Trend-spotting at the 2015 Food and Nutrition Conference/Expo

I just returned from the annual conference and expo of the Academy of  Nutrition and Dietetics that was held in Nashville this year. It’s a wonderful chance to catch up with colleagues, attend educational sessions and news briefings and–my favorite part–check out the new food products at the expo. Here are three of the trends I spotted as I browsed around (along with some info on brands of products—I don’t typically discuss brands here and I am not recommending these brands, I’m just giving a few examples of things I saw at the conference.)

Dandelion Pumpkin Seed Pesto
This pesto, made with pumpkin seeds, would be right at home with the seed-loving set this year.

Sprouted grains hit their groove

You might be familiar with sprouted grain bread already, but lately more sprouted products have sprouted up, such as the sprouted rices from Lundberg Family Farms, and this sprouted grain cereal from Kashi. What are sprouted grains, you ask? Since grains are seeds, and seeds sprout to form plants, a sprouted grain is just a seed that has started to sprout. A tiny little sprout will extend from the cracked outer layer of the grain (called the bran). As the plant is forming this sprout, it utilizes some of the starch inside the seed itself for energy to grow. This means that the proportion of starch in sprouted grains is less than in their un-sprouted versions, and also that the other nutrients (vitamins, minerals and protein) make up a greater proportion of the grain. The nutritional differences between sprouted and un-sprouted grains is minimal, but some people think that eating products made from sprouted grains, or the sprouted grains themselves, makes the grains easier to digest.

Whey to go

Whey protein powder, long a favorite of the bodybuilding crowd, clearly has come into the mainstream judging by the number of whey-containing drinks and whey powder products in the Expo Hall this year. Some whey protein powders were sweetened (often with stevia) and flavored (hello, dark chocolate), but others were completely plain and unsweetened, leaving it all up to the consumer. Whey protein powders are an excellent addition to a smoothie (delivering from about 20-26g of protein), or can be simply mixed with water for a quick protein drink.

Seeds aplenty

Snack foods are popular on the expo floor, and this year was no different, except for the obvious emphasis on more natural, less processed snacks. One of the primary ingredients that I kept seeing in snacks was seeds—pumpkin, sunflower, chia, sesame and hemp. Granola with seeds showed up as a snack in a few places, and snack bars with easily identifiable ingredients like nuts and seeds are becoming the norm now (yay!). Even trail mix is getting seedy, with options for those allergic to nuts, such as the fruit and seed mixes from EnjoyLife). Hemp seeds (like Hemp Hearts, which are raw, shelled hemp seeds) were available alone or mixed into snack bars, such as these from Nature’s Path), and chia seeds, not new on the scene, were still prominent.