We’re not talking about the latest fad diet or weight loss regimen. We’re talking about people making real changes in lifestyle, and making a renewed commitment to eating right. It’s not just us. Everyone, it seems is buzzing about the Jamie Oliver “Food Revolution” TV show, or about overhauling school lunch programs, or eating locally-sourced foods, or fighting childhood obesity. It’s what’s being discussed around America’s dinner table. Nutrition has never been trendier. Here are the top ten trends in healthy eating as we’re tracking them today.
1. Higher ‘Fooducation.’ Consumers are getting smarter and more serious about eating healthy. With aging Boomers, the focus has shifted from vanity to a very real health focus. With younger generations, it’s still more about appearances, but the actual commitment to eating smarter seems more genuine than in the past. Nearly everyone, it seems is reading nutrition labels in the supermarket or asking for more health-related information when dining out. People with highly specific dietary needs such as gluten-free, allergen-free, and low-carb are not only well-informed but also passionate about getting what they need.
2. Health: That’s Entertainment! The Biggest Loser has been one of NBC’s biggest ratings winners. Viewers get engaged in these contestants’ struggles to change their lifestyle—and diet plays a huge role, of course. Now the ‘Naked Chef,’ Jamie Oliver, is bringing his passion for eating healthier to American television and specifically to Huntington, West Virginia, the so-called unhealthiest city in the USA. His new show, Jamie Oliver’s Food Revolution which debuted in March, is likely to usher in more programming of its kind—if it’s a ratings hit. Another example: the Oscar-nominated documentary, Food Inc., the probe into America’s food industry. It will be broadcast on PBS in April. And then there’s David Romanelli’s Jam Sessions: Yoga for Foodies, a live tour that’s criss-crossing America in 2010 with an interactive program that entertains with a mashup of yoga, music, food, wine, and chocolate.
3. Keeping It Simple. Consumers are looking for ‘clean’ labels, foods with a relatively few basic, simple ingredients. They’d rather see sugar than high-fructose corn syrup; they’re looking for more whole grains and fiber, but fewer additives and preservatives. People want foods that are honest, approachable, sustainable. The recent revival of Oatmeal as the hot breakfast food is a prime example—proudly promoted at McDonald’s, Starbucks and Jamba Juice. Another brand that’s “keeping it simple” is Häagen-Dazs and its new line of ice cream, “Five.” The line has 7 different flavors, each with only five ingredients. Vanilla, for instance, is made from skim milk, cream, sugar, egg yolks, and vanilla extract.
4. Legislating Healthy Eating. Government attempts to ‘legislate healthier eating’ show no signs of letting up. Five states have already passed statewide menu-labeling legislation (Calif., N.J., Mass., Maine, and Oregon). Cities such as Philadelphia have enacted laws requiring calories to be published on restaurant menus in type as large as the name of the item. In New York City, Mayor Bloomberg is pushing for a prohibition of excess sodium (as has been done with trans fats in New York and other cities).
5. Chain Restaurants Get Calorie Conscious. We see calorie counting in unlikely places these days, and we expect that to continue. Even quick-service outfits such as KFC are talking up “395-calorie grill chicken meals, and Taco Bell has touted its ‘Drive-thru Diet’ (results not typical). Applebee’s got into the act, too, using ‘regular guys’ to promote its 550-calorie meals in TV commercials.
6. Sugar: A Bitter/Sweet Story. First, the good news for sugar: it’s making a comeback in the battle against high fructose corn syrup. We’ll continue to see more soft drinks touting that they’re made with real cane sugar. The bad news is sugar is still mostly the villain. Many schools are banning soda machines from school property, and trying to keep sugar-laden foods like sweet rolls and chocolate milk out of the cafeteria. And President Obama has floated the idea of a ‘soda tax’ on sugar-sweetened drinks as a way to generate revenue and ween people off of sugary soft drinks.
7. Stay Tuned for the New Super-duper Food. What’s the next superstar to join the superfood ranks of the antioxidant-rich blueberry, açai berry and mangosteen? Perhaps the Miracle Berry will go mainstream, or the yumberry from China. But berries don’t have a monopoly in the ‘super’ category. Some have predicted that salba seed (pictured, left)—a variety of black chia grain grown widely in Mexico and South America—will become the next super grain. Perhaps. What is certain is that some seed, plant or berry will be granted the mantle of super-ness, and get a heavy dose of media coverage.
8. Fresh, Please. Not Processed. ‘Processed’ will become one of the demonized words on the nutrition scene, right up there with ‘trans fat’ and ‘high-fructose corn syrup’ on the ‘to be avoided’ list. People want fresh foods, and foods made with real ingredients, sourced locally if possible. Farmers’ markets, co-ops and Community Supported Agriculture (CSA) will continue to thrive. Buying fresh produce in season will become the mantra for shoppers across the nation.
9. Antioxidants in Demand. Although the predicted pandemic of H1N1 flu proved not to be quite on that scale, the threat of its return during the next flu season will drive people to seek out antioxidant-rich foods such as strawberries and blueberries, beans, artichokes, and pecans. Foods high in Omega-3 fatty acids will be sought out as well.
10. Organic Everywhere. Organic foods have gone from health food store niche to a major staple at places like Wal-Mart, Target, Sam’s Club, Costco, and supermarkets everywhere. Organic is becoming more affordable and will continue to grow in spite of the slowly recovering economy. Consumers are becoming more knowledgeable as to which foods are most important to seek out in organic form (such as apples or peaches, which are often sprayed with pesticides). Foods you can consider safer to eat without buying organic include asparagus, avocados, and pineapples. These fruits and vegetables often contain little to no pesticides.
This is part of our Beyond the Plate series sponsored by U.S. Foodservice. View the complete series at: www.beyondtheplate.com