13 Key Diet Trends
Sharon Palmer, R.D.
The brand new year always presents opportunities to improve your diet and health. We've enlisted the help of food and nutrition trend experts to peer into the future. Many new, and some old, factors are coming together to influence how consumers will make food choices every day.
Yet today's consumers have a strong sense that their diet can directly impact their health, even though they consider a multitude of factors before they decide what to put on their plates. Our panel of nutrition experts discusses the latest consumer attitudes on diet and predicts the top food and nutrition trends coming your way this year.
1. Sustainability and local foods move mainstream.
The sustainable, local foods movement will move further into the mainstream. "Consumers are more aware of sustainability than ever, thanks to movie blockbusters like 'Food Inc.' and
2. The sodium red flag.
The health establishment's harsh warnings against sodium have finally sunk in. More people will express concern about sodium levels in their foods. The trends survey found that major media coverage and manufacturer reformulations have pushed "low-sodium" into the top three food attributes consumers are hearing about. "I see more people aware of the sodium content in foods. As our population ages, they are more concerned about their health and what they are consuming. The large amount of sodium in food is an issue for them," adds
3. A new emphasis on healthier foods.
Jeannie Gazzaniga-Moloo Ph.D., R.D., spokesperson for AND, presented the findings of the survey at the conference. She reports that half of consumers say they're eating more vegetables and whole-grains today than they did five years ago. Ruhs adds, "You will see more innovative packaging ideas to sell more fruits and vegetables, convenient produce snacks such as small apples and carrots and dips, and healthier packaged foods."
4. Economic worries in the supermarket aisles.
Ruhs believes that today's tough economic times may trump other considerations at the checkout lane. "Families are much more cost-conscious and are seeking values when shopping. Consumers balance the cost vs. nutrition vs. convenience vs. taste." More people will search for economic ways to eat healthful foods, such as using coupons, buying fresh only in season, and purchasing more preserved fruits and vegetables.
5. Whole foods over processed foods.
The "clean" food movement will make headway, as people search for more whole foods that are minimally processed and as close to their natural state as possible. "There seems to be a trend for people seeking out more natural foods, such as fruits and vegetables, and less processed foods. I also see more people reading food labels. If it has a lot of strange sounding names on the ingredient panel, they are putting it back," says Frechman.
6. High tech meets food and nutrition.
A number of websites and apps for use on your home computer or smart phone will offer many resources, including coupons, nutrition information on products, and assistance tracking your weight, diet and fitness goals. "Most consumers have access to the Internet and utilize it as a reliable source of information. Mobile apps now help consumers shop for better values and compare nutrition facts of foods, and this is only the beginning!" says Ruhs.
7. Back to home cooking.
Thanks to a heightened sensitivity over food dollars, as well as health, people will spend more time in the kitchen. "We will see a back-to-basics and preference for convenient fresh foods that will support quick, easy and healthy home cooking -- for example, pre-sliced fresh vegetables that can be easily and quickly added to create a stir-fry dish," says Gazzaniga-Moloo.
8. Convenience reigns supreme.
Time will still be a precious commodity, pushing the popularity of convenience foods. "Lack of time seems to be a common problem with busy, working people, when it comes to make healthy choices," says Frechman. She believes that there will be a rising demand for "survival" cooking classes that teach families how to make affordable, simple, healthy meals together.
9. Probiotics madness.
Study after study highlights the potential advantages of probiotics, creating great interest among consumers about these "friendly" bacteria. Food, beverage, and supplement products that contain strains of probiotics will continue to increase, along with the number of people interested in digestive health benefits, according to Gazzaniga-Moloo.
10. In search of "inherent goodness."
Consumers will be even more aware of foods with "inherent goodness," such as berries and omega-3 rich foods. Gazzaniga-Moloo adds, "Consumers have shown us that they prefer to add foods with specific health components, for example, antioxidants and omega-3s, to their diet to support health, rather than give up foods they enjoy."
11. Organic health halo.
The interest in all things organic will continue to climb. "Organic produce continues to carry a health halo, with more than half of consumers saying they believe it is healthier than conventionally grown produce," says Gazzaniga-Moloo. Look for growth in organic store brands that will make the price tag a little more affordable.
12. Sweet, natural alternatives.
The popularity of "natural" sugar alternatives will continue to rise, according to Gazzaniga-Moloo. While stevia and agave nectar may be the king and queen of "natural" sweeteners, look for newcomers, like monk fruit sweetener and palm sugar, to make a splash. And more products will include these sweeteners in their formulation.
13. Fed up with nutrition misinformation.
The information super highway may be a bog of myths, urban legends, and unscientific information on nutrition, but look for a growing, new appreciation for science-based, practical nutrition information. "I see people fed up with misleading nutrition information. More than ever, people want realistic ways to achieve a healthy lifestyle, not magic cures," says Frechman.
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