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By: Ilene Smith, R.D.
It doesn’t have the trendspotting power of Expo West or the Fancy Food Show, its exhibit floor doesn’t span football fields and its exhibitors number only in the hundreds. But don’t underestimate the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics’ annual Food & Nutrition Conference & Expo (FNCE) as a window into the top-of-mind food trends and nutrition issues for America’s nutrition experts.
This year’s FNCE in October in Chicago marked the academy’s 100th anniversary, and its 70,000 registered dietitian members are clearly ready for the next century. Here’s what will happen, at least at the beginning of those next 100 years:
Registered Dietitians are Just Plain Pooped -- At least they seem to be thinking about it a lot, based on the roster of educational sessions and exhibitors focused on one or more aspects of digestive health. From exploring the microbiome to fashioning fiber recommendations, Registered Dietitians (RDs) seek solutions for optimal gut health and exhibitors were at the ready. Probiotics were not only touted by stalwart yogurt brands like Dannon but also by fermented food and beverage newcomers such as Farmhouse Culture, GoodBelly and KeVita. Supplemental forms of both pro- and prebiotics included Regular Girl, Culturelle and Essential Formulas.
FOD-what? -- Also in the realm of digestive health but trending on their own are FODMAPs. You’ll be grateful for the acronym after learning FODMAPs stands for Fermentable Oligosaccharides, Disaccharides, Monosaccharides and Polyols. Eliminating or decreasing these short-chain carbohydrates and sugar alcohols from the diet has been shown to alleviate the uncomfortable symptoms of irritable bowel syndrome (IBS). In fact, many experts believe low FODMAP foods may be the more appropriate solution for people who avoid gluten. Among the handful of exhibitors providing products and resources for those with IBS were Fody Foods’ condiments, spices, sauces and snacks; Dr. Rachel Pauls Happy Bars; Fodmapped, an Australian line of prepared foods not yet available in the U.S.; and FODMAP Friendly, a certification program for FODMAP-friendly foods.
Get Yourself Planted -- Do you remember 5-A-Day? Today’s version may simply be “Eat More Plants.” Whether it’s fruits, vegetables, grains or anything else that grows in the ground, RDs encourage consumers to eat more plant-based foods. And lest you worry about making more salads, easy solutions are at the ready: Blendfresh offered whole-food powders that can be sprinkled on or blended into foods; That’s It has expanded its fruit-based bars into bean-based vegetable bars; and Veggemo pitched its Vegetable Milk..
RDs Search for a Little Pot Luck -- Speaking of plants, one plant at the forefront of RDs’ minds this year was cannabis. While there were still no cannabis exhibitors on the floor (only medical marijuana is legal in Illinois), several RDs view this as a new frontier as marijuana (or components thereof) makes its way into more edible products.
Diving into the Gene Pool -- If you want to get RDs excited about the profession’s next 100 years, mention nutrigenomics or nutrigenetics, the burgeoning field of understanding the differences in how we metabolize different foods and nutrients based on our genetics. As with cannabis, nutrigenomics is still more a hot topic of conversation rather than a food trend. But once this code is cracked, you can expect diets tailor-made for your specific genes.
Ilene Smith, R.D. is Allison + Partners’ In-House Registered Dietitian.