Justin Robinson by Justin Robinson

Say hello to purple coconuts and goodbye to macros!

An analysis of food trends for 2017 reveal that overall, consumers want real food, including purple everything and more coconut-based products. This real/whole-food based approach to eating is crowding out the "as long as it fits your macros" notion, meaning that we are taking to heart the fact that a calorie is not a calorie. With any luck, this simple-ingredient, unprocessed, nature-made advance will dominate our kitchens and dining rooms, leading us to slimmer waistlines and happier palates in 2017 and beyond.

In 2016, the top food trends included cleaner restaurant menus, less added sugar, full-fat dairy, wheat flour alternatives, beets/beet juice and designer oatmeal. For 2017, we expect more of the same—wholesome, local foods with a lot of flavor, color, and nutrients in addition to creative twists on tiresome meals and snacks. Here are the five food trends that will define the coming year:

  1. Purple Everything. Acai berries and purple cauliflower have been around awhile, but this year purple asparagus, corn and potatoes will take up more produce real estate. Purple foods contain high amounts of the phytonutrients resveratrol, anthocyanidins and phenolics, which benefit heart, arterial, bone and cognitive health. They also look fantastic and taste indistinguishable from their green and beige counterparts. Truthfully, most Americans need more of every color on their plates, but because variety is crucial for overall health, do not fill your plate with purples at the expense of other colorful (including white) fruits and vegetables. Aim to include three or more colors at every meal.
  2. Real Burgers, Fries and Shakes. To the delight of fast-food fanatics and foodies alike. Shake Shack, a popular NYC-based burger joint, has made its way to California. Along the lines of In ‘N Out and 5 Guys, Shake Shack offers burgers, dogs, fries, shakes and alcohol, sans artificial ingredients, hormones or preservatives. Other fast-food restaurants are sure to follow suit and words like grass-fed, free-range and antibiotic-free will continue to inundate menus and the meat sections of grocery stores. During the coming year, health messages likely will not read, “Don’t Eat Burgers, Fries and Shakes,” but rather “Enjoy REAL Burgers, Fries and Shakes.”
  3. Coconut Everything. The coconut is incredibly versatile and a great source of natural sugars and healthy fats. It can create water, milk, oil, sugar and flour, while the “meat” can be used for snacks and desserts. Health-wise, the specific saturated fats in coconut oil may, in fact, raise total cholesterol levels, but may simultaneously raise HDL (the good cholesterol), which can have an overall positive effect on lipids. Your skin may also benefit, as coconuts is becoming an increasingly common ingredient in beauty and hygiene products.
  4. Alternative Pastas. The popularity of gluten-free diets has exposed many people (celiacs and non-celiacs) to wheat alternatives for bread, tortillas, pizza crusts and pasta. Some wheat alternatives, such as potato flour and rice flour, offer no additional health benefits over all-purpose flour (unless you are allergic to gluten). Others, however, like chickpea (garbanzo bean) flour are higher in protein and offer a different but delicious taste and texture. Further, vegetables such as zucchini and squash are displacing flours all together.
  5. Macros No More. Last year, nutritionists and other health professionals objected when the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics announced its approval of Kraft American Cheese-Food Singles. Their message was simple—despite being low in fat and a good source of calcium, cheese-food products do not classify as health food (and barely as food). This message reinforced the fact that ingredients matter more than calories, carbs, fat, protein and added vitamins/minerals. Moving into 2017 (and hopefully for decades to come), health experts will continue to emphasize quality over quantity and promote unprocessed, natural foods over specific macronutrient ranges.

Some trends fade fast, while others pave the way for innovation. Will these food trends remain popular in 2017 and beyond or quickly flop into fads? We will find out for sure in about a year.

Here’s to a happy and healthy 2017!

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