Welcome to 2015! The good news is that working-age American adults are getting the message that they need to make changes to their diets and lifestyles in order to maintain their health and avoid chronic disease. While obesity rates have not fallen, there is evidence to suggest that, as a whole, our eating patterns are changing for the better. And even though these shifts towards healthier living have yet to make a dent in obesity rates, the latest findings suggest that Americans are reducing their caloric intake by cutting back on unhealthy fast food options, drinking less soda and eating home-cooked meals more often. We are taking the time to read nutrition labels and are putting pressure on restaurants and food manufacturers to offer more healthful choices.
Clean eating is expected to be one of the top food trends for the new year. This very simple concept involves eating whole food as close to its natural state as possible, and being mindful of how and where it was produced. As consumers gravitate toward more locally produced foods, expect to see a rise in farmer’s markets where local, sustainably produced foods are available. In addition to seasonal fruits and vegetables, shoppers are looking for locally produced cheeses, grass fed beef, local seafood and craft beers. Expect to see more locally produced foods on restaurant menus, especially in larger cities like New York, Chicago and L.A.
As more Americans seek out functional food products that have the potential to promote healthy aging and reduce the risk of developing age-related disease, expect to see more foods, including snack foods and drinks, that come with a protein packed punch. Necessary for building, repairing and maintaining muscle, protein aids in satiety and is important for weight management. While Americans clamor for more protein, and with soy and wheat-based proteins falling out of favor, food makers are responding by producing foods with non-GMO, plant-based protein such as found in quinoa, hempseed and yellow peas.
Foods that promote a healthy digestive tract will continue to increase in 2015. These include yogurt, tempeh, kefir, kimchi and other products containing probiotics and dietary fiber. The friendly bacteria found in fermented foods can improve digestive health, aid in supporting a healthy immune response and may reduce or help prevent allergies. Expect to see more packaged foods fortified with probiotics lining store shelves and interesting artisanal fermented foods showing up at farmer’s markets and specialty food stores.
Gluten-free diets appear to be here to stay as more and more Americans are reducing or entirely eliminating gluten containing foods. With a rise in concerns over food allergies, digestive health and GMO grains, manufactured gluten-free foods are filling supermarket shelves. While there are many processed, unhealthy gluten-free foods available, consumer demand is prompting food companies to make healthier options. Many restaurants now offer gluten free versions of their most popular dishes and some are embracing the trend by becoming entirely gluten-free.
Ancient or heritage grains, such as quinoa, einkorn, kamut, farro and spelt, have been around for centuries and are making a big comeback due to consumers looking to add variety to their diets, while also avoiding gluten and GMO grains. These whole grains contain high amounts of fiber, protein and nutrients and many are associated with reduced cholesterol and blood sugar levels, as well as lower levels of pro-inflammatory cytokines. Not all ancient grains are gluten-free, so be sure to check before consuming if you are gluten intolerant.
Healthy fats such as found in avocados, nuts, grass fed dairy and coconut are making a comeback as Americans get over their dietary fat phobia. After decades of low-fat or no-fat health advice, Americans are moving away from unhealthy processed fats and oils and are recognizing that natural fats are an essential part of a healthy diet. Science shows that eating healthy fat does not make you fat and is actually helpful in maintaining or losing weight. Dietary fats are an important energy source and are necessary to absorb fat soluble vitamins such as A, D, E and K. Essential fatty acids aid in controlling inflammation, blood clotting and brain development.
While some may cringe at the thought of ingesting edible insects, such as grasshoppers, caterpillars or crickets, there is growing interest in these protein packed powerhouses. Some would argue that insects may be the key to our food future because of their high nutritional value and their environmentally friendly cultivation. Eating bugs is uncommon in American culture, but in Africa, South America and Asia eating insects is commonplace and has been for centuries. Americans may not get over their aversion to eating insects quickly, but expect to see more snack foods and insect-based dishes on specialty menus for more adventurous consumers.
Look to see expanded on-line grocery shopping and at home delivery that was once only available largely in urban areas. While once considered a luxury, we have grown accustomed to non-perishable items arriving on our doorsteps. As busy consumers use these services for convenience, more companies will compete for consumer attention and will begin shipping perishable items to mainstream consumers not only in cities but in suburban areas as well.
And finally, eliminate the word “diet” from your vocabulary and say hello to real food. People will be snacking smarter, eating more fruits and vegetables, cutting down on processed carbs and moving towards organic, locally sourced and sustainably produced whole foods, and that’s good news for improved health and wellness. Cheers to a healthy 2015!
American’s Eating Habits Take a Healthier Turn. http://www.wsj.com/articles/SB10001424052702304149404579323092916490748
Gluten-Free Eating Appears to Be Here to Stay. http://www.nytimes.com/2014/06/18/dining/gluten-free-eating-appears-to-be-here-to-stay.html?_r=0
Discover the Digestive Benefits of Fermented Foods. http://www.nutritionletter.tufts.edu/issues/10_2/current-articles/Discover-the-Digestive-Benefits-of-Fermented-Foods_1383-1.html
Food Trends You Need to Know for 2015. http://time.com/3649922/2015-food-trends/
Ancient Grains: A Guide. http://www.berkeleywellness.com/healthy-eating/food/article/ancient-grains-guide