4 Nutrition Trends to Watch Out For In 2015

Trends don't just happen in fashion and entertainment. When it comes to nutrition, certain ideas catch on while others die out (remember the low-fat craze of the '90s)? While you shouldn't make food decisions based entirely on what's popular, it's worth taking note of ideas that dietitians and other experts are talking up. Whether you jump on the bandwagon or not, here's what's likely to stay hot in 2015:

  1. Gluten-free foods. The buzzword—or two—for 2015 is "gluten-free," and not just for people who have been diagnosed with celiac disease, an autoimmune reaction to gluten (a protein found in grains such as wheat, barley and rye that can cause intestinal damage and other side effects), or gluten sensitivity (a condition which may cause gastrointestinal distress but does not otherwise cause damage). "The number of people following a gluten-free diet far outweigh the number of people who suffer from these issues," says Christine Santori, RD, program manager at the Center for Weight Management at Syosset Hospital in Syosset, New York.

    But is eating a gluten-free diet a good idea if it's not medically necessary? According to Santori, gluten-free devotees claim that they simply feel better when they stop eating wheat (a primary source of gluten). And although gluten free doesn't mean carbohydrate free, many people who give up gluten do end up eating a lot fewer carbs; Santori cites the popular Paleo diet, which emphasizes lean meats and produce and greatly restricts grains, as an example of this.

    Unfortunately, avoiding gluten is not necessarily a no-brainer. "It is difficult to know if that improvement [that people feel] is really due to coming off gluten or it's more related to coming off [all] carbohydrates," she says, adding that people who are tempted to go gluten-free without a medical reason to do so may actually be taking a risk: "Eliminating all wheat products unnecessarily can impact one's intake of important nutrients and can leave one relying too heavily on overly processed 'gluten-free' items."

  2. Kale. One positive of the gluten-free craze is a larger focus on vegetables, especially vegetables masquerading as less nutritious carbs. Kale is the current darling of the leafy-green set, increasingly appearing on restaurant menus and grocery shelves in various forms. You can buy it raw and put it in salads, of course, but consumers have become more creative. Consider the popularity of kale chips, a worthwhile alternative to potato chips. You can not only bake your own, but in many supermarkets you can buy commercially made kale chips seasoned with everything from salt to nacho flavoring. Kale also is a popular addition to juices and smoothies, both at home and in snack bars. And while all this kale may seem like overkill, it's hard to argue about the virtues of a vegetable that contains almost 1,600 IU of vitamin A and nearly 113 micrograms of vitamin K per raw cup, significantly more than the recommended daily allowances of these nutrients.
  3. Ancient grains. You've probably heard of buckwheat, millet, and quinoa, but how about amaranth and freekeh? No, they're not some newfangled invention—in fact, they're far older than you are. "These grains are called 'ancient' because they have been around for a long time unchanged," Santori says. This makes them different from "[Grains such as] corn and wheat, [which] have been selectively bred to the point of not resembling their ancient origins."

    Their appeal isn't just due to their age-old origins: "Ancient grains [such as quinoa, amaranth, buckwheat] are gaining popularity for their fiber content, higher protein, omega 3 fatty acids, and antioxidant content. Many of these 'ancient grains' can be tolerated by people with wheat allergy or gluten intolerance." In addition, "They are a nice substitution for traditional pasta and rice." Once found only in health food and specialty stores, the average supermarket stocks at least some of them. To try: pancakes made with buckwheat or amaranth; salads topped with quinoa; millet breakfast cereals, and freekeh pilaf with veggies.

  4. Probiotics. Good-for-your-gut staples like yogurt and kefir (a bubbly, fermented milk drink) remain popular, filled as they are with "good" bacteria. Kimchi, a traditional Korean dish, has spiked in popularity as well, according to Santori. Consisting of fermented chili peppers and vegetables (usually cabbage), its has been gaining in popularity due to its probiotic properties, which are the result of the fermentation process.

Christine Santori, RD, reviewed this article.


Christine Santori, RD, Center for Weight Management at Syosset Hospital, Syosset, New York.

Heller, Knut J. "Probiotic Bacteria in Fermented Foods: Product Characteristics and Starter Organisms." The American Journal of Clinical Nutrition 2001. 73(2):374s-379s. Accessed January 15, 2015.

"Kefir." National kefir Association. Page accessed February 4, 2015.