeback after decades in obscurity. The new twist is exotic combinations and exotics in general. High end restaurants are serving Japanese and Chinese fruit desserts that consist of mango, grapefruits, cherries as well as lesser known fruits. Sometimes soaking in their own juices, many are served nearly-frozen or with added nuts for crunchiness. Again, this mini-trend is part of the larger "back to basic health" movement that has been gaining ground for two decades or more.
Protein consciousness: There has been a wealth of medical and scientific research about the need for protein among middle-aged populations. The idea is to have protein at every meal - not just dinner. Protein is essential for brain function and countless other bodily functions and is gaining in popularity.
Good fat, bad fat: With new medical evidence that the "low fat" trend went overboard, there is renewed interest in smaller portions of "good," non-saturated fats used in food. Natural fats in foods like avocados and nuts provide essential nutrients for brain function and essential energy.