Happy New Year, folks. As so many of us do this time of year, we're all reflecting on last year and formulating resolutions for a fresh start. Last year was chock-full of healthy food trends, including things like aquafaba meringues, sushi burritos, and gluten-free... everything. Aside from a few interesting and entertaining foods that seem to have been one-hit-wonders (rainbow bagels, anyone?), quite a few foods seem to have been popular precisely because they are healthy. Slowly but surely, the focus is changing from what to eliminate for a healthy diet to what to add for a healthy diet. After all, it's much more fun to incorporate more foods than it is to restrict them.
In the spirit of New Year's resolutions and aspiring to be healthier, let's focus on foods that you most likely already eat that you should keep in your diet through 2017. That's right. This year's, we're adding, not subtracting. More healthy foods is better, so start expanding your healthy-eating horizons.
Eggs were a big trend in 2016 thanks to the popularity of dishes like avocado toast and pho, and no one is immune to the attractiveness of a runny yolk oozing down a burger or stack of home fries.
Back in the 70s, eggs got a bad reputation for their cholesterol content. Dcotors told patients not to eat eggs due to the complex relationship between cholesterol and heart disease. Those early studies about eggs and heart disease didn't take saturated fat into consideration. Dietary cholesterol's effect on heart disease risk may be dependent on genetics and is unclear. The take away? Eggs are like most foods—you should eat them in moderation, but they aren't something to be afraid of. They are also inexpensive, accessible, and contain high quality protein, vitamins, and minerals.
2. Full-Fat Dairy
Greek yogurt continued to gain popularity and shelf space in 2016. You may have noticed a fresh abundance of ready-to-mix containers for easy breakfasts and snacks.
We've come a long way since what I call the "fat scare" in the 80s. Recent studies have shown benefits to consuming full-fat dairy as opposed to the non-fat versions. It turns out that dairy fat in milk, yogurt, and eggs may lower your risk of type 2 diabetes and may also prevent weight gain over time. Research suggests that people who eat low-fat dairy consume more carbohydrates than people who eat full-fat dairy. An exact cause and effect has not been determined, but we do know that there is much more to dietary fat intake and our health than we thought. The take away? Eating fat doesn't always mean that you gain fat.
These days, your local burger joint most likely sells multiple types of burgers, from veggie to turkey and grass-fed, free-range beef to bison.
Bison, or buffalo, is filling more spots on restaurant menus nationwide. Rather than viewing bison as exotic and skipping over it at the grocery store or restaurant, try ordering or cooking bison instead of your typical beef. Bison is a great alternative if you're closely watching your saturated fat intake. It has only 2.4 grams of saturated fat per 3.5-ounce serving according to the National Bison Council. The same mount of ground sirloin has 4 grams of saturated fat; fattier ground beef has 11.2 grams of sat fat. The take away? Not only is bison a flavorful option, it also has fewer calories and less saturated fat than other red meat.
Beets are a favorite in juices, salads, and even baked goods for natural gorgeous coloring, but their mineraly flavor may turn off picky eaters. It's time to learn to love the beet.
The bulb and the greens are edible, together providing calcium, iron, magnesium, phosphorus, potassium, sodium, zinc, vitamin C, vitamin K, folate, and small amounts of other vitamins. Beet juice has been used to improve athletic performance, which is related to nitrate content in beets. The increase in nitrite concentration in the blood after beet consumption has shown to reduce blood pressure and improve the body's response to moderate-intensity exercise. The take away? This versatile vegetable shouldn't be avoided. If you haven't joined the beet club, sift through our Healthy Beet Recipes to pick an exciting option.
In the last 365 days, the hummus craze has grown, but we're moving beyond chickpea-based dips to more exotic and exciting options.
Lentils are a pulse crop in the legume family, along with chick peas, soybeans, and more. Lentils are a must for your menu in 2017. Aside from the fact that they are an excellent source of plant-based protein and fiber, lentils have shown to help with long-term blood sugar control and lowering LDL levels to reduce heart disease risk. On the environmental side, lentils are a praised by farmers because they take nitrogen from the air and add it to the soil, making it richer for growing crops. The take away? If you think you've had your fill of beans, think again. There's too much good in one little seed.
6. Green Tea
Matcha, matcha, matcha. So maybe we shouldn't keep putting green tea powder in icing, but we should definitely remember the goodness that's in a cup of steeped green tea.
It's well known that drinking green tea has been associated with health benefits that "fight" against different diseases such as heart disease. We don't know exactly what compounds in the tea act within the body, but we do know that they are there. A recent study found that a major ingredient in green tea inhibits different inflammatory molecules associated with atherosclerosis. The take away? Drink tea throughout the day for continuous antioxidant benefit. You can drink tea in many different ways: hot, cold, or flavored with lemon or other fruits.
7. Alternative Flours
Though still very rare, cases of diagnosed gluten intolerance are more common, and with the rise of gluten awareness comes the rise of alternative flours like coconut flour, almond flour, and tapioca flour. The good news even for people who don't need to avoid gluten: these alternative flours often contain many more vitamins and minerals than basic all-purpose flour.
For a quick comparison, the nutrition profile of all-purpose flour looks like this: 228 calories, 6.5 grams of protein, 3 grams of fiber and 48 grams of carbohydrates per 1/2 cup. Almond flour has a different composition: 340 calories, 12 grams of protein, 6 grams of fiber, and 10 grams of carbohydrate. Though almond flour contains more calories, it provides possibilities for variety in the diet for someone who has a gluten allergy or is diabetic. Plus, the protein and fiber make it a healthier alternative when you're trying to make the most of every bite. The take away? Experimentation is good. Using different flours to benefit from different nutrients is fun, interesting, and shows you that food and "healthy" doesn't have to be the same as it's always been.
Before you ditch foods in 2017 in the name of "eating better," keep in mind that many of the foods you're already eating are indeed very healthy and good for you. Instead of focusing on what you should remove from your diet, instead focus on what you should add. Introduce one food to your repertoire each month during the year to learn fun new ways to cook with it, different flavors you enjoy, and exciting new ways to eat better.