Fit food trends for 2014

What culinary adventures lie ahead in 2014? Here are the top projected trends for 2014 as reported by “The Fit Foodie,” celebrity chef Mareya Ibrahim, founder of Eat Cleaner, San Diego news correspondent, author, nutritionist and food safety expert.

Permissible indulgences
Sales of snacks made from nutritionally dense and functional ingredients are on the rise, such as seaweed snacks, dried legumes, seeds like flax, chia and hemp, coconut oil and exotic flavored hummus in convenience packs. “One of my favorite products this year that I see really taking off in 2014 is from Hope Hummus, with their travel packs of hummus in flavors like Thai Coconut Curry and Sweet Potato. It’s a flavor explosion with nutrient dense ingredients” Mareya said. “I’m also predicting in 2014 we’ll see a boom of functional drinks made with chia, hemp and flax going mainstream.”

Allergen free for all
According to Food Allergy Research & Education, 15 million Americans live with food allergies. Sales and consumer feedback shows that even those not diagnosed with food allergens are cutting back on foods containing allergens such as gluten, nuts and dairy simply because “they feel better” when they stopped eating allergen containing products. “Gluten-free, vegan alternatives will become pervasive in mainstream, even with chain restaurants and cafes like Starbucks,” Mareya added.

Leafy greens in everything
As consumers become increasingly aware of the negative effects of highly processed foods, more are trying nutrient dense foods. “I predict you’ll start seeing greens pop up in un-traditional ways, like breakfast. Pureeing them into egg whites or a savory crepe is simple and creates a nutritious, delicious dish,” Mareya said.

Clean eating
The idea is to eat maximally nutritious foods in their most natural, whole state. While the Paleo Diet was the hot new this year it will still remain prominent in 2014 but with a ‘lighter’ twist. In 2014, you’ll see people following a ‘clean eating’ approach, choosing cleaner, leaner meats, plentiful, low starch vegetables, legumes and nuts, fruit and ‘smart carbs’ like farro, an ancient grain that breaks down slowly to sustain blood sugar.

Beyond bacon
In 2013, bacon was pushed into every food product possible but in 2014, meat-free alternatives will gain momentum. New Mintel research shows that one of three Americans is eating meat alternatives, even though only 7% of consumers say they are vegetarian. Karrie Hills, a chef for several restaurants in San Diego, California, believes that seafood will be a main focus on the entrees in 2014. According to Mareya, a hot new protein that will gain momentum is Shrimp burgers.

Clean sweeteners
Stevia and other calorie-free, natural sweeteners will become more prevalent as people are watching their sugar intake. Monk fruit is the newcomer to the low calorie natural sweeteners game. With a low glycemic index, natural ingredients, and devoid of the criticism that other sugar alternatives have faced in recent years, monk fruit sweeteners are poised to make a splash in 2014.

Veggie of the year: Brussel sprouts
In 2013, it was all about kale but in 2014, the sprout will become the giant. This green, perfectly bite-sized vegetable of the moment has experienced sales growth of up to 30% annually over the past four years. “Brussel sprouts are super versatile to use and have a relatively mild flavor, whether shredded into a salad, halved and roasted with balsamic vinegar or pureed into a soup,” Mareya added, “so their texture and taste can be transformed based on how you cook and season them.”

Nutrient-rich desserts: Qookies
Quite possibly the most popular sprouted grain in 2013, the American west coast serves up quinoa in just about every form – salads, tortilla chips, and now setting a new trend for 2014 – desserts! Qookies (cookies made with quinoa) are energy-rich cookies that are high in fiber and pack a nutty flavor.