The past 365 days have been loaded with ups and downs. On one hand, Michael Phelps cemented his Olympic legacy with another round of gold medals, and on the other hand, we lost the company of one of the world's greatest athletes: Muhammad Ali. Just like in sports, there are also winners and losers in the food world. And that's especially the case when it comes to food trends. We've selected a collection of some of the most popular food trends of the last year and sorted them into the best and worst. Want another way to stroll down memory lane? Check out these 42 Best and Worst Health News Stories of 2016.
First… The Worst
Photo courtesy of @freshmen15
Nothing is more fitting than the fact that this photo was uploaded to Instagram by a user known as "freshman 15." Regardless, it's not just freshmen who could gain weight after consuming too many of these monstrosities. Although we know cheat meals are a helpful part of a weight loss journey, one of our tips is to create a calorie buffer in order to minimize the damage of a cheat meal. The only issue in this case? You wouldn't be able to eat all day if you were looking to finish this freakshake. Keep those cheat meals to reasonable portions.
Six Spaniards came together to create this odd wine. A blend of red and white grapes from vineyards just outside of Madrid, the wine gets its blue hue from indigo, a natural dye extracted from a flower called a woad. In addition to grapes and yeast (what turns the grapes into alcohol), the winemakers also added an unspecified, non-caloric sweetener to the mix to give the drink a little extra flavor. The bottle is making its rounds through Europe before hopping across the pond into the US, but we're not all too excited about getting our hands on it.
Reviving '90s Foods
It's not just the reprise of shows like Full House and Gilmore Girls that came back from the '90s this year. It was also products like Crystal Pepsi. We wish we could welcome it with open arms, but this soda is just plain dirty. It has the sugar equivalent of three Snickers bars and was just a play for nostalgia. Luckily, it was only sold for eight weeks this summer. Before you crack open another can, don't miss this shocking list of the 70 Most Popular Sodas—Ranked by How Toxic They Are!
Why? Why has ramen followed us from our college microwaves to our grown-up lives? Yes, it's cheap and quick, but we'd rather not eat a burger sandwiched between two blocks of deep-fried ramen that's just loaded with saturated fatty oils.
This year, the low-carb craze got a little cloudy. Made from eggs, cream cheese, cream of tartar, and sometimes a sweetener, cloud bread is a high protein, low-carb alternative to bread. While we understand the important role protein plays in helping you lose weight, bread is still one of the top sources of fiber in the American diet, so don't shy away from it. Instead, just make sure you're picking up a waistline-friendly brand like Dave's Killer Bread.
We had high hopes for this interesting duo (which has been explored by brands like Noosa and Chobani), especially since it was a combination of probiotic-rich yogurt and metabolism-boosting spices. However, Noosa's offerings are way too high in sugar for our liking—an astonishing 31 grams are packed into each 8-ounce container!
Experts speculate the reason why we love rainbow foods so much is because we evolved to find out that many different colors are associated with many different vital nutrients. Unfortunately, that's usually never the case with these sweets—which range from fairy bread and cheesecakes to donuts and bagels—as they're likely dyed with artificial, coal-derived colors that have been linked to learning and concentration disorders (like ADHD) in children.
Rosé Gummie Bears
We said it once and we'll say it again: having a glass of wine can offer some health benefits. Having that glass of wine in sugary gummy bear form won't.
Aqua-what-now? Aquafaba is the liquid that canned chickpeas are soaked in. This year, we found out it's a great egg white alternative and has since appeared in vegan mayos and vegan mousses. If you're an omnivore, we wouldn't recommend dumping your egg carton just yet—egg whites are higher in protein and nutrients than aquafaba.
Everything in moderation. That adage also applies to fruit and fruit sugar. While there are countless benefits of eating fruit, "we still want to be mindful of how much fruit we're eating because it does contain sugar," explains Isabel Smith, MS, RD, CDN, founder of Isabel Smith Nutrition. The sugar in fruit can still have a blood-sugar-spiking effect if eaten in excess, and Smith recommends keeping it to a serving at a time—and generous smoothie bowls often exceed this suggestion. Smoothie bowls can be large whacks of carbs and sugar, so if you aren't adding any protein or fats to help slow digestion, you could be doing some serious damage to your insulin response.
Now… The Best
These activated foods sprung onto the food scene promising to help those with sensitivities to high-fiber foods. Thanks to sprouting—a process where seeds are activated, their enzymes are turned on, and their hard-to-digest fibers are broken down—those who haven't been able to eat beans, nuts, or bread finally got the chance to.
2015 was the year of bone broth, and 2016 was the year of the soup cleanse. It was a tastier, warmer, and much more filling alternative to juicing thanks to the presence of satiating fiber. Want to continue the trend at home? Check out these soup recipes!
Sweet Potato Toast
This short-lived trend still earned an "Eat This!" seal of approval. It consisted of slicing a sweet potato to ¼-inch thickness, tossing it into your toaster, and then topping it with traditional toast toppers. Why'd we love this particular idea so much? It's simple: sweet potatoes are nutritional powerhouses. They're full of A and B vitamins and loads of anti-inflammatory antioxidants.
Cauliflower Pizza & Cauliflower Rice
We were all about living that low-carb lifestyle this year, and cauliflower was the veggie that took center stage. Whether it was shredded and sauteed to make a veggie fried rice or tossed with an egg for a perfect pizza crust, we just couldn't get enough of it.
Turmeric & Golden Milk
Take a step back, ginger. It's time for your golden cousin to get some time in the sun. Turmeric took over the health food scene thanks to it's anti-inflammatory, anti-cancer abilities and bright hue. It was used in countless turmeric recipes, but one of our favorites was a golden milk latte: a rich, smooth drink made with milk, turmeric, and other warming spices like ginger and black pepper. Want to try it out? Get the recipe from Heavenlynn Healthy .
Last year cold brew, this year nitro cold brew. It's been around the independent coffee shop scene for a while now, but this year Starbucks got in on the nitro trend. For the uninitiated, the Nitro Cold Brew is coffee infused with nitrogen for a smooth, creamy texture. Because it tastes creamy without the cream, opting for this pick over a plain coffee can help you cut calories by being a little more light-handed with your heavy cream.
We were still happy to see that pulses, like chickpeas, took a front-row seat in our dishes this year. That was in part because The United Nations dubbed 2016 the International Year of Pulses. We ate more beans and got lean!
Pasta Made a Comeback
We were initially confused by this one, seeing as we eat pasta on the reg, but according to a Google Food Trends report, people have been searching for "rigatoni" and "linguine" more and more over the past couple years. And after that Italian study came out with the finding that a high pasta intake was not associated with an increased body mass index (BMI), people became more accepting of the oft-frowned-upon carb.
Spiralized veggies maintained their popularity throughout 2016. They made it on our list of 36 Easy Ways to Cut 50+ Calories because they not only save you hundreds of calories a week (because we all know how much you eat pasta), but they also make it easy to get in an extra serving of veggies while phasing out refined carbs.
Poké (pronounced poh-keh) originated in Hawaii in the late 1970s but recently made its way over to the mainland. It's a chopped raw fish salad, similar to ceviche but with bigger chunks of fish, that's been dressed with Asian flavors like sesame oil and soy sauce. Because it's made with pieces of fresh, sushi-grade fish teeming with anti-inflammatory omega-3 fatty acids, we give this food trend two thumbs up.
Fat is Back in Fashion
Just when you thought ponchos and choker necklaces were no longer cool, fashion brought them back in vogue. It was the same this year with fats. Once spurned for their high concentration of saturated fats, butter and coconut oil made their way back into the limelight thanks to saturated fat being absolved of its involvement in raising cholesterol and causing heart disease. While we still recommend you eat fats in moderation—they have nearly two times the amount of calories that the same volume of carbs or protein does—they can be a part of a healthy diet thanks to their ability to turn off fat genes (ironic, right?) and keep you fuller for longer.
Despite studies connecting consumption of whole milk with lower weights and risk of diabetes, cows were still crowded off the shelves by almonds, soybeans, and even peas. Why the move? Whether it's because you're vegan, sensitive to dairy, trying to lose weight, or jumping on the trend, more and more Americans are shying away from dairy products and embracing plant-based alternatives. Still roaming the dairy aisle in udder confusion? Here's our guide to the Best and Worst Milks and Milk Alternatives.
Anything In A Muffin Tin
Bite-sized foods took over the food scene this year, and it was all thanks to a kitchen gadget you likely already have: a muffin tin. This glorious gadget helped dieters with the one thing many of us struggle with on a daily basis—portion control. From egg muffins to baked oatmeal, muffin-sized meals made us feel like we were finally in charge of our food and not the other way around.
Peanuts went out of fashion faster than denim leggings. They were replaced with a myriad of pulverized spreads made from almonds to cashews. You don't see us complaining—ounce for ounce, almonds are one of the most nutritious nuts thanks to being high in magnesium, vitamin E, and protein. If you're still not sure which to pick up, check out our guide—The 16 Best Nut Butters for Weight Loss.
Grass-fed beef has been one of the top trends of the past few years, but now it's not just cattle who are in search of greener pastures. Whether it was because we're more environmentally conscious (as eating more meat is a burden on the earth's resources) or we've learned more about the cardioprotective benefits of a plant-based lifestyle, consumers jumped on the vegan food bandwagon this year and sought out more plant-based meat alternatives. One of the most notable this year was the release of the veggie burger that bleeds from company Beyond Meat.
Probiotic-Infused & Fermented Foods
You weren't solely limited to Greek yogurt to get your daily dose of probiotics this past year. That's because fermented foods—from sauerkraut and kimchi to dark chocolate and kefir—rose to prominence. Why their rise? Research has shown that replenishing your good gut bugs with probiotics can ward off inflammation and weight gain, so we've given this trend our stamp of approval! As you continue to reap the most benefits from these fermented foods, we recommend you stick to the natural sources of the stuff and steer clear of the enhanced products. Many of the foods with added probiotics are also full of sugar—just like these 10 Probiotic Foods You Should Never Eat.