Natural Food Forecast for 2014

In September 2013 I attended Natural Products Expo East, showcasing the latest “natural, organic, and healthy” foods as a reporter for The Muslim Link.  Since then, I’ve noticed many new and coming products appearing at grocery stores, on billboards, and in people’s lunches and runners’ fuel belts.

The natural food forecast for 2014 looks sunny, with highs in creativity and inclusion such that there is something for everyone without sacrificing nutrition or flavor.  The winds blow towards social responsibility, sustainability, and animal welfare. Here is a 5-part prediction.

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1. Gluten-Free. 100 million Americans shop for products free from gluten.  For 99% of the population, individuals without Celiac Disease, the scientific verdict on whether gluten is good or bad remains unknown. [For those who suffer from Celiac, the verdict is clear: gluten causes the body’s immune system to attack the small intestine, inhibiting the absorption of nutrients and leading to the development of a host of autoimmune disorders].  The majority of Americans who buy gluten-free do not have Celiac Disease—some people have food intolerances and others go gluten-free for weight loss or other health reasons.  Some runners find that avoiding gluten makes them feel more energized. Regardless of the reasons, the options are endless. From cereals and cookies to breads and cakes, the makers of gluten-free items have perfected their recipes such that it is nearly impossible to discern a gluten-free pancake from an ordinary pancake. Instead of wheat flour, these products use combinations of ground amaranth, corn, millet, oats, potatoes, quinoa, rice, and other starches to optimize texture and taste.

          EnjoyLife, Gratify, Udi’s, Glow, Glutino

2. Vegan & Vegetarian. The health benefits of eating vegetables are conclusive: lower blood pressure; reduced risk of heart disease, stroke, and certain cancers; lower risk of eye and digestive diseases; and improved levels of blood sugar in the body.  Some runners also find that they attain optimal performance on Vegan and Vegetarian diets—say, Scott Jurek.  While many embrace these lifestyles fulltime, I believe that in the coming year, more and more eaters will opt to go vegetarian part time, such as for Meatless Monday. The healthiest way to eat green is to go straight for the veggies; nevertheless, the frozen and boxed food aisles are filling up fast with conveniently made vegan and vegetarian options—meatless burgers, ground beef without beef, tofu-roni pizza, and junk food galore—frosted cupcakes without a trace of animal, brownies without eggs, ice cream free of mammal milk, and cookies as you like them: crispy or chewy or somewhere in between.

          SolCuisine, Vege USA, Beyond Meat, Chicago Vegan Foods, Earth Balance, Hilary’s Eat WellNoBull Burger, Treeline Treenut Cheese

3. The Nut Case. While more and more studies show the benefits of eating nuts for a healthy heart, allergies appear to be on the rise, too.  Many school cafeterias designate Peanut-Free tables (technically peanuts are not nuts), and in 2014, that doesn’t mean that you must jettison America’s favorite sandwich. Pair jelly with a better butter: almond, cashew, sesame (tahini), sunflower seed, pumpkin seed, flaxseed, hempseed, pistachio, hazelnut, or soybean. I am grateful that we have so many options, especially for those who need them; and I still love peanut butter.

          OnceAgain Nut Butter, SunButter, Crazy Richard’s Peanut Butter CompanyHampton Farms, Peanut Butter & Co.,

4. Yummy Bars. My five-year-old niece earns the credit for this prediction. At the tradeshow, she asked, “Why are there so many yummy bars?

  1. They are yummy. Watch out, they taste more like cookies than cardboard.
  2. Quick protein and carbs to satisfy busy people on the go.

Runners especially love yummy bars for the miles. Usually I have to make my own because the stuff on the market is saturated with sugar and oils that don’t sit well in my stomach while I’m trying to run. In 2014, we have plenty of options high in energy and free of processed sugar. Several are catered for those Born to Run—Chia is hot, as is gluten-free, peanut-free, and vegan.

          Enjoy Life Foods, Your Bar Factory, Chia Star, Zing Bars, Epic Bar, GoodOnYa Bar, NuGo Nutritiono, thinkThin

5. Real Snacks: Move out of the way, Doritos. 2014 brings snacks made out of real food: freeze dried mangos, Raw Kale Chips, and half popped popcorn. Isn’t this genius? When I eat popcorn, I search for the last kernels that failed to fully pop, and savor the little bit burned, little bit crunchy, little bit tooth-shattering, and entirely mouth-watering burst. Imagine a bag of these treasures made out of non-GMO corn. The freeze dried fruit tantalizes, equally–mango in a bag, year round without the messiness of pulp, seed, strings, and flesh. Real food snacks beat fake food snacks on taste, nutrition, and desirability.

          Crunchies, Skinny Pop, KettlePop, Popcornopolis, Inc., HalfPops, Tiny But Mighty Popcorn, Snak King, Way Better Snacks, Late July Organic Snacks, Laughing Giraffe Organics, Brad’s Raw Foods, SeaSnax

I endorse the deliciousness of most of the products above and remind myself that “natural, organic, and healthy” is no license to over-indulge. We’ve got to stay smarter than labels and enjoy everything in moderation—consider the 1/3rd Rule.

Unfortunately, in my experience with HalfPops, Udi’s, and others, it is hard to eat just one.

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The wildest food forecast for 2014 has nothing to do with the intake of food, but rather with its excretion. Meet The Squatty Potty, the craziest thing I saw at Expo East:

A grown man demonstrated this apparatus, a stool that fits at the base of a toilet, elevating the feet of the user. Modern toilets subject the knee to a 90-degree angle with the torso, which inhibits waste from passing through the small intestines. Squatting raises the knees above the hips, and relaxes the muscle that keeps the colon kinked shut while sitting such that waste can pass through more easily.

Aisles and aisles of food items included digestive aids such as teas, supplements, and other works of wonder. That is how we have always handled gastrointestinal problems: drink 3 tablespoons of olive oil on an empty stomach; try this ancient tea before going to bed; eat a cup of prunes throughout the day; surrender and splurge on MiraLax or some other laxative. We have always solved our problems with digestion by ingesting more. The idea that we could solve the constipation epidemic not with what we eat, but with how we go, turns the lifestyle of the modern man upside down.

Anyone ever tried a Turkish toilet? Please don’t answer.

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