A recent survey of about 500 registered dietitians asked what they (we) thought were going to be the biggest diet and nutrition trends in 2015. I love stuff like this and think it helps spark conversation among fellow nutrition professionals – a lot of us can unite on similar things that drive us nuts (for me it’s currently the whole “gluten is bad/evil/toxic” belief) and things that we love (new superfoods, acceptance of healthy fats and ancient grains, for example).
One thing the survey found is that most dietitians agree consumers receive the majority of their nutrition information from blogs and websites (and maybe even Instagram?), which leads to mass confusion as not all of this information is accurate. I’m going to take this a little further and say most of the stuff out there isn’t accurate (accurate here being nutrition information backed by evidence-based research and professional experience).
For example – how many times have you heard “gluten free”,“dairy free”, “grain free”, “soy free” or “[insert food group] free” lately? The trend of super restrictive diets seems to be growing, as is the belief that the more things you cut out, the “healthier” you are. And if a meal or recipe has lots of those “frees” in them, it’s better for you. I tend to look at it like this, though, and so do a lot of my fellow RDs – the more foods and food groups you unnecessarily (meaning, you don’t medically need to) cut out of your diet, the harder it is to get in a variety of quality nutrients. And what’s more, there is nothing wrong with any of these food groups! Sometimes I wish I could shout that from the rooftops all day every day. But instead of focusing on the (again, unnecessary) things to take away from your diet, how about all of the great, nutritious foods that can be added? Here are a few of my current favorites.
Goji berries – native to China, these little dried red berries are packed with antioxidants and also provide a healthy dose of vitamins C, A and a bit of fiber. They’re great sprinkled onto oatmeal or yogurt, added to granola or trail mix and have a sweet but not to sweet taste. A bit on the pricey side, I find them most affordable in the bulk bins at the grocery store.
Sunflower seeds – an excellent source of vitamin E, a fat soluble antioxidant that helps reduce cellular damage from free radicals throughout the body. They also contain phytosterols, which may help lower cholesterol levels and promote heart health, and are a good source of copper, magnesium and selenium. I love them sprinkled on top of salads for a perfectly nutty crunch.
sunflower seeds on top of this winning hospital salad bar combo = perfect!
Chia seed pudding – when I was home sick last week, I spent a strangely large chunk of time trying to perfect my chia seed pudding recipe. So far, I’m working with a combination of almond milk, Greek yogurt, chia seeds, cocoa powder and coconut, but it’s still not totally there yet (I’ll share when it is!). I love this stuff, though, because chia seeds are packed with fiber, have some protein and are a great source of omega-3 fatty acids, which is key for healthy brain function. A small portion of this pudding is also really filling, which makes for a perfectly satisfying and low calorie snack.
Cacao nibs – pieces of raw cacao beans after they are roasted and broken down, these minimally processed bits are bittersweet to taste and very potent sources of antioxidants. They also contain some fiber and are an excellent source of magnesium. Great sprinkled on top of desserts, used for baking, smoothies or even savory dishes, cacao nibs may also give a bit of an energy boost due to the presence of a compound called theobromine, which has a mild stimulating effect.
Pistachios – packed with phytochemicals, healthy fats, fiber, protein and potassium, recent studies have found pistachios may help control body weight by promoting satiety and have a positive effect on blood sugar control. One of my favorite ways to enjoy these nuts are in this homemade granola, or simply sprinkled on top of Greek yogurt.
Quick running update – today is one of the first days I feel like a fully functioning human again! I ran about 7 miles on the treadmill (and now I know that’s probably my limit) because it was a bit too cold out for my recently stressed out lungs and icy from this horrendous weather. Will probably have some more ponderings on potential changes to my spring racing schedule at some point soon.