An Early Look at FNCE Food Trends

Greetings from Nashville.

I’m here at the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics’ 2015 Food & Nutrition Conference & Expo.  It’s just the first day, so expect to be hearing more from me on the hot nutrition topics and food trends.  But here are my early observations from day 1.


Sprouted seed snacks from Go Raw and new Kashi bar Chewy Granola and Seed bars. Brad’s Broccoli Poppers are made with a combination of broccoli and sesame seeds.

harvest snapst


broccoli poppers

Salad Kits for One

I love the idea of salad kits for one.  Here are new Take Aways salad kits from Dole (available in November) and Plant-Powered Protein Kits from Eat Smart.

Dole kits

salad kits

Sprouted Grains

The sprouted grains trend sprouted up this year, with new products from Kashi, Lundberg and others.

kashin grains

sprouted grains

Beans and Lentils

2016 is the International Year of Pulses and pulses (beans and lentils) were everywhere this year at FNCE — in chips, pasta, hummus and flavorful fresh varieties (from the Better Bean).

bean harvest


bean pasta

Fresh Look at Frozen

Frozen meals got an upgrade, including new technology of steaming bags.

frozen meals


Probiotics were big — in dairy and beyond.


Dairy-Free Cheese and Frozen Desserts


dairy free

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Dietary Guidelines Debate Gets Ugly

8888885127_e0f089a5d0_zLet me catch you up on the latest, in case you haven’t been following.

Last week, the British Medical Journal publishes an article critical of the proposed 2015 Dietary Guidelines for Americans and the committee’s work.  Written by journalist Nina Teicholz, author of The Big Fat Surprise: Why Butter, Meat and Cheese Belong in a Healthy Diet, the article is entitled The Scientific Report Guiding the U.S. Dietary Guidelines: Is It Scientific?  Curious title coming from a non-scientist herself. Here’s an excerpt outlining Nina’s major beef with the report:

The committee’s approach to the evidence on saturated fats and low carbohydrate diets reflects an apparent failure to address any evidence that contradicts what has been official nutritional advice for the past 35 years. The foundation of that advice has been to recommend eating less fat and fewer animal products (meat, dairy, eggs) while shifting calorie intake towards more plant foods (fruits, vegetables, grains, and vegetable oils) for good health. And in the past decades, this advice has remained virtually unchanged.

If you’re not familiar with The Big Fat Surprise, I’ve written about this book here.  Nina’s book was one of the reasons we saw so many misleading headlines last year extolling the virtues of saturated fat.  Nina’s BMJ article gripes about the conclusions in the report about saturated fat — claiming bias, conflicts of interest and a shoddy review of the evidence.

The overall lack of sound science and proper methods in the 2015 report could be seen as a reluctance to depart from existing dietary recommendations. Many experts, institutions, and industries have an interest in keeping the status quo advice, and these interests create a bias in its favor. Abandoning the NEL review methods, as the 2015 committee has done, opens the door not only for bias but also for influence from outside agendas and commercial interests, and all of these can be observed in the report.

Well, you don’t think the committee was going to sit back and take this.  No way.  They penned one of many responses to the article.  In fact, responses were pouring in from around the world by the end of the week.  Here’s a part of what the committee had to say:

In our opinion, Ms. Tiecholz’s article is woefully misleading and in many cases, factually incorrect. Its provenance is described as ‘commissioned’ and externally peer reviewed and fact checked. This statement is puzzling in its lack of detail and the validity of the statement on fact checking is doubtful. Ms Teicholz is a self-identified investigative reporter who has been on a quest for quite a long time to promote her own book in the popular press entitled ‘The Big Fat Surprise’ Why butter, meat and cheese belong in a healthy diet.’ In conclusion, the 2015 DGAC Scientific Report was developed in an open, evidence-based and transparent process that meets or exceeds the recommended scientific methods for issuing evidence-informed public health guidance. It is a disservice to these rigorous processes to publish commentaries that lack any scientific rigor and are inflammatory in nature. This publication without even a counterpoint detracts from the focused efforts needed to seek sound solutions to the preventable health problems we confront in the U.S. but also globally.

Bonnie Liebman, nutrition director of the Center for Science in the Public Interest, wrote a powerful response that tore apart each one of Nina’s criticisms.

Today’s “feature” in the BMJ by journalist Nina Teicholz continues her distorted and error-laden campaign against the Dietary Guidelines Advisory Committee report. Earlier this year, she wrote a similar mistake-filled op-ed for the New York Times. In fact, the DGAC’s advice is consistent with dietary advice from virtually every major health authority, including the American Heart Association, the American College of Cardiology, the American Diabetes Association, the American Cancer Society, World Health Organization, and the Obesity Society. Teicholz would have us believe that only she, not the dozens of experts who systematically reviewed the evidence for these health authorities, has the smarts to accurately interpret this evidence. In fact, she makes many glaring errors in her BMJ piece.

Bonnie concludes her response saying Nina’s article is a “hodge-podge of fact and fiction and will only confuse a confused public even more.”  I thought Bonnie’s response was so well done that I tweeted it last week.  Well, here’s Nina’s tweet back to me:

Hmmmm.  Curious attack response.

Perhaps the strongest rebuttal comes from Dr. David Katz, who is always so eloquent in his writing;  An open letter to the BMJ regarding U.S. Dietary Guidance:

I am rather stunned that the BMJ published a journalist’s commentary about the work of the 2015 United States Dietary Guidelines Advisory Committee as if it were an authoritative rebuttal. It’s as if someone selling horse paperweights is invited to critique the Olympic equestrian team. It is, in a word, absurd- and testimony to the breakdown in integrity where science and media come together. With all due respect to Ms. Teicholz, she is not a nutrition expert, and not a scientist. She is a journalist herself, and one with a book to sell. She refers to bias, but fails to highlight her own. If the DGAC report is valid, it calls into question her own conclusions- as well it should. She may therefore have suspect motives in seeking discredit this work.  The same author wrote much the same in the New York Times, and I was stunned then, as now, that what was once rarefied territory for truly expert opinion is being allocated so indiscriminately. The notion that the opinion of one journalist with a book to sell is in any way a suitable counterweight to the conclusions of a diverse, multidisciplinary, independent group of scientists who reviewed evidence for the better part of two years and relied upon knowledge and judgment cultivated over decades of relevant work- is nearly surreal. It is a disservice to the readership in both cases.

1096128898_9870a49953_zArielle Duhaime-Ross wrote an excellent piece for The Verge: Medical journal’s bogus investigation could derail better dietary guidelines.

It seems a shame that no editor at the British Medical Journal chose to respond to our questions. Obviously, greater oversight was needed for this article, or else such egregious mistakes would not appear in an “investigative” report in the journal’s pages.

So what does this all mean?  Of course butter, meat and cheese belong in a healthy diet.  I certainly enjoy all three.  But it’s important to not give them such virtuous qualities that it’s a green light to over do it. My recommendations remain the same as my earlier post when Nina’s book came out and there were a flurry of headlines declaring that saturated fat is back:

  • Enjoy your butter, just don’t over do it.
  • Don’t put so much faith in coconut oil or other trendy fats — use them because you like the taste, not because you think they’ll improve your health (or work miracles).
  • Just because a nutrient or food was found to be not as harmful as once thought, it does not mean it’s beneficial.
  • If you want the flavor of animal fats in your cooking (lard, duck fat, schmaltz), check it out. All things in moderation.
  • Rather than working so hard to increase saturated fat, find ways to swap in more good fats:  extra-virgin olive oil, nuts, olives, avocado.
  • Read beyond the headlines — and don’t rely on journalists as your main source of nutrition advice.

image: flickr user r.nial bradshaw, triple bacon cheeseburger; flickr user chun kit to, butter; all creative commons

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Will Jackfruit Be the Next Big Food Craze?

6989055133_037cff16ef_zHello, Jack.

There’s a new fruit in town.

Jackfruit is starting to build some major buzz.  It was the big news coming out of last week’s Natural Products Expo East.  Two U.S. companies showcased jackfruit products on the exhibit floor: The Jackfruit Company and Upton’s Naturals.  And Food Business News cited jackfruit in its roundup of major trends from the show:jackfruit

The demand for plant-based nutrition has given rise to creative new alternatives to animal protein, such as the jackfruit, an emerging “it” ingredient in the natural and organic marketplace. High in fiber and low in calories, this large Southeast Asian tree fruit has a texture likened to that of pulled pork, and at least two companies at Natural Products Expo East are offering it in packaged, ready-to-eat formats.

Chicago-based Upton’s Naturals produces barbecue and chili lime varieties of seasoned jackfruit. The Jackfruit Co., Cambridge, Mass., offers packaged young jackfruit in barbecue, Tex-Mex, curry and sesame ginger flavors. The latter company was founded on the mission to convert jackfruit waste into nutritious food and improve the livelihoods of farmers in India.

jackfruit company

Entertainment magazine E! cited jackfruit as a “hot new vegan ingredient” after spotting it taking pork belly’s place in baos (steamed buns) at Susan Feniger’s Street Food in LA.

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Phytonutrients are the New Antioxidants

16236579616_eaff57bf09_zCan we just all get over antioxidants.  The real workhorses in fruits, vegetables, grains and other plant-based foods are the phytonutrients (“phyto” means plant).

I cringe a bit when I hear people talk about antioxidants these days, or when I see food and beverage manufacturers make antioxidant claims.  Here’s the deal, antioxidants are out.  Phytonutrients are in.  Learn why in my latest post for U.S. News & World Report’Eat + Run blog:

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The Good, Bad and Ugly of Blogging

blogI don’t know what’s wrong with me.  Guess I’m getting fed up with the state of food and fitness blogging today.  I’ve written about my concerns a lot lately — including my latest post for U.S. News & World Report’s Eat + Run Blog, reprinted below.  Fortunately, there are some great bloggers out there — and I’ve listed 10 that you should know.

Where people get information about diet and health is changing. Now, it’s likely to be their news feed instead of a newspaper. Rather than a registered dietitian or physician, it’s a blogger with a large following on Instagram and Twitter.

Trouble is, some of the advice from today’s online health coaches, wellness warriors and citizen scientists is unreliable and can even be dangerous.

Hadley Freeman chronicled the current state of wellness blogging in an excellent article in The Guardian. “Instead of qualifications in boring things such as nutrition and science, the wellness guru has a blog and an Instagram account,” she wrote. “From these, she advises thousands, even millions, of followers in her friendly, informal tone to avoid the likes of tropical fruits (too high in sugar) and stock up instead on cold-pressed green juices. She makes dark references to the many ways in which today’s food industry is making us all sick. She also includes many, many photos of herself to confirm the efficacy of her recommendations.”

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