Culinary conference dishes up healthy food trends

Carolyn O’Neil is a registered dietitian and author of “The Slim Down South Cookbook.” Email her at

If you bypass flawless tomatoes in favor of slightly misshapen ones, then you’re part of the”ugly veggie” trend to choose less than perfect produce and help cut food waste.

A review of top food trends kicked off the International Association of Culinary Professionals (IACP) conference held in Los Angeles. The list crowned cauliflower the '"new" kale, hailed the return of the radish, identified an invasion of coconut, and the love of lentils.

Lentil recipes abounded at a lunch including a sprouted lentil salad by chef Jessica Koslow of Sqirl in Los Angeles. “Our menu is a little naughty and a little healthy,” said Koslow, formerly a pastry chef at Atlanta’s Bacchanalia.

Discussions on healthy eating peppered presentations by food writers, cookbook authors, food producers and other culinary experts.

“It’s not telling people what to avoid. It’s how to be enticing,” said registered dietitian Ellie Krieger, author of “You Have It Made: Delicious, Healthy Do-Ahead Meals.”

The definition of what’s “healthy” has evolved. Anne Pittman, executive editor of Cooking Light magazine, said, “We had a rule to limit fat to no more than 30 percent of calories in recipes. That’s changed because it limited the healthy fats in foods such as avocado and olive oil.”

The food philosophy of moderation and balance hasn’t changed. “If food is not delicious, no one is going to eat it. So a little bacon fat in the broccoli can be a good thing,” Pittman said.

Smart kitchens

How about a kitchen that helps you cook better meals? Introduced at IACP by former White House chef Sam Kass, a technology developed by Innit creates kitchens that measure food freshness, track inventory and orchestrate cooking times. Sensors can detect tomatoes getting old and send a soup recipe, or remind you to toss fresh tomatoes in a salad. Ovens sense when to turn up the heat to crisp a roast chicken.

“Except for the microwave oven, the kitchen has been skipped in the tech revolution,” said Kass, who is chief consumer experience officer for Innit. “Imagine a refrigerator that tells you to use the cabbage with other ingredients it knows you’ve got in the fridge and tailors that recipe to your dietary needs.”

The goal isn’t to let robots do the cooking. Eugenio Minvielle, founder of Innit, said, “It’s more hands on with more confidence in the kitchen.”