Walking through the grocery stores, you might notice some new alternative foods popping up, including bean pasta, grain-free bread and nut cheeses. These aren’t just for vegans and people with food allergies— these new options are gourmet and healthy foodies everywhere are taking notice.
“We have more people following gluten-free, dairy-free and vegan diets now, as well as the paleo trend,” said Frances Largeman-Roth, RD, author of “Eating in Color.” “There’s been a real shift in the market of what people are looking for.”
The United Nations declared 2016 to be the "International Year of Pulses" to increase public awareness of the nutritional benefits of the foods, which include dried beans and peas, chickpeas and lentils.
This new spin on traditional foods isn’t just about eliminating ingredients, but adding something nutritious as well. Amanda Orso started her grain-free bread business, Barely Bread, when she couldn’t find anything on the market that cut out grains, carbs and calories without sacrificing taste and nutrition.
“I left [the bread] out on my stovetop and my 100 percent Italian husband came home and ate half the loaf, so I thought it must be good if my Italian husband is eating this bread,” Orso said.
Three years later, she sells a full line of grain-free bagels, rolls, baguettes and sliced breads on her website BarelyBread.com.
“Unlike other frozen breads, you could eat right out of the refrigerator,” she said. “It’s reminiscent of a soft whole wheat bread, in terms of the texture.”
Orso isn’t the only entrepreneur making the most of this movement.
“Modern Table makes these great bean-based pastas,” Largeman-Roth said. “It’s not just hitting gluten-free, but also this new focus on plant-based foods and plant-based protein because these are just made with one ingredient, dried lentils.”
Nut-based cheeses are creamier and more gourmet than past recipes.
Treeline Treenut Cheese is made with cashew nuts.
“Cashews are great because they don’t have a really strong flavor on their own, so when you make milk out of them it’s neutral nad they’re flavoring it with all kinds of delicious flavors like chipotle and herbs,” Largeman-Roth said, adding that she also likes Miyoko’s Kitchen and Kite Hill nut-based cheeses.
Almond milk has been a trend for a while, milks from other nuts like pistachios, cashews and pecans are also options.
This new take on traditional foods is nothing new for Leith Hill, owner of Ellary’s Greens in New York City— she’s been eating this way her whole life. Her staff makes all their foods from scratch and they cater to all kinds of eaters.
“We know now that food can make us sick and it can make us well,” Hill said. “I think people are really looking at the ways they can eat well to live vibrantly.”
Alternative foods will cost you more than traditional foods their higher-quality ingredients are more expensive and they’re more labor intensive.