Top Food Trends Spotted at ADA’s Food & Nutrition Conference & Expo

I recently returned from the American Dietetic Association’s Food & Nutrition Conference & Expo in San Diego.  There were lots of good sessions, including the “great weight debate” that I previously wrote about: Is The War On Obesity a Battle Worth Fighting?  One big piece of news coming out of the meeting is our association’s name change.  Effective in January 2012, we’ll become the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics.  I would have liked the word “food” in the name, but overall I like this new branding.   But more about that later.

In the meantime, I wanted to recap a few of the trends I spotted on the exhibit floor.


Digestive health has been named a top mega-trend by New Nutrition Business (and others), which has fueled the popularity of  probiotics.  These good bacteria are no longer simply in yogurt — they’re showing up in all sorts of products, including Good Belly Juice Drinks and GoLive Probiotic Drinks that are sweetened with monk fruit extract.  Expect to hear more about monk fruit, which had its own booth touting this New Zealand fruit extract as a natural, calorie-free sweetener (brand name Purefruit).




Several exhibitors showcased products that are rich sources of omega-3 fatty acids, including these portable packets of flaxseeds that are pre-ground and ready to sprinkle onto foods. They were promoted as “the delicious easy way to take your flax with you.”


I prefer to get my omega-3s by eating fish, and one fish that made a big splash at the meeting was barramundi, dubbed “the sustainable seabass.”  Expect to hear a lot more about barramundi that provides a trio of tough-to-find benefits all in one fish:  high in omega-3s, low in mercury and sustainably raised. It’s increasingly available in supermarkets, including some of these convenient packages of frozen fillets.   Learn more at


Whole grains

The evidence on whole grains keeps getting stronger, yet only 1 in 10 Americans meet whole grain recommendations (at least 3 servings a day.).  But it’s getting easier with all the new whole grain products popping up. I thought these Flatout breads were interesting: 100% whole grain with flax, 90 calories, Hungry Girl endorsed.  (Although I think they should have skipped the “guilt free” description, all bread should be guilt free.)  Hungry Girl herself, Lisa Lillien, was at the Expo at some other booths showcasing products that she endorses, such as Laughing Cow cheese.
IMG_1208Whole grain pastas from Jovial foods played up the ancient grains and artisanal trends.  Touted as “harvested from history,” these pastas are made from einkorn (meaning “single grain”), which is one of the earliest cultivated forms of wheat, along with emmer wheat.  I thought these pastas looked really great (and a gluten-free brown rice pasta from Jovial just won a Cooking Light taste test award), but I was really disappointed that the company didn’t have any products to sample.  Note to the company:  if you want to promote your product to dietitians, let us taste it. Play up the deliciousness by actually serving the pasta.  Let us experience the product.  Don’t just talk to us about your history and nutrition facts.  We also care about the taste.


Nutrition bars

There were lots of different “nutrition bars” on display, some I liked more than others.  I think these kinds of products have a place, but I’m not crazy about using them as meal replacements.  I don’t always like some of the claims they make either.  Here’s one that I was less than enthusiastic about: thinkThin.  First, why the emphasis on thin?  The company’s tagline is “deliciously natural nutrition” and the website describes the bars as an “excellent source of energy without the punishing side effects of gluten and sugar.”  They make such a big deal about these bars being sugar-free, but what you may not realize is that they’re made with sugar alcohols, specifically maltitol.  This doesn’t mean they’re calorie free (and they typically have the same number of total carbs as other bars).  Some people have trouble digesting sugar alcohols and they’ve been linked to intestinal discomfort:  see what the American Diabetes Association has to say about sugar alcohols.  The company may think “it’s all about what’s inside.”  Well, I’m not so impressed with what’s inside.  Sorry.  Not sugar coating my comments.



Now here’s a trend I fully support. It was great to see different forms of vegetables make an appearance on the exhibit floor. Cut ‘n Clean Greens sampled several interesting vegetables, including this kale salad kit with avocado tomatillo dressing.  It was delicious!  Tossing kale with the vinaigrette prior to serving helps to soften up the aggressive greens. I’m all for making vegetables more convenient so they’re easier for families to incorporate into their meal rotation.  The company also served a kale quesadilla that was amazing.  This is the kind of product that can help mainstream kale.  Loved it.


Check out what others had to say about food trends at FNCE:

Teaspoon Communications
Michelle Dudash
Emma Stirling
The Buzz Bin
Food and Health Communications
Green Grapes Nutrition
Self Magazine – Eat Like Me  
Meal Makeover Moms’ Kitchen

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