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Like fashion, food trends come and go each year, and it can be hard to know which ones to embrace - and which ones to leave on the rack or shelf. Here, we explore some popular food crazes and whether they're really worth trying:
#1: Avocado Toast
Avocado toast is smashed avocado spread on a slice of whole-grain toast and then seasoned with salt and spices. It's sometimes topped with a squirt of lemon juice, a drizzle of olive oil or even a fried egg.
Try: Avocado toast has a combination of healthy carbs (from the whole-grain bread), protein and heart-healthy monounsaturated fat (from the avocado), and fiber (from both) that keeps you feeling full for longer. Avocadoes are also packed with folate , vitamin E, C, B6 and potassium.
Skip: Avocado toast is a far better breakfast option than slathering bread with butter and jam. However, avocado is packed with calories so pay attention to the portion size. One-third of a medium avocado is one serving which provides 80 calories.
#2: Smoothie Bowls
Take your typical summer smoothie, pour it into a bowl and top it with things that give it a chewable texture (think granola, chopped fruit, nuts and seeds). Ta-da! You have a smoothie bowl, touted as a healthy breakfast or snack.
Try:Smoothie bowls are a quick and convenient way to fuel your body with your favorite fruit, vegetables and protein. They are packed with vitamins, minerals and phytochemicals that you need to start your busy day.
Skip: While it's true that smoothie bowls are loaded with nutrient-rich foods, serving a smoothie in a bowl typically leads to bigger portions. Plus, the liberal use of toppings makes the amount of sugar, fat and calories per serving quickly skyrocket. Because of this, portion control is important.
#3: Air Fryers
If you're a fried-food junkie, then air fryers probably seem like the best invention ever. Unlike deep-fried foods that are submerged in and soak up oil, air-fried foods use only a tiny amount of oil, which slashes fat and calories.
How does this magic happen? Air fryers are countertop convection ovens that blow hot air around foods in a more concentrated way than your average convection oven (which also circulates heated air) to produce a crunchy outer layer. Or, at least, that's the idea. The problem: Reviews are mixed on how well they actually work. Some people swear they can make crispy, juicy fried chicken, while others say the results are disappointing.
Try: If you deep fry at home often, then it might be worth trying an alternative like air frying. The air frying cooking method not only reduces the amount of oil, but also reduces cooking time compare to the standard baked method.
Skip: If you already enjoy roasting veggies and oven-baked versions of favorites like fried chicken and donuts, the air fryer may not be worth it due to the price range of $50-200 on the market. Oven baked versions work just as well as air frying on reducing oil use and fat intake.
#4: Matcha Lattes
One of the most recent drinks to appear on the coffeehouse scene, matcha lattes are made with green tea powder, milk and sugar. This frothy green drink is estimated to have up to 10 times the amount of antioxidants (substances that protect your cells) as regular steeped green tea. That's because with matcha, you're actually eating the ground-up tea leaves.
Try: Matcha is considered a superfood because of its high levels of antioxidants. Buy your own green tea powder and whisk a latte together at home, where you can control the amount of sugar, or better yet, leave it out entirely.
Skip: But just like coffee drinks, how your matcha latte is prepared makes a huge difference in how healthy it is. Order one at your local café and you'll likely end up consuming your entire recommended amount of daily sugar, or close to it, in just one cup. And what type of milk you use matters, too. Nonfat milk and almond milk are lower in calories than whole milk or soy milk.
#5: Meat Protein Bars
Traditional protein bars use whey, pea protein or soy to fill you up and are convenient to eat on the go. But they’re often packed with additives and sugar. Enter: the meat protein bar. Jerky’s fancy cousin, meat protein bars are made from dried meat and dried fruit and sometimes contain nuts and seeds as well.
Try: Most meat protein bars contain only whole-food ingredients and are high in protein and low in sugar. Other benefits: Meat is a good source of iron and zinc. Be sure to choose bars with very few grams of sugar.
Skip: Check the label and review the sodium amount, because meat protein bars usually have higher sodium than traditional protein bars.
#6: Sparkling Water
Previously a mostly European thing, sparkling water has recently become popular among Americans, too. Bubbly water infused with natural flavors offers a more exciting sip than flat water, but still comes in at zero calories. Even better? If you drink mineral spring water – naturally fizzy water that comes from an underground source – you'll also get essential minerals like magnesium, calcium and potassium, depending on the water source.
Try: If you drink soda often, then it might be worth trying sparkling water which is a much healthier alternative to soda.
Skip: The best beverage is still plain water. Not only is water much cheaper (free) than sparking water, but also tap water may have added fluoride which helps prevent tooth decay.
#7: Fermented Foods
Originally a way to preserve food before refrigeration existed, the fermentation process produces "good bacteria," called probiotics, and enzymes that help you digest food and absorb nutrients.
The classic fermented food and long-time probiotic go-to is yogurt. But these days, you can find kefir, pickles, sauerkraut and kimchi (both made from pickled cabbage), and other vegetables that are filled with probiotics, too. It's likely that the fermented-foods trend will gain even more speed as researchers continue to unravel the role good bacteria plays in our digestive health and the immune system.
Try: Find fermented foods packed with good bacteria in the refrigerated aisles of grocery and health food stores. Double check the label to make sure the product you're buying includes live bacteria.
Skip: Fermented foods are often higher in sodium. One cup of kimchi could contain around 600mg of sodium and one cup of sauerkraut could contain around 900 mg of sodium. Be sure to review the amount of sodium when you are choosing fermented foods.
Eating for Better Health
While trends come and go, eating a healthy diet is forever beneficial. Need help sorting out the best foods to eat or finding the right diet plan for you? Make an appointment for nutritional counseling with our registered dietitians.