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Feb 8, 2014

It’s that time of year again: Out with the old and in with the new. It’s also the time when many people put their nutrition in the spotlight in an effort to plan out staying healthy and fit in the New Year.

Nutrition can be confusing. First fat is out, now “good fat” is in. Carbs are in, then out, and now “good carbs” are back in again. And protein? Definitely lean protein is “in,” although VB6 (Vegan Before 6) is also hot, hot, hot! Then there are the nutrition buzz words swirling around in our heads such as gluten-free, soy-free, wheat-free and non-GMO.

To keep nutrition on your mind, here is a nutritionist’s prediction of the top 10 nutrition trends sure to be on the public’s radar in 2014:

1. Greek Yogurt
Going Greek is clearly in and shows no sign of abating as this exotic option has elbowed its way onto refrigerator shelves everywhere. Greek yogurt, packed with muscle-building whey protein, will surely continue to be all the rage in 2014. With Chobani leading the market, Fage is running a close second.

Fat-free Greek yogurt is both low in calories and high in healthful, live, probiotic bacterial cultures. Straining regular yogurt removes much of the liquid, lactose and sugar, thickening the yogurt and giving it that smooth and creamy consistency. Compared to regular yogurt, Greek contains roughly the same amount of calories yet can pack up to double the protein, while cutting sugar content by half. Sounds like a fabulous trend to me.

2. Paleo Diet
This diet trend also shows no signs of abating in 2014. The good: The Paleo Diet nixes all refined and processed foods and is high in fresh veggies, fish, fruit and healthy fat. The not-so-good: The diet is very limited in carbs and healthy grains, foods which are the athlete’s nourishment of choice for better health and improved performance. Bottom line: Pick and choose from the better aspects of the Paleo Diet and you can concoct a healthy eating plan.

3. Good Carbs and Ancient Grains
Quinoa, barley, beans, bulgur and sweet potatoes are all considered “good carbs.” Unprocessed and filled with fiber, these should be your nutritious carbs of choice in 2014. Forget the white rice: half a cup of cooked barley contains just 99 calories, negligible fat, 23 grams of carbs and two grams of protein. This side will also provide you with a whopping three grams of cholesterol-lowering fiber (beta-glucan).

4. Eating Clean
“Eating clean” means simply avoiding processed and refined foods and basing your diet on whole foods. This whole foods concept focuses on eating for health and not necessarily for weight loss. Clean eating also means consuming a primarily plant-based diet, meaning foods from a tree, bush, plant, and vine or out of the earth. The idea is to stay away from foods that have been altered by food processors. Sounds good to me!

5. Going Vegan, Part-Time
Mark Bittman struck a chord in the American mindset with his wildly popular book, VB6. The diet basically promotes going vegan until dinner, then eating whatever you want. The appeal? No calorie counting and no banned foods; have your steak and eat it, too! Many people love the idea of going vegan (no animal products whatsoever) for better health and weight control but simply can’t fathom cutting out their favorite foods (meat). This part-time concept is sure to remain in vogue in 2014.

6. Nuts and Seeds
Playing off the protein trend, nuts and seeds are sure to remain big -- including portable peanut butter spreads and 100-calorie packets of nuts and chia seeds. Dole has introduced individual packets of chia seeds that can be taken on the go and mixed into foods or stirred into drinks. Hemp seeds have also popped up on the public’s radar. Packed with “good fats,” fiber, vegetable protein and antioxidants, these original health foods are sure to continue in popularity.

7. Focus on Sustainability
The public clearly supports making sustainable environmental and social practices through the food choices we make, like the impact of our health on national healthcare costs and the environmental impact of a meat-heavy diet. Sustainable eating also means eating locally and seasonally. The concern is that the industrialized food system is dependent on foreign oil, destroys the soil and contaminates the water. Every dollar spent at a farmer’s market is one less dollar supporting the industrialized food system. Eating seasonally and locally will surely continue to be front and center in 2014.

8. Natural Sugar Alternatives
The move away from white sugar to more natural sweeteners (from plants) continues to accelerate. Agave nectar, stevia, monk fruit and coconut nectar will continue to crowd the sweetener shelf in the health food section. The new kids on the block such as monk fruit will probably gain in popularity.

Monk fruit is native to China and its extract is nearly 300 times sweeter than sugar. So a little goes a long way. Monk fruit sweeteners such as “Monk Fruit in the Raw” and “Nectresse” are made from monk fruit extract, and are touted for having zero carbs and low or no calories.

Eating less sugar is a fantastic goal for 2014 so sweeten up your days with these sugar alternatives in 2014.

9. Cocoa
Cocoa, used throughout history as a folk medicine, is now known to have significant health benefits and will surely continue its surge in popularity in 2014. The health benefits in dark chocolate come from the polyphenolic flavonoids in cocoa -- flavonoids are antioxidants that are commonly found in fruits, vegetables, tea, wine, and coffee. Flavonoid-rich cocoa (translation: dark chocolate not processed with alkali) consumption is linked to reductions in risk for diabetes, heart attack, stroke and Alzheimers. One caveat: Eat your cocoa by the piece and not the pound as chocolate is also high in fat, sugar and calories.

10. Green Smoothies
This is one fad that shows no sign of slowing down in the coming year. Green smoothies are simply a blender concoction of fresh veggies and fruit. Many people find it easier to get their fruit and veggies in this way. First start with the liquid -- either water, fresh juice or almond milk -- then add the greens. Then lastly, add fresh fruit such as bananas, apples or berries. Kale, spinach and Swiss chard are some of the more popular fresh veggies. Others add herbs such as parsley or mint. The bottom line? Any fad that helps people eat kale sounds pretty good to me!


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