The Top Health Trends of 2016

A healthy lifestyle requires an ongoing commitment, but there's no reason you can't explore different ways to stay the course.

After all, "New and trendy ways of eating and staying active prevent healthy habits from becoming stale, and that helps you stay motivated over time," says Jessica Crandall, RDN, CDE, AFFA, certified group fitness instructor and dietitian at Denver Wellness and Nutrition. Here, Crandall, a national spokesperson for the American Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics, offers an insider's guide to the latest in diet and fitness trends.

Trend #1: More Bang for Your Exercise Buck

Exercisers want to get more results for the time and effort they put into working out. Exercises that only work out one part of the body or provide only one real benefit, along with those that are too difficult to learn or get boring over time, are fading in popularity and being replaced by more versatile programs. Crandall’s picks for trends to watch out for include cross training, ballet-based barre classes, and virtual and weighted spinning.

Cross training: Cross training classes offer a total body workout, allowing you to exercise different muscle groups at once for a more effective (and challenging!) workout. At a cross training class, you might find yourself clutching free weights while performing squats, for instance. Cross training classes focus on core (abdominal area) strength, lots of variation, and using natural body movements.

Barre classes: Traditional cardio dance with complicated moves is losing popularity and being replaced by barre classes, which take their name from the horizontal handrail familiar to ballet students. In barre classes, students perform small, isolated movements to music, incorporating elements of ballet, Pilates, and yoga. Barre classes provide core stability and muscle strengthening without impact.

Aerial suspension classes: A.k.a. anti-gravity or suspension classes, these workouts focus on yoga moves and sometimes flips, all performed in sling-like "hammocks" that hang about three feet above the ground. Aerial suspension classes help build core strength, flexibility, and alignment.

Weighted and virtual spinning or indoor cycling classes: Traditional spin classes are being outpaced by weighted spinning, in which bikes have a front weighted flywheel that picks up speed as you pedal or virtual spin classes, where large-screen visuals allow you to ride along a country road or climb a mountain trail on your bike.

Trend #2: More Protein and Fiber in Your Diet

"In terms of trends, the balance of the diet we promote has shifted slightly to emphasize a higher fiber, higher protein meal plan," Crandall notes. Not too long ago, this would have made her cringe, since excess protein can be hard on the kidneys. But now researchers understand that protein doesn’t stress the kidneys unless you take in more than 1.5 grams per kilogram of body weight. In other words, if you weigh 135 pounds (61 kg), your protein limit would be 91 grams a day. This is a lot: a 4-ounce beef burger contains about 28 grams of protein.

Getting more protein doesn’t necessarily mean eating more meat, Crandall adds. The tendency now is to get more protein from foods like yogurts, nuts, and beans.

In fact, the humble bean appears to be having a moment, says Crandall: "We’re seeing more and more products, like black bean tortilla chips and lentil chips, that incorporate dried beans as an ingredient. But it is still very important to eat a wide variety of foods from all food groups, to be sure you are getting all the nutrients you need," she adds.

Trend #3: Superfoods on the Move

Packaging foods for maximum portability is another up and coming trend, according to Crandall. We're seeing more single serving size packaging of foods such as nuts, lean forms of jerky, and bean products for advertised as convenience foods for active people.

These portable foods are often so-called superfoods, and Crandall notes that superfood is a marketing term and not necessarily an endorsement by health and nutrition experts. To get the benefits often ascribed to foods like blueberries, kale, and salmon, Crandall recommends that healthy eaters focus on the food group. For instance, while kale is great, dark, leafy greens are nutrition must-haves. Blueberries are indeed super, but all berries offer health benefits. A wider range of choices will result in a wider intake of essential nutrients.

Trend #4: "Clean" Eating

Last but not least, "Clean eating is another positive trend," Crandall says. "There is an emphasis on eating more whole foods and producing more commercially processed products with fewer ingredients and additives, for a more natural diet overall."

Why should you try these trends? "When it comes to lifelong fitness, you have to choose the diet and exercise plans that work for you and that you enjoy the most," Crandall notes. Embracing variety and exploring the healthy options listed above could help with this. So go ahead—jump on the trend bandwagon.

Jessica Crandall, RDN, CDE, AFFA reviewed this article.


Crandall, Jessica RD,. Phone interview with author. February 11, 2016.

"What’s All the Rage?" American Council on Exercise. 2015 International Fitness Industry Trends. Accessed February 9, 2016.

"Basic Report: 23220, Beef, Ground, Unspecified Fat Content, Cooked." United States Department of Agriculture Agricultural Research Service. National Nutrient Database for Standard Reference Release 28. Page accessed March 4, 2016.