2016 Healthy Food Trends

Here are 6 food trends to help you eat better in 2016:

1. Power bowls

Bowls are the new plates. All sorts of creative one-dish meals are being served in a bowl with various monikers – protein bowls, Buddha bowls, broth bowls, quinoa bowls and globowls – for globally inspired bowl meals. The same rules apply to breakfast bowls, which are being dubbed smoothie bowls, acai bowls and Banzai bowls. Just do a search on Pinterest, and you’ll be bowled over.

For lunch and dinner, power bowls are edging out the entrée salad. Served cold or warm, bowl meals combine all sorts of vegetables with whole grains such as quinoa, farro, brown rice or soba noodles and a protein source, including grilled meats, eggs, beans, nuts, cheese or tofu. Sliced avocado often makes a starring appearance on top. One of the best parts: Instead of a creamy salad dressing, power bowls are dressed up with a flavor-packed sauce that ties it all together. In the morning, breakfast bowls can help you check off fruit, yogurt and whole grains in one easy meal.

2. Spiralized vegetables

There are lots of tools available now to transform vegetables into pasta-like noodles. These nutrient-rich pasta-imposters are a tremendous way to eat more vegetables – and, of course, they can help you cut down on calories and refined grains, if that’s a goal. You don’t need to invest in a large spiralizing machine (although I love mine). The less expensive julienne peelers work just fine. Some of the best vegetables to turn into noodles are butternut squash, carrots, turnips, beets and zucchini – known as zoodles. Top with marinara or pesto sauce, make an Asian-inspired noodle bowl or use as a base for a salad or casserole.

The good thing about this explosive trend is how you can now find packages of ready-made spiralized vegetables in some supermarkets, and they’re showing up on more menus and salad bars. Cookbooks and blogs are devoted to spiralized vegetables, so you’ll never be short of recipes. This is a trend that definitely has staying power.

3. Ancient grains

Isn’t it great that what’s old is new again? All sorts of whole grains with ancient pedigrees are being embraced by restaurants and are more widely available in supermarkets. Quinoa darted to the top of the heap, but 2016 will be a time for other ancient grains to shine – including teff, millet, amaranth, spelt, kamut, kaniwa, freekeh and farro.

Ancient grains definitely deserve a spot on your plates (or bowls) in 2016. Rich in fiber, protein, B vitamins and other nutrients, ancient grains can be swapped for pasta or rice in dishes, added to salads and power bowls, and prepared like oatmeal for a warm breakfast bowl topped with fruit and nuts.

4. Pulses

Beans, peas, lentils and chickpeas are getting new respect. The United Nations has declared 2016 the International Year of Pulses, which will bring broader awareness of these dry seed crops for their stellar nutritional profile and positive impact on the environment. Let’s hope the celebration will inspire more people to build meals around pulses.

One of my favorites is the humble chickpea. Perhaps best known as the primary ingredient in hummus, chickpeas are gaining fame beyond this iconic Lebanese dip. Trending recipes include roasted chickpeas as a snack, chickpea curries and stews, pilafs, salads and falafel – which many trend-trackers believe will be a break-out star in 2016. Chefs are also cooking more often with chickpeas. In fact, chickpeas are up 290 percent on restaurant menus since 2005, according to Dataessentials’ MenuTrends report.

5. Healthy fats

Fat may fully shred its devilish reputation in 2016. Now there’s scientific consensus that the type of fat we eat is more important than the amount. So instead of low-fat, the focus is on healthy fats – the unsaturated kind that’s found in olive oil, fatty fish such as salmon, olives, nuts and seeds. Perhaps the biggest beneficiary of the healthy fats trend has been the avocado – chocked full of monounsaturated fats.

One avocado trend that rises above all others is avocado toast – smashed avocado on toasted bread, often sprinkled with hot sauce or topped with a fried or poached egg. The avocado and egg combination will continue to be big in 2016 – avocado egg salad, avocado deviled eggs and baked eggs in an avocado half. Other trending avocado recipes outside of the classic guacamole include baked avocado fries, avocado sushi, hummus, pasta sauce and salad dressing. Popular sweet applications include avocado in puddings, smoothies, brownies, cheesecake, ice cream and mug cakes.

6. Plant-based meals

The mega trend for 2016 will be the glorification of vegetables. And I couldn’t be happier. This is not about turning vegan or demonizing meat. Instead, it’s about appreciating a new view of veggies. Now vegetables have become the star of the center of the plate, not simply a side dish. In fact, at Al’s Place in San Francisco – which was Bon Appetit’s top restaurant of the year, and is one of many new vegetable-forward eateries – the meat is considered the side.

Now “steaks” of roasted cauliflower or butternut squash are standing in for rib-eyes. Mushrooms are subbing for ground beef. Lasagnas are being layered with spinach and eggplant. Vegetable cookbooks are best-sellers, Pinterest boards are dedicated to meatless meals and some of the most popular blogs specialize in plant-centered cuisine. So you’ll have lots of veggie inspiration in the year ahead. Be sure to check out some of the vegetables predicted to be popular in 2016: kohlrabi, kalettes, parsnips, purslane, colorful squashes, broccoflower, rainbow carrots and seaweed.