Karen Ensle Ed.D., RD, FADA, CFCS
Family & Community Health Sciences Educator
Rutgers Cooperative Extension of Union County
Do you want to start or continue to work toward a healthier lifestyle? There are some trends that are expanding from last year and others that are new that can help you achieve your goals in our fast-paced world. Below are seven food trend predictions:
- Lower Sugar Versions of Products – Due to the latest version of the Dietary Guidelines for Americans, the recommendation is for Americans to limit their consumption of sugar to no more than 10 percent of calories (50 grams or 12.5 teaspoons/day for the average person). The American Heart Association recommends no more than 6 teaspoons or 100 calories a day of sugar for women and no more than 9 teaspoons or 150 calories a day of sugar for men. Sugar contains 4 calories per gram and there are 4 grams of sugar in each teaspoon. More foods and beverages with no sugar are artificially sweetened.
- Healthy and Convenient Food and Meals – Convenience, quick to fix, healthy meals have paved the way for companies like “Blue Apron” that send the ingredients and directions to prepare several healthy meals each week. In addition, food companies are packaging pre-cooked whole grain pouches and grab and go salads as examples.
- Healthy Fat is OK – As research continues on the benefits of fats in our diet, food manufacturers continue to incorporate unsaturated fats such as olive oil as a major ingredient in many dishes. Avocadoes, nuts, seeds, olives are all part of a healthy diet and we will find more food products and snacks such as cereals and bars that contain these ingredients. Also, the Mediterranean Diet is very popular right now.
- Snacking Becomes Mealtime – As families struggle to spend time together, sit-down meals become once-in-a-while events and snacks replace meals. As snacks become more portable and packaged as individual servings, several items like a granola bar, yogurt and piece of fruit become a quick meal. Wholesome mini-meals need to contain foods from the dairy, protein, fruit, vegetable and whole grain food groups. Keep any foods that need refrigeration safe in an insulated lunch bag with blue ice.
- Environmental and Ethical Choices – Consumer food concerns will go beyond sustainability to the ethical choices that food companies make. This includes farming practices, use of chemicals and pesticides, migrant worker and labor practices along with some companies “giving back” to the community to please consumers. Organic and regular food products sit next to each other on supermarket shelves. Some supermarkets ONLY sell organic foods to please their customer base.
- Plants Primary on the Plate – It seems “every food today is plant-based.” People are swapping animal foods for plant foods more frequently such as a soy burger instead of a beef, chicken or turkey burger. Plant-based options of meat products continue to increase on supermarket shelves. A new generation of faux meats including frozen entrees in supermarkets and plant options on restaurant menus are available.
- Portion Sizes are Important – Mastering portion control in both what you eat and how much you eat helps to control calories. One way to break the habit of eating large portions is to form a new, smaller plate sizing habit. Figure out the easiest way for you to limit portion size: using smaller plates, buying pre-packaged portions, preparing food ahead of time and/or sharing large menu items. Let your environment do the work for you and over time, small portions will become a habit.
Incorporate some of the food trends described above into your lifestyle in 2017.Also make sure that you increase your vegetable intake through consumption of salads, soups, main dishes and snacks that include green, yellow, red, orange, purple and white vegetables. Increase fresh fruits in your diet as well. Small steps make a difference. Following these recommendations will ensure you get plenty of fiber, vitamins, and minerals that are essential for good health.