Are you curious what the best food trends are going to be in 2018? What’s going to dethrone seaweed and coconut oil to claim the crown as the next “superfood”? (Or maybe we’ll stop using that term altogether, that would be the best trend of all! But I digress.)
This past October, I made my way from Toronto to Chicago for the Food and Nutrition Conference and Expo. The expo is massive, and basically like a playground for food companies to showcase their newest and best products to dietitians, bloggers, and educators. In the world of food shows, this one ranks up there for swag, samples, and sheer size. As you can imagine, dietitians from all over the U.S. and Canada look forward to it every year. It’s always fun to see what food trends are going to emerge in the coming year, especially ones that I know real people like you will appreciate for making their lives easier and healthier.
Here are the healthy packaged food trends that I’m most excited about, and why:
1. Single serve packs
Single serve packs aren’t exactly new, but you can expect plenty of new brands to start offering them in 2018. Hey, we’ve all made the mistake of sitting down with a whole bag of something and eating the entire thing. That’s why single serves are so useful—it’s built-in portion control. Single serve packs of anything are also super-portable, which is perfect for all of us who want to grab and go. Instead of missing a meal or a snack because you’re unprepared or too busy, these products will have you covered. Toss them into your work bag or keep them in your desk; you’ll never go hungry again!
Here are my picks for new items in this category: Mighty Muffins are a high-protein muffin from Flapjacked. I expected it to be dry and flavorless, but it was delicious—and handy, since it comes in a single-serve cup that you pop into the microwave. With 20 grams of protein, they’re the perfect portable snack!
For another high-protein snack, I loved Starkist Tuna Creations and Selects E.V.O.O. Wild-Caught Pink Salmon pouches. They even come with their own fork, and are each around 70 to 100 calories.
Ready-to-sip soups from Zupa Noma are low-sodium and packed with delish ingredients like tomatillos, pumpkin, turmeric, and cashews, in combinations like cauliflower cashew and beet, orange, and basil. These healthy, innovative soups are something that I can recommend without reservation to people who want to grab their lunch and go.
Plant Powered Protein individual salad kits from Eat Smart were incredibly popular at the show, with good reason: They’re healthy, portable, and scrumptious. No more complaining that you don’t have time to make a salad before you leave for work—these are your new lunch option! Each kit has plant-based protein toppings like edamame, nuts, and seeds, along with fresh salad greens and a delicious dressing, with 11 to 14 grams of protein and around 370 calories.
2. Snack food that’s healthier
Let’s face it, we all like to treat ourselves, and ‘better-for-you’ snack foods were a top trend at the show this year. While I do believe that with junk food you should just eat the real stuff and get over it, lots of you are still looking for “healthier” options. If you like to enjoy treats regularly and have trouble with moderation, you should probably consider a more virtuous version of your favorite snack.
The interesting part is that a lot of these new options are plant-based—so if you’re vegetarian, vegan, or just trying to get more plants into your diet, you’ll have more choices for snacking!
My faves in this category were: Young coconut “jerky,” from Cocoburg. Vegan and made from (obvs) young coconut, I was prepared for another vegan coconut bacon experience (from which I’ve never recovered). Turns out, this jerky was yummy! I tried all three flavors—ginger teriyaki, chili lime, and original, and they were all fantastic! They’re chewy and mild, with flavorings that actually taste great.
I also love and recommend the probiotic Kraut Krisps from Farmhouse Culture. Like a tortilla chip but better, these are crispy and zesty. In terms of the probiotic, these chips are legit, with the strain bacillus coagulans added into the mix. As with all probiotic-fortified foods, I wouldn’t use them as your sole source of probiotics, because we don’t know exactly how much of the probiotic they actually contain. Every bit helps, though!
Popped Sorghum from Pop I.Q. is like little bits of popcorn sprinkled with cheddar and other flavors. A gluten-free ancient grain, sorghum has more protein and fiber than popcorn. I love that this product comes in a single-serve bag that’s 150 calories, which is a perfect snack size!
3. Nuts and seeds everywhere
Nuts and seeds are here to stay…and that’s a good thing. Full of fiber and good fats, they boost nutrition in almost anything you put them in. Now companies are taking nut and seed-based products to a new level by offering them in different concoctions. It was good to see more seed-based products, especially for those of us who have kids who either have nut allergies or who aren’t allowed to bring nuts into school.
I’m loving these great ones: Betsy’s Best, headed by Betsy Opyt, R.D., has come out with innovative nut and seed butters that are mixed with healthy add-ins like flax, chia, and cinnamon. I was sad when my suitcase was overweight and I had to surrender my jar of the sunflower seed butter with chia and cinnamon to the ticket agent at the airport. Fail. I really hope she enjoyed it!
Yum Butter has a new line of nut butters in a squeeze pouches (no more mess!) that win the award for best flavors and best intentions. Each time you buy a pouch or jar of their product, the company donates to children in need in developing countries. These nut and seed butters are made with fair trade ingredients, and they taste great. Four words: chocolate espresso peanut butter. With around the same number of calories as regular peanut butter, these are one of my top picks!
If you like puffed snacks, P-nuff Crunch puffs are made with peanuts and navy beans and are a delicious, gluten-free, high-protein snack. They also have 5 grams of protein, 3 grams of fiber, and only 2 grams of sugar per 1-ounce serving. They tasted really good, too.
4. Very different drinks
Let’s face it: Most of us don’t hydrate enough. I get it, some of you don’t like plain water. You don’t want to drink too many sugar-sweetened beverages either—and some people also like to avoid artificial sweeteners—so up until now, your choices have may have been a bit limited. Not anymore! The new drinks make it easy for you to drink more and stay healthy.
Here are the standouts: Farmhouse Culture’s Gut Punch sparkling probiotic drink is made from fermented veggies, and is a great alternative to kombucha or sugary sodas. With 2 to 3 grams of sugar per serving and flavors like cola and strawberry hibiscus, I think these are a great addition to a healthy diet for someone who wants a water alternative. They taste just like kombucha!
Gaia’s Golden Milk is everybody’s favorite cup of turmeric drink in a powdered base, so you can bring it with you and enjoy whenever! Its ingredients include turmeric, dates, and herbs, and it even contains black pepper to help your body absorb the active compound curcumin from the turmeric. Smart. Just mix into hot milk and go. (It’s worth nothing that the health benefits of turmeric are probably overstated, but there’s nothing wrong with enjoying it if you like it!)
Veggemo pea protein milk is a pea-based milk alternative, so now you can have your alt dairy and your protein, too. It comes in unsweetened, original, and vanilla flavors, and has 6 grams of protein per serving.
CocoLibre coconut water with protein takes ordinary coconut water and adds 20 grams of grass-fed milk protein per serving! With flavors like cocoa, coffee, and unsweetened vanilla, coconut water lovers can now get a protein boost with their hydration.
Remember, food trends come and go, but healthy eating is always important. The best trends make healthy eating more enjoyable, convenient, or tasty—and that’s, fortunately, something we all have to look forward to in the coming year.