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This has been a doozy of a year. Food safety, body image, and nutrition labeling all made headlines in 2016. The world is rapidly changing, whether for the good or the bad, and with it, so is our health.

December 16, 2016

For better or worse, 2016 has almost drawn to a close. We've covered it all in these last 52 weeks, from presidential elections to frozen food recalls. Each week brought a new food trend, a new must-have superfood, or a new warning about what's hiding in your freezer. Take a trip down the healthy memory lane with our round up of this year's biggest moments in healthy living.

1. Barbie Aims for Diversity

Mattel made a splash in the toy industry by announcing changes to Barbie's body. The signature doll line will be expanded to include three more diverse body shapes: Curvy, Tall, and Petite. Mixed reactions, amongst the world and the Cooking Light staff, found that some found the toy's update to be encouraging, while others think too much emphasis has been placed on Barbie's body image influence. 

 Image source: Bloomberg / Getty

2. Panera Bread Goes Clean

Already well-known for their healthy options, Panera Bread CEO Ron Shaich vowed last year that the fast-casual chain would only serve "clean ingredients" by the end of 2016. Shaich's definition of clean involved removing anything that was an artificial preservative, sweetener, flavor, or color. This ended up totaling to at least 80 ingredients that needed removal, 62 of which have already been removed from all menu items as of September 2016. The remaining 18 are expected to be replaced by the end of the year.

3. Most Canned Foods Still Have BPA

In March, a report gathered by non-profits like the Breast Cancer Fund and Campaign for Healthier Solutions revealed that the majority of canned foods in the U.S. still contain BPA (Bisphenol A) in their lining. BPA, an industrial chemical that is used in plastics and resins, raises concerns in the health community for its potentially harmful effects that include infertility, delaying brain development, and altering puberty timing for pre-teens. After the report's release, Campbell's, whose products were all found to use BPA linings, announced they would be switching to non-BPA options by mid-2017.

4. First "Bleeding" Veggie Burger Hits Grocery Stores

Selling out in mere minutes when introduced into select Whole Foods, the Beyond Burger is the first "bleeding" veggie burger of its kind. Made with a combo of pea protein, coconut oil, and yeast extract, our staff found it has an eerily similar texture to real beef, with a distinct reddish tint thanks to beet juice. This totally vegan burger can be found right next to the meat section of select Whole Foods grocery stores.

5. FDA Proposes Daily Value of Added Sugars

Although the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) announced in 2014 their desire to require labeling for added sugars, it wasn't until 2016 that they proposed adding a Daily Value for this. As usual, their suggested Daily Value is based on a 2,000-calorie diet for an average healthy adult. The actual proposed number is 10 percent of your daily calories from added sugars, so roughly 200 calories, or the amount of a 12-ounce Coca-Cola. There has been no movement currently to change the nutrition labels, but this proposal shows a step in the right direction.

 Photo: Jennifer Causey

6. Strawberries Top the Dirty Dozen List

The dark side of sweet berries came to light when strawberries took place number one on the Environmental Working Group's Dirty Dozen list. The Dirty Dozen, a list of which produce types has the highest amount of pesticides, is updated yearly. Apples have been on the top of the list for the previous five years. The change in the list prompted some consumers to consider growing their own strawberries or choosing from the organic section.

7. FDA Tries to Define "Natural"

As so many health-conscious eaters know, the label "natural" is an empty promise on food packaging. With no legal definition, nothing restricts food companies from slapping the word on all of their products. This may soon change though, because the FDA is considering making a legal definition for the term. In May, they reached out to the public, and over 7,600 people told the FDA how they personally defined natural. Ranging from non-GMO to free of any artificial flavors and colors, each comment had a varying opinion. The government organization has made no official announcements on how "natural" labeling might change in the future.

 Photo: carlosalvarez/Getty

8. Philadelphia Becomes First Major City with Soda Tax

Though the law won't be in effect until the first part of 2017, Philadelphia became the first major city to tax sugary beverages this year. Known as the "soda tax," the change will add 1.5 cents-per-ounce to any sugar-added or artificially sweetened soft drinks. This means two-liter sodas and six-packs will go up by about $1. The extra money accrued from the tax will go towards the city's funding for public needs like libraries, community facilities, and youth education.  

9. Listeria Is Everywhere

It seems like every time you turned on the news or picked up a newspaper in 2016, a new story about listeria causing a food recall cropped up. Ice cream, flour, waffles, frozen meals, pre-made salads, and even hummus were affected by food recalls caused by this pesky bacterium. Listeria can cause vomiting, diarrhea, and even death in extreme cases. Despite its common place in the headlines, with many of the recalls having caused no prior illnesses, this is still a very rare bacteria to contract.

10. World's Largest Egg Distributor Goes Cage-Free

Sysco, the country's largest food distributor and a major supplier to places like McDonald's and hospitality businesses, pledged to go cage-free with their egg production by 2026. The first company of their size to do so, Sysco worked with The Humane League to develop their decade-long plan to go cage-free. The cage-free pledge will allow chickens to walk, spread their wings, and lay their eggs in nests, three things that they're unable to do in industry standard battery cages.

 11. Americans Spend More Now On Fast Food Than Groceries

From a survey conducted by the USDA and U.S. Census Bureau, data showed that Americans are now spending the majority of their food budget on eating out instead of purchasing groceries. Compared to the previous 24 years that the survey has been conducted, never before have Americans spent so much many on fast food. Consumption of fast food has been on a steady rise since the 1970s, which may be playing hand-in-hand with our rising obesity rate.

 Hayley Sugg

12. Pokémon Go App Gets Families Moving

Everyone, whether a fan of the franchise or not, saw Pokémon mania sweep the nation during the summer. The long-awaited app, Pokémon Go, was released and quickly gained popularity with people of all ages. People were quickly filling their neighborhood's sidewalks and the local parks to try their hand at nabbing a Pikachu. Based on the franchise that many 90s kids hold in their hearts, the augmented-reality game allowed users to "see" Pokémon in the world surrounding them. Players need to explore areas, change locations, and earn Pokéballs to catch Pokémon. Exploring the outdoors isn't the only exercise-inducing part of Pokémon Go. It also prompts you to walk certain distances (anywhere between 2km to 10km) to hatch eggs and earn more Pokémon.