Food trends

Food Trends and Labels

Food trends: it’s almost impossible to keep up with the constant influx of different food trends that seem to dominate the media as well as the dinner table conversation. “What are you eating these days?” is a question I hear often, as are questions such as, “Are you eating (gluten, sugar, dairy)?” and “Have you tried (coconut oil, quinoa, almond milk)?” We are a food-trend obsessed culture, especially here in the Bay Area.


2013 was no different: elimination diets were all the rage and everyone had that friend who had cut something from their diet — meat, sugar, dairy, you name it. Gluten-free was still in full-force (and continues to be) and the Paleo diet had gained a significant following. (The Paleo diet attempts to mimic the diet of our ancestors during the Paleolithic era and “consists mainly of fish, grass-fed pasture raised meats, eggs, vegetables, fruit, fungi, roots, and nuts, and excludes grains, legumes, dairy products, potatoes, refined salt, refined sugar, and processed oils” (thanks, Wikipedia). It’s no walk in the park, as it requires a good amount of planning and a serious dedication to cooking much of your own food.


Coconut oil, a food previously considered as a gateway drug to heart disease, came out as the latest health food as well as general cure-all: cook with it, clean with it, remove your makeup with it; use it in your hair, on your nails, or in your bathtub. While there is still some controversy about the health benefits of coconut oil — it contains 92% saturated fat, after all — continues to receive widespread praise from nutrition experts and foodies, alike.


Conceptually, one of the biggest food trends of 2013 was the shift to local and organic — and I’m talking about more than just fruits and vegetables. “There’s been a virtual firestorm of regional cheeses and microbrews, artisanal jams, olive oils and breads being created in communities across America,” writes Lisa Gosselin of Eating Well. “And with them, we’ve seen the recent birth of online farmstands, such as America’s Farmstand and the Vermont franchise”


And while it’s only March, predictions of 2014’s food trends began before the year even began. While gluten-free remains as one of the most popular lifestyles, “clean eating” has gained a large and enthusiastic following. “What’s clean eating about?” asks Jessie Price, the Editor-in-Chief of Eating Well. “It means eating more vegetables, less meat, less sodium, watching your alcohol, limiting processed foods and choosing whole grains. In other words: it’s basic, common-sense, good, healthy eating.” It’s actually quite similar to what Healthy Planet’s all about. 🙂


In terms of 2014’s “hot new foods,” I was surprised to learn that cauliflower is the new “it” vegetable. In other words, cauliflower is the new kale — or so they say. (I won’t argue with this as I’m cauliflower’s biggest fan, but I hope people don’t start putting the stuff in their smoothies…or juicing it.) Nuts are also growing in popularity, which seems like a delayed response to the increase in nut milks (yeah, almond milk!).


It looks like 2014 is going to be a big year for food, culturally speaking. To our delight here at Healthy Planet, the quality of kids’ meals seems to be gaining importance in the eyes of food providers and policy makers alike with the increasing attention to school lunches and snacks targeted at children. Community-Supported Agriculture (CSA) is expanding both in size and scope with many CSA programs adding foods like bread, cheese, and fish to its offerings. Even food trucks are beginning to add healthier (and often gourmet) options, both in their ingredients to their cooking methods.


However, the biggest news regarding food in 2014 may not be about food, exactly, but rather about how we choose our food. At the end of February, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration announced their proposal to change the Nutrition Facts label to accurately “reflect the latest scientific information, including the link between diet and chronic diseases such as obesity and heart disease.” Specifically, the updated label would also “replace out-of-date serving sizes to better align with how much people really eat, and it would feature a fresh design to highlight key parts of the label such as calories and serving sizes.” As Michelle Obama, First Lady and developer of the Let’s Move! anti-obesity campaign, explained, “Our guiding principle here is very simple: that you as a parent and a consumer should be able to walk into your local grocery store, pick up an item off the shelf, and be able to tell whether it’s good for your family.”

If you read my first blog post, you know that one of my biggest criticisms of our current food system is the confusion surrounding serving sizes that the current (and soon to be former) Nutrition Fact label perpetuates. While I don’t know how effective the new label will be in preventing consumers from eating three servings of Doritos (under the impression that the entire bag contains just one), I applaud the FDA for increasing the prominence of calorie content and serving size on the new label. Cheers to a healthier and more informed 2014!