This Week's Nutrition News Feed
In this week's news: Nouveau fast-food franchises flaunt their healthy sides; coconut water claims get a reality check; rumors of kale's demise turn out to be greatly exaggerated -- and more.
Watch out Chipotle, a bevy of smaller fast food chains with a healthy bent may soon be nipping at your heels. Tender Greens, LYFE Kitchen, SweetGreen and Native Foods are all among this new crop of health-conscious regional restaurant franchises luring customers with words like "grass-fed," "seasonal,' "sustainable" and "organic." All are reportedly flourishing, so much so that they've already garnered a nickname: "farm-to-counter" eateries. The vegan chain Veggie Grill, for example, hit No. 7 on Restaurant Business magazine’s yearly list of the fastest-growing small chains, while Tender Greens (which took in over $40 million in revenue from only 12 stores) came close behind, at No. 10. Also among those to watch may be LYFE (acronym for Love Your Food Every Day) Kitchen, founded by two former McDonald’s bigwigs. Each restaurant grows herbs, uses china instead of plastic and holds its entrees to a 600 calorie maximum.
They're everywhere -- those ultra-hydrating, electrolyte-soaked Tetra Paks of coconut-water goodness. Today, coconut water is a thriving, $400-million business involving over 200 brands. An incredible rise, considering that just a few years ago, the market was essentially built by two New York companies (Vita Coco and Zico) engaged in an aggressive Coke- vs. Pepsi-style battle for what little shelf space there was. (Both Coke and Pepsi are now themselves invested in the coconut water business.) Today, Vita Coco dominates, with over 60 percent of the market. It recently agreed to sell 25 percent of itself to Red Bull China, another sign that the tropical water trend is only growing. But one thing is scaling back: health hyperbole. Vita Coco formerly claimed it had 15 times the electrolytes of sports drinks. After a class-action lawsuit, those tags were nixed. The following year, a 2012 study funded by the company itself found that neither coconut water nor sports drinks hydrate better than -- you guessed it -- water.
Ever wonder how much energy it takes to plow through the 2,200 mile, 50-plus miles per hour epic summer cycling trip that is the Tour de France? Ask no more: These bikers are often burning over 1,000 calories an hour -- a problem, since an athlete can only really absorb about 350 calories in that amount of time. The result? Nonstop eating. This year, Steve Fowler tweeted some of his best meals. For a vicarious taste of what you might be eating were you a world-class calorie furnace, click away.
Breathe easy, everyone. That global kale shortage you've been hearing about isn’t substantiated. However, the sheer amount of news coverage does draw attention to just how popular the food has become. It might be a good occasion to remember: There’s more (produce) to life than kale, folks.
Sara Reistad-Long writes about science, wellness and lifestyle. She is the co-author of The Big New York Sandwich Book and can be followed on Twitter: @sarareistadlong