Kale, quinoa and kombucha ruled the trendy healthful-food scene in 2014. But what will take center stage in 2015? Will mighty kale take a back seat? Will farro take over from quinoa? And what is macha?
We asked nutrition experts about healthful-eating trends they expect in the new year. The short answer: We'll see antioxidizing vegetables and protein-rich grains everywhere we turn.
One of the new foods in the limelight is cauliflower, broccoli's (usually) pale cousin.
"I think cauliflower will steal some of the spotlight from kale," says Alison Sacks, a Washington-based registered dietitian whose focus is helping clients prevent and heal chronic conditions.
"It is nutritious and extremely versatile."
In 2015, expect to see cauliflower grated to make a flour substitute in pizza crust, mashed (instead of mashed potatoes) and roasted.
"It's the new, healthy 'white food,' " says Sacks, referring to the trend of avoiding white foods - meaning refined carbs such as white-flour pasta and bread - because of their high sugar and gluten levels and low fiber content.
Brussels sprouts - with high levels of fiber, iron and vitamins K and C - are also looking good for 2015, says Sarah Waybright, a dietitian and chef/cooking instructor.
"With Brussels sprouts, the preparation is key. My mum used to steam them, and that turns them into a mushy mess," Waybright says.
"Try roasting them instead."
She also suggests using some olive oil or other fat - maybe a flavorful, anchovy-based sauce - to give them a crispier surface. Fat doesn't just create better texture and flavor, she says, it also helps the body better absorb plant-based vitamins and other nutrients. Furthermore, it helps create a feeling of fullness that is hard to come by with veggies only.
Photo / Babiche Martens
So instead of thinking "low-fat" for 2015, she says, think "high-veggie" with some added fat.
Both Sacks and Waybright say quinoa probably will continue its impressive run in the new year, but people inspired by their discovery of quinoa will also experiment with other grains.
"People will continue to try to get more of their protein from grains," says Sacks. "Especially, gluten-free grains that are high in fiber and easier to digest will continue to be popular."
In this category, you will find rice and millet. There's also amaranth, which, like buckwheat, fits the profile of a whole grain in many ways, but is actually a seed rather than a grain. A major food crop for the ancient Aztecs, amaranth is a protein powerhouse, containing all essential amino acids. And it has been shown to lower cholesterol.
Amaranth can be used in baking, by itself as a cereal or as a substitute for polenta or quinoa.
Not all the grains that seem poised to enter the food scene in 2015 are gluten-free, says Sacks. Those that are not include kamut and farro, an ancient Roman grain that's high in fiber, protein and iron.
Kathleen Wood, a regional healthful-eating coordinator for Whole Foods, adds kelp - a seaweed - to the list of up-and-coming vegetables. High in folate, magnesium, iron and calcium, kelp can be used in smoothies, salads, stir-fries and sautes.
Another green food item that's on the rise, says Wood, is macha. This powdered green tea can be drunk or used to flavor foods from ice cream to sushi. It has antioxidant properties, and some studies indicate that regular macha consumption makes the body more energy-efficient.
Wood also predicts an increase in savory vs. sweet foods. She says we will see more seafood snacks and savory yogurts (think carrot instead of strawberry).
Sacks agrees, adding that probiotics will continue to become more popular. "I see a focus on less sugar and more fermentation," she says.
Meanwhile, there are still plenty of meat lovers out there. For them, Wood says quality and origin are becoming increasingly important. "People are looking for grass-fed beef, and they are paying more and more attention to sourcing," she says.
Other nutrition experts agree. "How and what you eat can strengthen community bonds," says Waybright.
Adds Sacks, "It can be an investment in your health and in the health of the planet."
Gabriella Boston is a fitness trainer.