Banana milk, cassava flour and pea yogurt may sound exotic, but I predict they're going to be in your shopping cart in 2019. These are just a few of the items that caught my attention at the annual Food and Nutrition Conference and Expo, an event that brings together more than 13,000 nutrition and food professionals to learn about new research and product innovations. As consumers look for more creative and convenient ways to enjoy a plant-based diet, we're going to see more products in that category. Plus, diets such as paleo, Whole30 and low-FODMAP will become mainstream. Here are the nutrition and food trends you'll see in the new year.
- - - Plants in animal-based dishes:
Consumers are craving more plant-based foods for their health and a desire to help the environment, but not everyone wants to go vegetarian or vegan. That's why working plant-based ingredients into animal-based dishes is a trend to watch.
One example is combining mushrooms with ground meat for flavorful, healthier and more environmentally friendly recipes. Earlier this year, more than 350 independent restaurants developed their mushroom-blended take on the classic burger in the James Beard Foundation's Blended Burger Project. Sonic Drive-In became the first fast food restaurant to serve a blended burger made with 35 percent mushrooms, resulting in a burger that's less than 350 calories and offers phytochemicals and antioxidants that could help reduce the risk of chronic disease. The Sonic Slinger was offered for a limited time in the spring and proved so popular it was served for a limited time in the fall and is back as part of a new promotion, according to Scott Uehlein, Sonic's vice president of product innovation and development. In 2019, expect to see more restaurants offering up mushroom-and-meat blends, as well as more recipes for the home cook that combine plant-based ingredients with meat.
Bone broth as a base for plant-based soups is another example of the animal-based and plant-based worlds combining to offer the best of both worlds. Bone broth has been trending upward for the past couple of years as a key component of both the paleo and Whole30 diets. It's thought to have potential benefits for digestive health and at the very least, contains some protein. Instead of sipping on straight bone broth as in years past, this year you'll see it used as a base for classic and creative soups. Companies such as Pacific Foods have introduced bone broth-based organic soups with the addition of plant-based ingredients such as kale and beans for more staying power and nutrition.
- - - Pea protein:
People who prefer plant-based protein would like higher amounts that are quick and easy to prepare and eat. Vegetarian Traveler has introduced portable, shelf-stable blends of roasted peas, soybeans and chickpeas to easily add 15 to 17 grams of protein to salads, stir-fries and more.
Companies such as Dr. Praeger's have created protein-rich veggie burgers, nuggets and meatless sausage by using pea protein as a key ingredient, along with other simple ingredients such as vegetables and avocado oil. Their All American Veggie Burger serves up an impressive 28 grams of protein and four grams of fiber.
- - - "Special diets":
We've reached the point where what was once referred to as a "special diet" seems to be the norm. Products that are "free from" certain ingredients and that carry diet claims will be even more commonplace in brick-and-mortar and online grocery stores.
- - - Low-FODMAP products:
For the estimated 12 percent of American adults suffering from irritable bowel syndrome, a low-FODMAP diet may help manage symptoms. "FODMAP" stands for fermentable oligosaccharides, disaccharides, monosaccharides and polyols, types of carbohydrates that for a minority of people can cause gas, bloating and other digestive issues. The list of potentially problematic foods includes commonly eaten items such as apples, dairy, beans, wheat, garlic and onions.
Starting a low-FODMAP diet used to mean closely reading labels, but now there are low-FODMAP third-party certifications from Monash University and the FODMAP Friendly Food Program, both based in Australia.
Enjoy Life Foods, a company that makes allergy-friendly products that are free from gluten and 14 common allergens, has introduced low-FODMAP products such as cookies and protein bites.
Lo-Fo Pantry has low-FODMAP flour and baking mixes made from unbleached non-genetically modified organism (GMO) wheat that has had the FODMAPs extracted using chemical-free methods.
Even large brands such as Campbell Soup are getting in on the low-FODMAP trend. They've introduced Prego Sensitive Recipe Italian sauce which doesn't contain high-FODMAP onions and garlic.
- - - Paleo and Whole30 labels:
More products are carrying special diet claims on their labels such as "paleo" and "Whole30 friendly." Although almond flour and coconut flour will continue to be popularfor both diets, consumers are looking for the next grain-free flour - and some want a nut-free option because of allergies. That's why Bob's Red Mill Natural Foods has introduced cassava flour made from whole cassava root. Cassava flour has a neutral flavor and fine texture, so it works well in a variety of cooking and baking applications. Expect to see more recipes featuring cassava flour on Pinterest and your favorite cooking blogs.
- - - More dairy-free alternatives
Dairy-free milk alternatives such as almond milk, oat milk and pea milk continue to be popular; in 2019, I think, banana milk will be a top choice. Not only is banana milk naturally sweet, meaning there's no added sugars, a cup of banana milk has as much potassium as a small banana. Brands such as Mooala Bananamilk are also going to be fortified with calcium to match the amount in cow's milk.
The dairy-free yogurt category will continue to experience significant growth this year, according to a market research report from Packaged Facts. In 2019, you'll see a wider selection of yogurt alternatives made from peas, soy, coconut, almonds, cashews and more.
- - - Brissette is a registered dietitian, nutrition writer, TV contributor and president of 80TwentyNutrition.com.