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Dawn Jackson Blatner, RD, CSSD, LDN Headshot

Trend Spotting: 5 Top Food Trends

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I recently attended the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics Food and Nutrition Conference and Expo (FNCE), the world's largest annual meeting of food and nutrition professionals. More than 8,000 registered dietitians, nutrition researchers, policy makers, health care providers and industry leaders attend this four-day event. Each day is packed with research, educational presentations, lectures, debates, panel discussions and culinary demonstrations.

This year, the Expo portion of the event draws more than 350 food- and nutrition-related exhibitors. It's here that new products and innovations are launched and food trends come to life.

Here are the top five food trends spotted at FNCE 2013:

1) Sweet Veggies:
Most of us struggle to get enough vegetables in our diet, so food manufacturers are helping us by featuring them in some delish sweet treats.

a) Zucchini chocolate-chip cookies (Green Plate Foods)
Made with zucchini puree, these cookies look and taste identical to traditional chocolate chip cookies. Zucchini is an ideal vegetable to add to baked products due to its mild flavor and high moisture content. Zucchini is 94.7 percent water, by weight.

b) Veggie muffins (Garden Lites)
People love muffins. In fact, grain-based desserts are the #1 source of calories in the United States. The first ingredients in these muffins are vegetables, so they contain half the calories, five times the fiber (5 grams vs. 1 gram), and half the sugar (11 grams vs. 22 grams) compared with traditional muffins.

c) Fruit shredz (Plum Organics)
These fruit snacks have pumpkin, carrots and kale to naturally enhance color, flavor and nutrition. Added sugars are out, and fun fruit snacks with vegetables are in.

2) Pea Protein:
The popularity of plant-based eating has encouraged manufactures to make products with plant-based proteins. Pea protein is a hot protein alternative to egg and dairy protein because of its link to greater satiety compared to whey and other proteins.

a) Energy bars (Zing Bars)
These gluten and dairy-free energy bars have pea protein crisps.

b) Green pea flour (Bob's Red Mill)
Pea flour contains two times the protein as whole wheat flour for the same number of calories. Pea flour can be used to thicken soups and enhance dips.

c) Dried split peas (USA Dry Pea & Lentil Council)
This non-profit has plenty of pea recipes and preparation tips. Food for thought: dried peas contain 4.5 times more fiber and seven times more protein than brown rice.

3) Super Seeds: Chia and Hemp:
With so many people dealing with tree-nut allergies -- seeds are a smart swap. Turns out, these small seeds pack a punch of protein heart-smart omega-3 fatty acids. No wonder they are growing in popularity.

a) Protein powders (Manatoba Harvest)
These protein powders can be added to smoothies, juices, hot cereals and baked goods.

b) Hemp seed sprinkles (Nutiva)
Shelled, raw hemp seeds can be mixed into dips, yogurts, oatmeal, smoothies and baked products.

c) Grain-free clusters (Navitas Naturals)
Chia seeds and hemp powder come together in these naturally convenient snack bites.

4) Flavor With A Passport:
Old favorites are sporting newer, bolder flavors this year. Adding seasoning to products can reduce sodium without sacrificing taste and palatability.

a) Chili-lime carrots (Bolthouse Farms)
Add seasoning "sidecar" to fresh baby carrots.

b) Curry pretzels (Mary's Gone Crackers)
Subtle spice with an Indian flair.

c) Kimchi tortilla chips (Food Should Taste Good)
Tortilla chips travel to Korea.

d) Mediterranean seasoned popcorn (Popcorn, Indiana)
Air-popped popcorn served Mediterranean style with EVOO, parsley and black pepper.

5) Need something? There's a bar for that.
Bars are popular. You can take them anywhere and they do not require refrigeration. The latest crop of bars are customized to your needs and lifestyle.

a) Breakfast bars (GoodOnYa)
This meal-replacement bar is vegan, gluten-free and grain-free with eight grams of protein.

b) Dessert bars (Über Larabar)
Using natural ingredients, these bars come in sweet combinations like Bananas Foster, Coconut Macaroon and Sticky Bun.

c) Superfood bars (Amazing Grass)
This bar contains whole ingredients like spinach, broccoli, carrots, beets, raspberries and green tea, to name a few.

d) Whole-grain snack bars (KIND)
For 150 calories, this bar takes a new twist on the standard granola bar. It includes five whole grains: oats, millet, quinoa, buckwheat and amaranth.

For more by Dawn Jackson Blatner, RD, CSSD, LDN, click here.

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