Late winter in Anaheim CA is like mid-summer in Rochester NY……warm, breezy, with low humidity….great weather for walking around the expansive Expo West trade show that covers 8 venues inside and out. The Fresh Ideas Tent pre-show event was a bit warm with so many bodies jostling about to taste the newest trend-setting products, but that didn’t seem to stop the crowd from enjoying the casual interaction between producer and attendee.

After three days of noshing on sample size portions and listening to key note speakers, here are my personal thoughts on what’s hot and what’s not:

Gut health is the biggest trend…’ll hear more and more about how having sufficient bacteria in your gut helps you ward off obesity, diabetes and Alzheimer’s. We are made up of 23,000 genes, but we harbor another 3,000,000 germs that act on our behalf helping us to stay slim, eliminate inflammation and have a happy disposition. Read “Grain Brain” by Dr. David Perlmutter for the whole story. He connects the condition of our gut to how we feel mentally, emotionally and physically.

Eat a plant based diet…..nothing new here, except the roadmap to accomplishing this lofty goal. Eat Vegan Before 6 PM (VB6) according to Mark Bittman, a foodie and journalist. Like most of us, his doctor told him to lose a few pounds. As he attempted to do this, he discovered the satisfaction of eating more fruits and vegetables. Not wanting to feel deprived, he made the rule apply to his diet before 6 PM so he could indulge. What he found was a whole new world of interesting ways to enjoy plants. He takes it to next level with research on agribusiness and ties this way of life to a healthier planet. I’m sure he enraged a lot of people in the audience when he said worry less about organic and non-GMO and focus more on eating plants. His example of eating a conventional apple vs an organic hamburger made everyone laugh. I think he gets it just about right in a way that most people can adopt without feeling guilty when they eat a little bacon.

Ancient grains are showing up as an ingredient in everything……energy bars, oatmeal, granola, nut butters and snack foods. There was a granola without oats, just comprised of ancient grains. Chai shows up in fruit preserves and sauces. One of the finalists in the Food Business School Pitch Slam was Yum Nut Butters which include hemp, chia and quinoa in them. I discovered I don’t like hemp, a pronounced flavor that seems to takeover whatever you add it to.

Green tea matcha is ground up green tea leaves from Japan. I’ve been drinking it every morning for years as it helps neutralize our highly acidic Western diet. Now you can get it in chocolate bars, instant latte packets and sprinkled here and there. I doubt there is enough to make a difference in your ph, but it probably makes you feel superior because you’re in-the-know.

Alternative sweeteners continue to show up in unexpected places……maple syrup water was a personal favorite. Look (out) for Stevia in everything. I’m not convinced Stevia is the new panacea. Organic honey, but NOT from the US…..that ought to tell you something. While sugar gets a bad rap, we still want something sweet and if it’s not HFCS, it must be good, right?

The Paleo diet shows up as almond flour bread (quite good), Piedmontese beef (really delicious), Asian grilled street food (beef and pork), raw food nut butter bars and coconut everything (a trend of it’s own).

Is there something I missed that is your personal favorite? Love to hear from you!

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