Nutrition News: Trending in 2016

Charlyn Fargo is a registered dietitian at Hy-Vee in Springfield, Illinois, and the media representative for the Illinois Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics. For comments or questions, contact her at or follow her on Twitter @Nutrition Rd.

If 2015 was the year for cold-pressed juices and cold-brew coffee, what's on the trend list for 2016? Look for these healthy, food trends on restaurant menus and supermarket shelves in the new year:

1. Spiralized vegetables are big. You've seen the gadgets advertised on television, but they may be a boost to get your kids to eat more veggies. Zucchini, beets, kohlrabi and yellow squash are all being transformed into pasta-like noodles. Crunchy in a salad, cooked and covered with a hot marinara sauce or combined with a dressing, the new ribbon-cut veggies are fun and healthy. They are gluten-free and low in carbs. They even have a fun, new name -- "zoodles." Look for them becoming more mainstream on menus and incorporated into deli salad dishes.

2. Learn to make your own global bowls -- beyond chicken, rice and broccoli. These new all-in-one-meals bowls burst with flavor from ethnic foods from Latin, Asian, African or Indian cuisines. Best of all, they're portable and give consumers balanced, nutrient-dense meals. Beyond rice, the basis of these bowls are ancient grains such as farro, Kamut, millet or amaranth, layered with proteins and a variety of sauces and toppings -- the combinations are endless.

3. What's for brinner? Taking a cue from McDonald's all-day breakfast menu, there's a new trend and a new word for the most important meal of the day eaten anytime -- brinner. From fluffy egg omelets to crepes, yogurt parfaits, breakfast meals at dinner are economical, comforting and quick. A recent national survey found that 9 in 10 Americans eat breakfast for dinner, with 56 percent doing so once a month or more often. For families, the trend is even bigger -- 67 percent of respondents with children say they have breakfast for dinner once a month or more.

4. Sprouted grains are flooding grocery store aisles in a variety of ways -- flour, chips, tortillas, bread and pizza crusts. The process of sprouting grains gives a nutritional boost as they are more easily digested and the nutrients more bio-available. They may also be more easily tolerated by those sensitive to gluten and offer a lower glycemic index. They are also increasingly popular because they are minimally processed.

5. If cricket powder was the "wow" food of 2015, look for maca root to take its place in 2016. Maca is native to the Andes Mountains and a member of the radish family. It is credited with improving general health, and balancing mood, stamina, energy and even sexual desire. On supermarket shelves, it's being combined with chocolate for an alternative to semi-sweet chocolate chips and used in smoothies, breads and bars.

6. Full-fat products have gained popularity as many believe fat isn't the villain, after all. Whole-milk yogurt and butter are back in shopping carts.

7. Florals are being added to many foods, especially lavender, rose and hibiscus in chocolate, cheese, snack foods, carbonated water and teas.

Q and A

Q: Is MSG a safe additive in foods? 

A: MSG (monosodium glutamate) is used as a flavor enhancer in some commercially prepared foods and in some Asian cuisines. The FDA requires that MSG be listed n the label if it has been added to a packaged food. Glutamate is found naturally in our bodies and in our food supply. Some foods, like tomatoes and cheeses, are naturally high in glutamate. The glutamate found in nature is indistinguishable from the glutamate in MSG. IT has been studied extensively in humans, showing no adverse effects even if ingested in large amounts Thus, the FDA considers MSG to be generally recognized as safe. Some people report sensitivity to MSG, describing symptoms of headache, palpitations, drowsiness and numbness after eating a meal containing MSG. Although double-blind human studies have not supported the claims, the belief that the condition, known as MSG Symptom Complex, persists. MSG does not represent a health risk even to pregnant women, women who are nursing, or infants.

Information courtesy of Environmental Nutrition, January 2016.


Looking for a great recipe when the family gets together? Cooking Light offers this chicken enchilada casserole recipe that's easy and full of traditional Tex-Mex flavors.


Cooking spray

4 bone-in chicken thighs, skinned

1/3 cup chopped fresh cilantro, divided

1 cup frozen corn kernels, thawed

1/3 cup (3 ounces) 1/3-less-fat cream cheese, softened

1/2 teaspoon ground red pepper

1/2 teaspoon ground cumin

1/4 teaspoon kosher salt

1/4 teaspoon black pepper

2 cups chopped onion, divided

6 garlic cloves, minced and divided

1 cup fat-free, lower-sodium chicken broth

2/3 cup salsa verde

1/4 cup water

2 tablespoons chopped pickled jalapeno peppers

9 (6-inch) corn tortillas

1/4 cup (1 ounce) shredded sharp cheddar cheese

Preheat oven to 425. Heat a large ovenproof skillet over medium-high heat. Coat pan with cooking spray. Add chicken to pan; saute 4 minutes on each side. Place skillet in oven; bake at 425 for 10 minutes or until done. Remove chicken from pan; let stand 15 minutes. Remove meat from bones; shred. Discard bones. Place chicken in a medium bowl. Add 1 1/2 tablespoons cilantro, corn, and next 5 ingredients (through black pepper) to chicken; toss to combine. Return pan to medium-high heat. Add 1/2 cup onion; saute 5 minutes, stirring occasionally. Add 3 garlic cloves; saute 30 seconds, stirring constantly. Add onion mixture to chicken mixture; stir to combine. Combine remaining 1 1/2 cups onion, remaining 3 garlic cloves, broth, salsa, 1/4 cup water, and jalapeno in a medium saucepan over medium-high heat; bring to a boil. Reduce heat, and simmer 15 minutes, stirring occasionally. Remove from heat; let stand 10 minutes. Carefully pour mixture into a blender; add 2 tablespoons cilantro. Process until smooth.

Heat a large skillet over medium-high heat. Add 2 tortillas; cook 1 1/2 minutes on each side. Remove tortillas from pan; repeat procedure with remaining tortillas. Cut tortillas into quarters. Spread 1/2 cup salsa mixture in the bottom of an 8-inch square glass or ceramic baking dish coated with cooking spray. Arrange 12 tortilla quarters over salsa mixture. Spoon half of chicken mixture over tortillas. Repeat layers, ending with tortillas. Pour remaining salsa mixture over tortillas; sprinkle evenly with cheddar cheese. Bake at 425 for 15 minutes or until bubbly and lightly browned. Top with remaining cilantro. Serves 4, about 1 3/4 cup per serving.

Per serving: 371 calories, 23.1 g protein, 45.3 g carbohydrate, 12.4 g fat, 80 mg cholesterol, 5.4 g fiber, 759 mg sodium.