Trend Report: Natural Foods

Update from the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics Food and Nutrition Conference and Expo (FNCE)

Just last week, thousands of registered dietitians and other food and nutrition professionals congregated at the Pennsylvania Convention Center in Philadelphia for the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics annual Food and Nutrition Conference and Expo, popularly termed “FNCE.” Not only an opportunity to learn from the leaders in the nutrition community, but a chance to network with other dietitians, and learn about the latest trends in food.

(Photo Source)

This year, the theme clearly was “natural.” Both research and consumer demand are moving the marketing of food in the direction of all things “real,” or “unprocessed.” Rather than increase added fats, artificial ingredients, and other additives, it seems as if more manufacturers are jumping on the natural foods bandwagon, which I must applaud. Considering there are numerous reports of the dangers of ingredients including partially hydrogenated vegetable oils (trans fats), saturated fats, and added sugars, the message of more real foods with fewer ingredients is coming in loud and clear.

Product spotlight – Monk fruit
Monk fruit is the “new kid” on the low calorie sweetener block, yet has been around for thousands of years. Touted as an “all natural” alternative to sugar and other artificial sweeteners, the makers of Splenda have recently introduced Nectresse. Though cultivated in Asia, jam packed with antioxidants, and harvested using sustainable farming methods, Nectresse is still a low calorie sweetener; a topic which has caused much debate. Some reports claim low calorie sweeteners have a direct impact on overweight/obesity, including increasing craving for sweets and increasing appetite. Recent research from the Journal of Nutrition reports that though obesity trends are increasing, the impact of low calorie sweeteners on appetite, satiety, and body weight is not directly correlated and more research needs to be conducted.

Fun with Food
There were many so many exhibits to visit, sample products, and learn about the latest research on foods. One of the highlights was meeting Mr. California Raisin and the Del Monte Sweetie Pea!

Portion Distortion
Since the ChooseMyPlate guidelines were established, and obesity rates continue to increase, a top priority in nutrition education is to understand portion size and balance. This divided paper plate from Precise Portions is a fantastic way to encourage healthy eating, providing a large segment to be filled with vegetables and fruits, and two smaller segments for meats/proteins, and whole grains. The goal would be to keep these proportions in check, and not fill the large section with anything EXCEPT vegetables. Great plate for kids and teens, and perhaps others who could use some healthy direction!

Gluten-Free Marketplace
As the pediatric nutrition advisor for the University of Chicago Celiac Disease Center, the gluten-free market is always a top priority. Even the gluten-free offerings are becoming more “natural.” This choice from Garden Lites was not only DELICIOUS, but also happens to be gluten-free. This product is perfect for the picky eater who may not indulge in vegetables, the gluten-free dieter, and also anyone who could use a little sweet treat, without feeling guilty! Check out Garden Lites brand’s other offerings as well. Yum! Love their tagline: Real Food. Real Ingredients. Real Delicious.

Lara Field MS, RD, LDN is a Registered Dietitian and Specialist in Pediatrics with over a decade of clinical and client experience. When she’s not actively working to keep her clients healthy, she’s a busy mother of two active boys and loves testing new recipes in her kitchen. Follow her on Instagram to see her recipe ideas, product suggestions, and see how she manages a healthy lifestyle @larafield.