As we close the door on 2011, nutrition and wellness -- the pursuit of optimal health -- continues to lead the country as an issue and major challenge. Looking ahead, there is much to be hopeful about, and a few things to watch out for.
1. Bye Bye Calorie Counting, Hello Nutrient Balance
This trend began in the last few years with professionals like myself explaining the multiple benefits (energy, satiety, body composition) of learning to nutrient balance (blend of carbs, protein and fats) when you eat vs. just counting calories. It's picked up momentum with national brands, including weight loss programs touting the benefits as well. This trend will continue to gain support in 2012, gaining momentum with people who got bored with calorie counting as well as those who've experienced the benefits (which include less deprivation) of nutrient balance. So while 100 calories may be the "it" number, more people will be reading labels and asking whether the 100 calories provide a balance of nutrients.
2. We Have Got a Right to Know -- Is Our Food A GMO?
With an election year including a president up for re-election, many eyes, ears and mouths are focused on campaign promises that were made... but not kept. In the food realm, Obama's prior promise to require labeling of GMOs (genetically modified organisms) in our food supply stands out as organizations like the NonGMOProject.org and the Right2Know.org, as well as the Just Label It campaign conclude an exceptionally impactful year raising awareness for the multiple reasons to label GMOs compared to the singular reason (the GMO manufacturing companies don't want to) to not.
3. Squeeze it, Blend it, Mix it, But PLEASE Pour Me Some (Veggie) JUICE!
No we aren't talking about your breakfast OJ -- and in fact, fruit juice will likely continue to fall in favor unless paired with its veggie friends -- we ARE talking about the exponentially increasing popularity of veggie juices. The year 2012 will mark the introduction of the Starbucks/Evolution Fresh juice venture, bringing NYC and LA's juice shop trend all over America. Veggie juices are the bottled water or vitamin water trend of previous years, and with it carries the same cautions. Not all veggie juices are created equal -- know your juice ingredients, where they came from and how they are processed... and please oh please don't leave a plastic juice bottle in the car to be consumed "later."
4. Seeds of Change
From chia to hemp to Sacha Inchi to sesame, sunflower and pumpkin, this year will continue to see the power of seeds coming to a store or restaurant menu near you. With nut allergies prolific to the point that several schools and gathering places becoming "nut-free," seeds have swooped in to showcase their health benefits. From hemp's complete amino acid ("complete protein") and balanced essential fatty acid profiles, to chia as the "fiber solution," to once-maligned seeds like sunflower regaining popularity, seeds will be everywhere in their whole form, isolated oils and as "seed butters."
5. Oh Oh Organic... The Right Stuff
With barely a month going by without a new study raising concerns or identifying definitive harm of one or more of the numerous chemicals known to be used in industrial agriculture, moms and moms-to-be will continue to lead the battle cry (via the power of the purchase) for more organic food options. It's news to the organic food sector that we are in an economically challenged time as it continues to grow with continued loyalty from organic buyers as well as new consumers flirting with organic food consumption in categories from baby food to breakfast food to dining out and even airplane options.
6. Tablets, Capsules and Pills Move Over, Liquid and Powder Dietary Supplements Have Arrived
Whether you believe the argument that they are more easily absorbed, find the ease of use compelling or just can't seem to find your favorite blend in a tablet or capsule anymore, chances are if you take supplements you are taking -- or in 2012 -- will be taking at least one liquid or powder product. There is truth in the absorption issue for many nutrients, but there's also a strong word of caution -- make sure your supplement isn't just like taking a swig of soda -- regular or diet -- or dipping into the candy bowl. That's right, some liquid and powdered supplements include ingredients like high fructose corn syrup or artificial sweeteners, or use unnecessarily high amounts of straight up sugar to cover the taste of the nutrients in the supplement.
7. "I'm Not Just a Hair Club for Men User, I'm the President"
In an age where word of mouth travels at the speed of light and can make or break a product's popularity, concern will continue to develop over who's feeding that mouth. Is that blogger, dietitian, athlete, musician, actor, anchor and even company founder just a fan of X new product or are they receiving any benefit from promoting this product? The year 2012 is unlikely to be the year that the FDA or other government entity will come down on those promoting products, especially via social media without disclosures. BUT, growing consumer cynicism will begin to make such endorsements less meaningful... unless of course it's an endorsement by your favorite actor, ball player, musician or blogger that you've come to trust... net net, not much should change in this arena in 2012.
8. More vs. Better Energy
With sales of energy bars, drinks, supplements, food products and exercise programs continuing to soar, it is in line with the soaring number of Americans complaining about their lack of energy. Overheard anywhere in America, every day: I can't wake up, I crash midday, I don't have the energy to workout, I don't have the energy to do my work, I am out of steam... 2012 will see many more products launched to provide more energy, several of which may indeed deliver more energy. However, 2012 will also be the year for many in which better eating of better quality foods and drinks will lead to better health via better energy. The year 2012 will be the year that in which the difference between more and better energy comes to the forefront.
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