Trendspotting at the Food & Nutrition Conference & Expo: Year of the Bean

PicMonkey bean Collage

I just returned from the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics’ 2014 Food & Nutrition Conference & Expo in Atlanta.  It’s always one of my favorite trendspotting events of the year. The conference — known as FNCE — brought together more than 8,000 registered dietitian nutritionists, nutrition science researchers, policy makers, and other industry leaders, along with more than 350 exhibitors.

The exhibit floor featured several specialty pavilions: gluten-free, natural and organic, diabetes and California Fresh (food products, services and technologies from 14 California-based exhibitors).  I’ve gathered up some of my favorite finds here.  Please note:  I was not compensated by any of these companies to write this post and do not have any type of marketing relationship with them (although Bob’s Red Mill does send me new products every now and then).  These are simply products that I personally enjoyed or thought they represented a trend and had an interesting story to tell.

Bean Bonanza

One trend that I spotted right away was the prominence of beans or legumes, including peas and lentils.  These plant-based proteins were everywhere — in crackers, chips, pasta, hummus, meat alternatives, nut-free butters and more.  This trend will just keep get bigger.  The United Nations has declared 2016 the International Year of Pulses (which are another name for dry peas, lentils and chickpeas).

The two major industry groups representing beans and pulses include:  USA Dry Pea and Lentil Council and US Dry Bean Council.  Pictured above is one of the items featured at the exhibit for the USA Dry Pea and Lentil Council, it was a delicious lentil cupcake topped with a frosting made with the Sneaky Chef’s No-Nut Butter made with golden peas.  It was pretty amazing.  They’ve promised to include the recipe on their website — so I will keep you posted.  It’s a winner.

Harvest Snaps were showcasing crisps made with lentils, including Lentil Snaps in Tomato Basil and Onion Thyme flavors.  The snacks touted 40% less fat, good source of fiber and less sodium than traditional potato chips.  I especially enjoyed the bean pastas from Explore Asian, including the black bean pasta pictured above.  These were tasty.  I’m totally into my vegetable spiralizer and enjoy making veggie pasta impostors.  But now I’m excited to explore  more of these bean pastas, which are gluten-free and high in protein and fiber.

Bob’s Red Mill Heritage Beans included mung, adzuki, orca and cranberry beans.  Excited to try these. Perhaps my favorite bean product of all was Eat Well Embrace Life  hummus.  I’ve never seen such creative hummus flavors (including the latest varieties: sriracha carrot and beet hummus) and they’re all made with different types of beans beyond the traditional chickpeas — including white beans, lentils, black beans and edamame.  I especially liked the individual portions of hummus with crackers.

Beanitos has been out ahead of the bean trend with bean-based chips.  The company’s latest offerings are bean puffs, including hot chili lime, white cheddar and real cheezy (although I’m less enthusiastic about these).

A bean-based product I thought was truly neat is called Neat, dubbed “a healthy replacement for meat.” This creative meat alternative is made from pecans, chickpeas, oats and spices. You mix it with water and eggs (or a vegan egg mix made by Neat) and then cook it in a single flat layer in a skillet until it browns on both sides.  Then you chop it up to resemble ground beef.  The company was serving it in vegan nachos when I stopped by.

PicMonkeyneat Collage

What I especially liked about this product was the people behind it.  Many of my favorite products at FNCE were made by small start-up companies and the founder was at the booth handing out samples.  These folks were passionate about their creations.  They were authentic, sincere. They had a story to tell.  Here’s the story of Neat.

Good-for-You Convenience 

Another major trend I saw at FNCE was healthier versions of frozen and packaged foods.  Here are two of my favorites.

PicMonkeyConv Collage

Luvo offers better-for-you frozen entrees, flatbreads, burritos, breakfasts and yogurt bars with some real star power behind the company (partners include Derek Jeter and Jennifer Garner).  Not sure why I’m just learning about these products, but I am.  Again, this company has a story — a purpose behind the products.  And they may highlight “be good to you,” but the focus is all about the taste — and they didn’t disappoint.  I loved the cherry tomato and mozzarella flatbread (with a packet of balsamic glaze that you add after baking) and the chicken chile verde with polenta and black beans.  The company has embarked on a partnership with Delta airlines — which is such a good idea.  Airline food could use an upgrade.

Cook Simple is trying to redefine the boxed dinner.  This was another example of a passionate founder who had a story to tell.  I adored the husband and wife duo dishing up the samples.  I like this idea (a healthier hamburger helper) and their creative interpretations, including cowboy chili with quinoa and cinnamon, coconut curry and New Orleans jambalaya.

Healthy Kids Foods

Many exhibitors were showcasing healthier kids foods, especially snacks.  Well, this is rather important — I would say.


Bolthouse Farm Kids introduced several fun options, including these veggie snackers featuring baby-cut carrots with chili lime and ranch seasoning.  They also showcased new smoothies and fruit tubes.  Way to go.

Portion Control

Beyond food, I also saw several exhibitors showcasing ways to control portions and teach nutrition with specially designed plates, bowls and cups.  Here are a few examples.

PicMonkeyPlatesCollage jpg

In addition to portion control dishes, a product called MealEnders claimed to be the antidote for overeating.  These are ”signaling lozenges” to eat after a meal to fight the urge to overeat.   Here’s how the company explained how it works:

MealEnders’ active-taste formula rewards and resets your taste buds, freeing you from the temptation to overindulge.  First the delicious Reward Layer treats you to the sweet taste of dessert – a signal we typically associate with the end of a meal.  Then the Inner Core’s Active-Taste Layer releases a proprietary blend of gentle, cool tingling sensations on the tongue, which engage the trigeminal nerve, distracting your brain from the urge to continue overeating.  You can feel your MealEnder go to work instantly.

Could this be the new Sensa?  The company claims the lozenges are a tool for mindful eating.  I’m curious what my mindful eating colleagues think of this new product. mindful eating candy

So, did you attend FNCE this year?  What were the trends that you spotted?  Any favorite products?

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Friday Food News

Via Bloomberg Businessweek

Dunkin’ Donuts has tried a kimchi doughnut in Korea and a yogurt-filled one in Greece, reflecting the rise of fermentation as the next hot food trend, said Dunkin’ Brands Executive Chef Jeff Miller. In the U.S., the trend will likely come into play as the chain expands its sandwich line, Miller said.

Via The New York Times

The government in Thailand has developed a robot to test dishes at Thai restaurants outside of Asia to determine their quality and authenticity. The “e-delicous” machine measures the chemical composition of dishes and compares them to the country’s specialties that are programmed into its processor.


New York food purveyors are reaching tourists by selling their goods in rest stop vending machines. The farm-fresh machines dispense juices, fruit and baked goods from local eateries, exposing on-the-go diners to healthier options and increasing sales for local businesses.

Via Nation’s Restaurant News

Chefs are getting creative with holiday-inspired desserts this year, often swapping out pumpkin for lesser known squash varieties or turning traditional treats such as eggnog into unforgettable offerings, such as the eggnog ice cream sandwich from Cream in San Francisco. “The infusion of seasonal harvest ingredients into classic holiday treats provides guests with a festive dining experience,” said chef Michael Moorhouse.

Via Advertising Age

Starbucks is showing a day in the life of its stores in a global “Meet me at Starbucks” campaign that centers on a mini-documentary filmed in 59 stores across 28 countries. The nearly six-minute film, which will have a one-minute TV version, was created by 72andSunny and shows a wide array of customers, from dancing teenagers to elderly couples.

Via NPR’s The Salt

Chef Tim Byres, a member of the U.S. State Department’s Diplomatic Culinary Partnership, spent time cooking in Kyrgyzstan in an attempt to forge a connection between the U.S. and the central Asian nation. Byres said being a part of the Chef Corps showed him that culinary professionals all over the world face similar problems, such as “trying to keep a good hostess and trying to keep fingerprints off the glass door.”


image kimchi donut from Korea by bionicgrrrl on flickr


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Seeking Out Mindless Eating Solutions


I recently started a column on the Eat + Run blog for U.S. News and World Report, hope you’ll follow me over there.  My first column was 7 Mindless Eating Solutions, based on the new book by Brian Wansink, Slim By Design. Hope you’ll check it out.

Here’s a look at what I wrote about:

Throughout the day, we’re constantly nudged to eat more than we intended, says Cornell professor and food psychologist Brian Wansink, who put the concept of  “mindless eating” on the map.

Since our willpower can be wimpy, Wansink believes the best approach to achieve our goals is to change our environment – focusing on those places where most of our eating occurs. Many nutritionists today talk about our “toxic food environment” as the root of the obesity problem in this country. But I’m not one who believes the universe is conspiring to fatten us up at every turn.

Even so, there are lots of temptations – at home, during our work day, when we eat out and when we shop for food. It turns out, we buy and eat most of our calories (more than 80 percent) within five miles of where we live. Wansink calls this our food radius.

We make about 200 food decisions every day, Wansink estimates. Many of these are nearly subconscious food choices. Finish it or leave it? A little or a lot? He believes that by making a few tweaks in our food radius, we can eat healthier without even thinking about it – and without dieting (which I certainly support).

Based on years of research, Wansink has compiled these environmental design tweaks in a clever new book, out today, called “Slim By Design: Mindless Eating Solutions for Every Life.” This is not another diet book. Instead, it focuses on ways you can redesign your surroundings to stack the deck in your favor.

Here are seven ways you can eat better by changing your environment:

1. Makeover your home kitchen. The goal is to make tempting foods less visible and convenient. So try clearing your counters of any food other than a fruit bowl. Put the healthiest foods out front and center in your cupboards and pantry – with a separate, hard-to-reach snack cupboard. Get rid of the clutter and take out comfy chairs and the TV to make the room less friendly for lounging, which can lead to more grazing and snacking.

2. Rearrange your fridge. Transfer all your fruits and vegetables from the crisper bin to the top shelf of your refrigerator, and move your less healthy foods down into the crisper. Keep cut fruit and vegetables in plastic bags on the eye-level shelf of your fridge for easy grabbing. Wrap indulgent leftovers in aluminum foil or put in opaque containers.

3. Do-over your dinner table. Start by downsizing your dishes, using 9 to 10-inch plates instead of jumbo ones. Pre-plate your food from the stove or counter instead of serving family-style on the table. Use tall or small glasses for anything that’s not water. Use smaller serving bowls and teaspoons as serving spoons. Use the half-plate rule.

4. Strategize at restaurants. Ask the server to bring the water and not the bread. Don’t eat things as big as your head. Check the menu descriptions – anything described as “crispy” likely has 131 more calories, and “buttery” tends to have 102 more calories. Ask for a half-size portion or commit to taking half the meal home in a to-go bag.

5. Rethink your grocery trips. Pop a piece of sugar-free gum in your mouth before you start shopping to lessen cravings and impulse spending, or eat a healthy snack before you leave home. Divide your shopping cart in half, and reserve the front half for fruits and vegetables. Shop the healthiest aisles first: produce, lean meat, low-fat dairy and whole grains.

6. Change your workplace habits. Forget about a candy dish on your desk. People who had candy within an arm’s reach reported weighing 15.4 pounds more than those who didn’t. Pack your lunch more often, and eat with a friend instead of at your desk. When going through a lunch line, pick up a piece of fruit first. It seems to trigger a chain reaction of healthier choices.

7. Use social media. Reach out to your favorite restaurant and supermarket via Twitter to make requests. Blog, Tweet, post on Facebook or talk your successes so others can start changing their food radius and make themselves slim by design. Wansink started an online community that can help:


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Are Carrots the New Kale?



How did carrots make their move to the front of the pack?  Suddenly, everyone is talking about carrots.  Chefs are creating innovative menu items with carrots, and home cooks are reinventing this humble root vegetable — in main dishes, sides, drinks and desserts.  Take a look at the carrot trend over at Healthy Aperture.  It’s the topic of my latest Trend Spotlight.  You won’t believe all the innovative carrot dishes our Healthy Aperture bloggers are cooking up.

image by Nick Wheeler on flickr

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Friday Food News

PicMonkey Collage

via New York TimesReuters

No doubt, the biggest nutrition news of the week was the reporting on a new study in the Annals of Internal Medicine that seemed to extol praises on a low-carb diet for weight loss and reducing heart disease risk.  Although I encourage you to read beyond the headlines and take a look at the excellent response from Dr. David Katz, which was picked up in this great opinion piece in New York Times.  Even though the study did not conclude that we should eat a lot of meat and pour on the fat, I’m afraid the findings will be fodder for Paleo followers.  I liked this follow-up article from the New York Times reporter that wrote the earlier article on the study: New answers about carbs and fat.  I’m afraid people are more confused than ever.

In other nutrition research news:  childhood diet habits set in infancy via New York Times and Pediatrics, family meals may defuse cyberbullying’s impact via JAMA Pediatrics, and training your brain to prefer healthy foods via Nutrition & Diabetes.

via The New York Times

I thought this list of New York City culinary trends was fun.  Predictions include pig and fish collars, free house-filtered water and seafood charcuterie such as Oceana’s lobster terrine and smoked gravlax.

via The Washington Post 

The American tea market is now over $10 billion and growing. Black tea is the most popular type, but consumption of lesser-known teas such as rooibos and white tea is growing the fastest. Coffee demand has remained fairly stagnant, indicating some consumers may be replacing it with tea.

via Chicago Tribune

Food courts are being replaced with high-end food halls with gourmet offerings such as small-batch ice cream, artisanal coffee, high-quality breakfast sandwiches and butcher and cheese shops. “People are tired of shopping malls and supermarkets,” said developer Shaheen Sadeghi. “There’s a resurgence of food artisans and non-chain operators.”

via Washington Post

Millennials have different priorities than previous generations when buying food, according to a Food Marketing Institute report. They are more likely to shop and make shopping lists at the last-minute, and they are more likely to base those lists on specific recipes. The report also shows that more consumers are concerned about the sources of the food they buy and the ingredients in the items, compared with a 2007 survey.

via Fortune

Fortune and sister publication Food & Wine have identified the top 25 women who influence the way we eat and think about food. The list features CEOs, Founders, philanthropists, TV Hosts, Producers and more. Noted women include Christina Tosi of Momofuku Milk Bar, Giada De Laurentis, Gina Gallo of Gallo Winery and Kim Jordan of New Belgium Brewing, among others. See article for the full list.

via The Tennessean 

Vegetables are taking a  starring role in today’s trendy desserts such as pureed beet cake, kale gelato  with cinnamon and sweet corn ice cream. “I think people are more open to  trying unusual flavors,” said Lisa Bachman Jones, head baker at Fido in  Nashville, Tenn. “Our vegetable cakes and muffins have been really  popular.”

via Nation’s Restaurant News

Carrots’ nutrient content,  naturally sweet flavor and versatility are making them the darling of trendy  restaurant menus. Chefs are pureeing, roasting and caramelizing the root  vegetable to create side dishes, condiments, appetizers, ice cream and  doughnuts.


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