Keeping up with the newest food and fitness trends can make your head spin. For instance, who would have thought the South Beach diet would become such a huge phenomenon?
What are the food and fitness trends we anticipate? Here are a few.
FOODS THAT HEAL
We've seen calcium and vitamin C added to 7Up, and this trend of adding nutrients to foods is sure to continue. The latest are omega-3s — essential fatty acids — added to breads, ice cream, yogurts and eggs.
According to John Craven, editor of Bevnet.com, the popular beverage products are those that supposedly "do" something healthy. Consumers seem less interested in taste from beverages, says Craven, and are more interested in products that appear to have medicinal benefits.
Why it matters: We lack many nutrients, so adding them to foods improves our intake. On the other hand, some of these additions are gimmicks.
Whole-grain products have long been known for their health benefits and will become more prolific in supermarkets.
Why it matters: Whole-grain foods are typically rich in fiber, vitamins, minerals and phytochemicals. When grains are refined, fiber and other nutrients, such as vitamins E, B6 and magnesium, are removed. And research has found that whole grains reduce the risk of some diseases, including diabetes and certain cancers.
FRESH AND ORGANIC
According to Harry Balzar of market research firm NPD Group, "fresh" food is the next "in" thing. "Consumer demand for it is on the rise ... Expect more restaurants to follow Subway's 'fresh and made to order' policy and for supermarkets to feature more fresh products." However, the kind of "fresh" we're talking about here refers to foods that were recently made, produced or harvested, which is not the definition of the Food and Drug Administration or U.S. Department of Agriculture (food that has never been frozen or heated and contains no preservatives).
Why it matters: The fresher your foods, the less likely they are to be processed, meaning more nutrients and fewer calories.
BETTER FOOD LABELS
The word "calories" is bigger and bolder, showing its importance. The amount of dreaded trans fat is now available for all to see, as are widely recognized food allergens — such as nuts and dairy products.
Why it matters: The clearer the food label, the more information you have to make an informed decision about whether to buy the product.
Calories will make a comeback, but the biggest trend might just be the high-protein, good-carb, good-fat (in moderation) diet. Look for the book "The Total Wellbeing Diet," by Dr. Manny Noakes and Dr. Peter Clifton (NAL, $16.95), coming in May to fuel the fire.
Why it matters: Protein has been shown in a few strong studies to keep you full longer and for fewer calories.
Don't count on fast-food establishments (other than McDonald's) to continue their recent trend toward offering healthier foods. Burger King's Enormous Omelet Sandwich (740 calories) suggests that the fast-food industry knows just where its money is coming from.
Why it matters: As healthy items are phased out and super-calorie disasters are re-ushered in, it's going to be harder to find a quick meal that doesn't wreck your diet.
WORKOUTS AT HOME
IPod workouts, exercise television on demand, better at-home fitness equipment and thousands of workout videos all add up to an increase in home fitness.
Why it matters: What better way to bust the no-time excuse than by having your workouts available anywhere, anytime?
Donna Cyrus, national director of group fitness for the Mainland gym chain Crunch Fitness, believes that the trend will skew toward the convenient and personalized. "There's going to be a bigger focus on practical fitness programs, helping individuals build up core muscles and strength they will use in the course of their everyday lives."
Why it matters: Getting in shape for sports you enjoy keeps you motivated to stay active. Plus, functional fitness reduces sports injuries.
Yoga continues to be popular because of its healing power and spirituality. "In the last few years there's been a trend toward fusing yoga with other disciplines and an emphasis on the physical. But in 2006 ... we'll see a renewal and rebirth of classical yoga," says Kathryn Arnold of Yoga Journal.
Why it matters: We can all use a dose of spirituality, especially one that gets our bodies in shape.
Charles Stuart Platkin is a nutrition and public-health advocate. Write to email@example.com.