Grading the Best (and Worst) Food Crazes of 2013

STACK grades six foods and food trends that came to prominence in 2013. Happy eating!

Cronuts

Five years ago, if I offered you a Cronut, kale chip or sriracha sauce, you probably would've turned your nose up or said, "What is that?" But by 2013, these foods—along with a handful (mouthful?) of others—saw their popularity reach a fever pitch. People now wait in lines that wrap around New York City blocks for a Cronut. You can get sriracha sauce at Subway. People voluntarily eat kale. It's a whole new world.

But that doesn't mean it's a good one.

Yes, some food fads were worth lauding in 2013, but the year also saw some edible atrocities rise to prominence. Here, we grade some of the best and worst food trends to emerge in 2013. Happy eating.

Cronut

The Cronut is described by its creator, Chef Dominique Ansel, as a "unique pastry creation." Her website says the Cronut has been described as "a croissant-doughnut hybrid." The official Cronut can only be found at her bakery in New York City, and the Cronut craze has prompted people to travel from all parts of the country (and perhaps the world) to get their mouth around one. Although I've never had one, it's safe to say that, if all the reviews are even remotely true, they are delicious.

But here's the thing: the Cronut has no official macronutrient numbers. A report by the Huffington Post says it is filled with "loads and loads of butter, along with cream injected through multiple layers with a syringe-like pastry tip and a glaze on top that encircles the hole in the middle. [The chef] fries each Cronut in grapeseed oil for 30 second." Well, that's enough, isn't it? Sometimes you don't need to know the whole story to pass judgment. This is one of those moments.

GRADE: F

Kale

Low in calories, loaded with iron, alpha linoleic-acid (a type of omega-3), vitamin A and vitamin C, kale is actually one of the best things to come to prominence in 2013. It's a versatile food, too, lending itself to baking, frying and just plain old raw consumption. Just make sure you have some in your fridge.

GRADE: A

Sriracha Sauce

Here today, gone tomorrow—or the spicy nectar of the gods? The jury is out on whether or not sriracha will become a permanent staple of American dining, but from a nutritional standpoint, this condiment is a good choice. A single serving only clocks in at five calories. The only thing is, it's fairly high in sodium (100 mg per serving). Other than that, it's just a spicy paste that makes everything taste better.

GRADE: B+

Note:  You might disagree with our grade if you're living in Irwindale, California. The city filed a suit against Huy Fong foods, the company behind the popular sriracha sauce with the rooster on the bottle, because production of the sauce created odors that permeated the town.

Dorito's Locos Taco

Taco Bell introduced two new flavors of its monumentally successful Locos taco this year, and the "food" earned the chain over one BILLION dollars. Adding a cheese-like dust to a taco-like-product has to be one of the smartest moves in the history of the company. The crunchy creation certainly won't further your fitness goals, but if you can limit yourself to a single taco, it won't derail your diet either. The Cool Ranch version packs only 160 calories (compare that to 340 calories in a Whopper Jr. with cheese), and requesting it Fresco (with pico de gallo salsa instead of cheese, dairy based sauces, reduced fat sour cream and guacamole, according to the Taco Bell website) slashes the fat by 25 percent.

GRADE: C-

Quinoa

What, you didn't know that 2013 was The International Year of Quinoa? It was, and if you haven't tried this potent power-food yet, you're missing out. Besides being an excellent source of complex carbohydrates, quinoa also delivers a complete protein, unlike most other grains (which, by the way, it's not—it's a seed).  Swap it in for rice whenever you want to change things up a bit.

GRADE: A

Juicing

This one isn't a food but a trend—juice trucks, at-home juicers, and juice "bars" seemed to pop up on every corner. Even LeBron James's wife opened a juice spot (which is actually named The Juice Spot) in Miami. While the ingredients themselves are actually quite healthy—mostly fruits and veggies—the extreme measures some people take when juicing are not. Juice cleanses can call for practitioners to consume nothing but juiced foods for a few days or weeks. Not a good idea.

Taking the juice craze in moderation and having one or two glasses a day, on top of what you're already eating, probably won't do you any harm. And it just might sneak a few more veggies into your diet, which is never a bad thing.

GRADE: Incomplete. Depends how you use it.


Photo Credit: Getty Images // Thinkstock

Topics: DIET | CALORIES | FOODS | CHEESE | JUICE | QUINOA