For years, Martha Solt never worried about her cholesterol level. "Then all of a sudden, boom! It went higher," says Solt, a 46-year-old economist at the Federal Deposit Insurance Corp.
The Bethesda resident's doctor suggested that she lose weight to see if that would help. It did. In six months she shed 30 pounds, and her cholesterol has dropped into the healthy range. And she did it by shopping carefully, reading labels and eating fresh, healthful foods -- all those boring strategies that work.
Solt's supermarket search is likely to get easier. In the coming year, health and weight-conscious shoppers like her will be able to find:
Trans fat reduction. All food labels, effective Jan. 1, will list the amount of trans fat in products. The new law has spurred many food companies to reduce or eliminate trans fats, which are formed when liquid oils are made into solid fats and are responsible for raising the amount of bad cholesterol in the blood.
In some of its products, Kellogg's will be using genetically modified soybeans to do so; expect others to follow suit.
Whole grains in unexpected places. They'll be turning up in soups and pretzels and even in cookies, cakes and scones. The number of new whole-grain products doubled last year; you can expect more of the same in 2006. Look for the Whole Grains Council logo on products.
Fortified foods for digestive health. Tropicana is introducing orange juice with extra fiber, for example. An eight-ounce glass has as much fiber as a medium-sized orange. Dannon is introducing Activa, a "probiotic yogurt" designed to help reduce "intestinal transit time" -- in other words, constipation.
Snacks in portion-controlled packages. Lots of 100-calorie packs from Nabisco (Oreo Thin Crisps, Ritz Snack Mix), Kellogg's and Kraft, plus Coke in eight-ounce, 100-calorie cans. Quaker Chewy Bars are slimming down from 120 calories to 90.
Even more packaged produce. Packaged salads, such as Ready Pac's mixes of spinach and lettuce, will proliferate, as well as pre-washed and cut-up fruits and veggies and other convenient fresh produce.
Logos identifying healthier foods. More companies will use logos to promote their healthier products, such as Kraft's Sensible Solution and Pepsi's Smart Spot lines.
-- Carole Sugarman
Carole Sugarman, a former Washington Post staff writer, now covers food safety and nutrition for Food Chemical News.