What are some of the next big trends in food and fitness? Here are a few--keep your eyes and minds open.
Foods that heal: We've seen calcium and vitamin C added to 7-UP, and this trend of adding nutrients to foods is sure to continue.
The latest are omega-3s--essential fatty acids--added to breads, ice cream, yogurts and eggs. We're also seeing other products with "healthy" ingredients added to make them more desirable, such as the yogurt in Life Vanilla Yogurt Crunch cereal.
According to John Craven, editor of BevNET.com, the popular beverage products are those that supposedly "do" something healthy such as Sambazon juices, which claim to have more antioxidants than any other juice. Consumers seem less interested in taste and refreshment from beverages, says Craven, and more interested in products that appear to have medicinal benefits.
Why it matters: We lack many nutrients, such as fiber and calcium, so adding them to foods improves our intake. On the other hand, some of these additions are just gimmicks.
Whole-grain everything: Whole-grain products have long been known for their health benefits and will become more prolific in supermarkets. Even Wonder Bread is making a whole-grain white bread, and whole-grain versions of products from muffins and cereals to cookies have been steadily gaining popularity.
Why it matters: Whole-grain foods are typically rich in fiber, vitamins, minerals and phytochemicals. When grains are refined, fiber and other nutrients, such as vitamins E, B6 and magnesium, are removed. And research has consistently found that whole grains reduce the risk of several diseases, including cardiovascular disease, diabetes and certain cancers. But make sure you read the label and look for 100 percent whole grains.
Fresh and organic: According to Harry Balzar of market research firm NPD Group, "fresh" food is the next "in" thing. "Consumer demand for it is on the rise--making it ripe for a take-off trend. Expect more restaurants to follow Subway's 'fresh and made to order' policy and for supermarkets to feature more fresh products."
However, the kind of "fresh" we're talking about here refers to foods that were recently made, produced or harvested, which is not the definition of the FDA or USDA (food that has never been frozen or heated and contains no preservatives).Why it matters: The fresher your foods, the less likely they are to be processed, meaning more nutrients and fewer calories.
Better food labels: The word "calories" is bigger and bolder, showing its importance. The amount of dreaded trans fat is now available for all to see, as are widely recognized food allergens--such as nuts and dairy products.Why it matters: The clearer the food label, the more information you have to make an informed decision about whether to buy the product.
Dieting: Calories will make a comeback, but the biggest trend might just be the high-protein, good-carb, good-fat (in moderation) diet. Look for the new book The Total Wellbeing Diet, by Dr. Manny Noakes and Dr. Peter Clifton (NAL, $16.95), coming in May to fuel the fire. This low-fat, high-protein diet that was tested by the Australian government is already a best seller in the UK and Australia.
Why it matters: Protein has been shown in a few strong studies to keep you full longer and for fewer calories.
Fast-food blowout: Don't count on fast-food establishments (other than McDonald's) to continue their recent trend toward offering healthier foods--or even to maintain the current healthy offerings. Burger King's Enormous Omelet Sandwich (740 calories) and Hardee's "Monster Thickburger" (1,410-calories) are a couple examples that the fast-food industry knows just where its money is coming from.
Why it matters: As healthy items are phased out and super-calorie disasters are re-ushered in, it's going to be harder to find a quick meal that doesn't wreck your diet.
Workouts at home: iPod workouts, exercise television on demand (such as Comcast's launch of Exercisetv), better at-home fitness equipment and thousands of workout videos all add up to an increase in home fitness. You can even download workouts to your iPod from sites such as www.cardiocoach.com, iAmplify.com, beitfit.com and podfitness.com.
Why it matters: Lack of time is one of the biggest excuses not to exercise. What better way to bust that excuse by having your workouts available anywhere, anytime?
Functional fitness: Crunch Fitness' national director of group fitness Donna Cyrus believes that the trend will skew toward the convenient and personalized. "There's going to be a bigger focus on practical fitness programs, helping individuals build up the core muscles and strength they will use in their everyday lives." For example, Crunch's Katami Sports Konditioning class helps those interested in tennis, golf or even rowing.
Why it matters: Getting in shape for sports you enjoy keeps you motivated to stay active. Plus, functional fitness reduces sports injuries.
Yoga madness: Yoga continues to explode, not only because of its healing power but for its spirituality. "In the last few years there's been a trend toward fusing yoga with other disciplines and an emphasis on the physical. But in 2006, I think we'll see a renewal and rebirth of classical yoga," says Kathryn Arnold, editorial director of Yoga Journal.
Why it matters: We can all use a dose of spirituality, especially one that gets our bodies in shape.
Active Expert Charles Stuart Platkin is a nutrition and public health advocate, author of the best seller Breaking the Pattern (Plume, 2005) and Breaking the FAT Pattern (Plume, 2006) and founder of Integrated Wellness Solutions. Sign up for The Diet Detective newsletter free at www.dietdetective.com.
Copyright 2006 by Charles Stuart Platkin