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Healthy eating trends in 2016.

March is national nutrition month, and what better way to observe it than to investigate healthy eating trends for 2016? Resolutions to eat healthier and improve overall wellness are in full swing--or maybe a spring booster shot is in order to get back on course.

Nutrition trends swing in and out of vogue. This article will review the healthy eating trends predicted for 2016 and evaluate their consistency with recommendations from nutrition experts in the 2015-2020 Dietary Guidelines for Americans (DGA) released January 7, 2016. (1)

Trend: The International Year of Pulses

The 68th United Nations General Assembly declared 2016 the International Year of Pulses. The aim of this initiative is to heighten public awareness of the benefits of pulses as part of sustainable food production directed towards food security and nutrition. Pulses are plants that have nitrogen-fixing properties that enhance soil fertility, resulting in a positive impact on the environment. (2)

Pulses are legumes comprising 12 grains or seeds within a pod. Pulse is used in both animal feed and in our food supply as part of a healthy diet to address obesity issues and manage diabetes, cardiovascular disease and cancer. Pulses include dry beans, dry peas, chickpeas and lentils. These foods are high in protein and fiber and low in fat and calories. Pulse is considered the unsung hero of powerful nutrition, (3) dating back ancient times and the Biblical story of Daniel, who ate only foods from seeds.

Trend: Ancient Grains

Complex carbohydrates and 100 percent whole grains will continue to take center stage. Grains such as khorasan wheat (kamut), bulgur, farro, buckwheat, quinoa, millet, amaranth, sorghum, teff, spelt and freekeh are higher in fiber and excellent sources of vitamins and minerals as compared to refined grains. (4) They are great in salads and soups or as a side dish with dinner. (5)

Trend: Plant-based Diets

Plant-based does not imply a total vegan diet. It reflects more sustainable eating for wellness and the environment. "Veggie-centric" plates decrease animal products, consistent with Mediterranean and vegetarian eating patterns. (1,5)

2015-2020 DGA Bottom Line on These Trends

The trends on pulse, ancient grains and plant-based diets are consistent with the 2015 DGA recommendation to eat more vegetables, fruits, whole grains and dairy to increase the intake of nutrients of public health concern, which, according to the DGA, are potassium; dietary fiber; choline; magnesium; calcium; and vitamins A, D, E and C; as well as iron in the diets of adolescent girls and women 19 to 50 years old. (1)

The DGA identifies three different types of diets at the 2,000-calorie level --the healthy American diet, Mediterranean diet and vegetarian diet--that reflect eating patterns associated with positive health outcomes in studies of Mediterranean-style diets. (1)

Trend: Sustainable Diets

As defined by the 2015 Dietary Guidelines Advisory Committee Report, sustainable diets are "a pattern of eating that promotes health and well-being and provides food security for the present population while sustaining human and natural resources for future generations." The report also addresses the substantial environmental impact of food production and the need to conserve natural resources to prevent strain on or loss of them. (6)

In response, the United States Department of Agriculture publicly stated that the U.S. Dietary Guidelines are not the appropriate platform for promoting sustainability; thus it is not addressed in the 2015 DGA. However, there is an emphasis on food products in the market and on dietary patterns that are more sustainable for the planet. (1,7)

Trend: Less Sugar, More Natural Sweeteners

Food companies will feel pressure to reduce the added sugar in their products. Natural sweeteners such as stevia, maple syrup, agave syrup, monk fruit, date sugar and coconut palm sugar will be alternatives. Some are calorically equal to sucrose, others have fewer calories and some are noncaloric. There is no research to suggest that natural sweeteners provide any health benefits. However, Americans consume upwards of 22 teaspoons of added sugar per day, and this needs reduction. (7)

Trend: Full-Fat Foods and Dairy

In 2015, headlines declared that "fat is back." The carryover trend indicates that fewer "fat-free" baked products will be seen in supermarkets. Consumers will gravitate to more natural, full-fat, nutritious nuts and yogurt in single-serving form rather than bulk. (4) Research in 2013 revealed no association between dairy fat or high-fat dairy foods and obesity, type 2 diabetes or cardiometabolic risk, and suggested these might be inversely associated with obesity risk. (8) As a result, consumers are expected to continue to use more full-fat and reduced-fat rather than fat-free dairy products. (7) However, not all nutrition recommendations agree: the 2015 DGA, DASH diet and MyPlate still recommend low-fat or nonfat dairy products. (7)

Trend: Probiotic and Gut Health

In 2016, the evolution of food products with added probiotics for improved intestinal health will continue. It is projected that probiotic-fortified foods and beverages, such as orange juice, cereals and waters will appear on shelves. (7)

2015-2020 DGA Bottom Line on These Trends

The DGA recommends that healthy eating patterns include fat-free and low-fat dairy or soy milks fortified with calcium, vitamin A and vitamin D due to their similarity in nutrient composition and meal usage compared with whole milk. Other milks from plants such as almond, rice, coconut and hemp are not included as part of the dairy group because their overall nutritional content is not similar to dairy milk and fortified soy beverages. (1)

The DGA has eliminated the 300 mg per day limitation on cholesterol. However, it advised eating as little dietary cholesterol as possible because high-cholesterol foods are also high in saturated fats. The bottom line here is that eggs are back: egg yolks are high in cholesterol but not saturated fat and are an excellent source of complete protein. (1)

For the first time, the DGA set a limit on sugar, recommending that it make up only 10 percent of daily calories. That is 50 grams per day for a 2,000 calorie diet.


When considering venturing into any diet trend, weigh the odds (pun intended). Is the trend simply a fad with no sound nutrition behind it, or is it consistent with the recommendations and evidence in the literature supporting the eating pattern? As health professionals, we need to know the newest guidelines when it comes to making any healthy lifestyle recommendations to the dental client. As individuals striving for good health and well-being, we need to follow recommendations to help nurture our best selves.

In conclusion, the words of Oprah Winfrey in her Weight Watcher's commercial, "let's let 2016 be the year of our best bodies" resonate. She does not mean eating to lose weight for a special occasion or to reach an unrealistic clothing size to meet society's body image. She sends a profound message, to eat healthy for our bodies to function at their best and to honor the gift as it was intended.

Luisa Nappo-Dattoma, RDH, RD, EdD, is a full-time associate professor and academic advisement coordinator of the BSDH program at Farmingdale State College.


(1.) 2015-2020 Dietary Guidelines for Americans. Available at http:// Accessed Jan. 7, 2016.

(2.) 2016 year of the pulses. Available at en/Accessed Jan. 6, 2016.

(3.) Johnson M. Eight food trend predications for 2016. 2015. Available at Accessed Jan. 6, 2016.

(4.) London J. Ten healthy eating trends you should know in 2016. 2015. Available at a35989/healthy-eating-trends-2016/. Accessed Jan. 6, 2016.

(5.) MacKertzie M. The 13 biggest diet trends for 2016 will be ... 2015. Available at diet-trends-2016. Accessed Jan. 6, 2015.

(6.) 2015 Dietary Guidelines Advisory Committee Report-sustainability. Available at Accessed Jan. 6, 2016.

(7.) Webb D. Popular nutrition trends for 2016. Today's Dietitian. 2015; 17(12): 26.

(8.) Kratz M, Baar T, Guyenet S. The relationship between high-fat dairy consumption and obesity, cardiovascular, and metabolic disease. Eur J Nutr. 2013; 52(1): 1-24.
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Title Annotation:SPECIAL FEATURE
Author:Nappo-Dattoma, Luisa
Date:Mar 1, 2016
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