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Top Nutrition Trends At Natural Products Expo West

Women's specific products take center stage.

Women’s specific products take center stage. 

Foodies who attend Natural Products Expo West know the annual Titanic trade show for natural and organic products is notorious for its extensive sampling of the latest and greatest (think Costco Sunday sample day times 100 and with a health twist).

I, along with the record 60,000 attendees, invaded the showroom floor in March in Anaheim, Calif. and found that the expo’s overall theme was in line with what our mothers have been telling us since we were kids: eat real food.

In the 3,000-plus exhibits, supplements and powders were edged out by packaged real foods made with simple ingredients that didn’t have some five-syllable prefix or suffix in its name.

Here is a recap of our top findings:

1. Mainstreaming nuts, grains, seeds and beans

Runners can expect to find new alternative sources of protein as quinoa and gluten-free grains continue to mainstream with out-of-the-box offerings like puffed quinoa cereal. Seeds, beans and grains are also beginning to mainstream, as chia seeds sprinkle over brands like Nature’s Path, which is releasing an entire line called ChiaPlus, and Bare Nutrition, which produces the Chia Vie energy drinks. Additionally, lentil and garbanzo beans are being incorporated into chips and snacks, while oats are being used in heart healthy drinks, such as Sneaky Pete’s Oatstanding beverage.

2. Non-GMO

Sources at the show reported as much as 70 percent of the processed foods in American supermarkets are genetically modified (GMO), but none are labeled as such. Manufacturers are quickly jumping on the Non-GMO movement and insisting on labeling their products when pesticides are injected into the seeds that our food comes from thanks to the Non-GMO Project Certification that forces the FDA to reconsider its current labeling standards.

3. What Women Want

Running USA reports 59 percent of half-marathon participants in 2011 were women, and brands are surely taking note of the surge of females entering the endurance realm by releasing women-specific products. Brands like Promax, which has been a staple in endurance junkies’ pantries since 1994, unveiled the Fit ‘n’ Crisp snacks, which taste like a marshmallow Rice Krispies treat.  The Fit ‘n’ Crisp boasts 13 grams of protein and have been popular among women, according to Jaclyn Rodriguez, director of marketing for Promax. “The feedback has been incredible. People have mentioned the [snack] as being that healthy alternative to the mid-afternoon snack with the benefits they’ve been looking for,” said Rodriguez. The Fit ‘n’ Crisp bar is available online and at retailers like GNC.

4. The Rise of the Sweet Potato

Sweet potatoes seem to be breaking out of their marshmallow prisons and popping up into wholesome entrees and snacks like Alexia Foods’ sweet potato puffs, which are an alternative to tater tots, and Rhythm Superfoods’ collection of sweet potato chips. “Carbs are a necessary part of any endurance athlete’s diet, and this includes starches like sweet potatoes. It’s rich in fiber, potassium, magnesium, and Vitamins A, B6 and C,” said registered dietitian Jae Berman of Bay Club San Francisco.