What’s Hot, What’s Not in Nutrition: A Look at 2010 Food and Nutrition Trends

Photo:  Courtesy of Flickr user Optical Illusion

Photo: Courtesy of Flickr user Optical Illusion

I’ve been writing a lot about food trends in anticipation of the start of the new year.  Most of my posts have been summaries of the predictions of others — from the National Restaurant Association to the Supermarket Guru. This time it’s my take on what I think will be hot in 2010, with a specific focus on nutrition trends.  You can find my predictions in the Chicago Tribune (The Buzz in 2010: These Nutrition Trends Will Be Fodder in New Year or in this online slideshow Nutrition Trends for 2010.) The full article is reprinted below.  What do you think will be the big issues in 2010?

Chicago Tribune

The Buzz in 2010
These nutrition trends will be fodder in new year

by Janet Helm
Special to Tribune Newspapers

Out with the old, in with the new. Now that we’ve officially started the new year, what new nutrition trends will replace the old? What food issues will dominate, and which ones will fade away?   Here are our predictions for 2010 — a nutritional forecast of what’s hot, what’s not:

Fresh is the new functional.

Pumped-up foods fortified with various health-enhancing ingredients may be falling out of favor. The majority of shoppers (88 percent) believe it’s more important to eat foods naturally rich in nutrients instead of fortified or enriched, according to Barbara Katz, president of HealthFocus International.The trend is being dubbed “inherently nutritious” or “functionally natural.” The new ideal is fresh, less processed, real and authentic. Anything artificial will continue to be challenged.

Simplicity is the new sophistication.

The year will be defined by the concept of less is more. We’ll see this in multiple ways, including less packaging, shorter ingredient lists and more understandable ingredients, said Lynn Dornblaser, a new products analyst at Mintel, a market research firm. She predicts companies will continue to pare down the ingredients in packaged food — a trend that started in 2009 with 42 percent of food and drink categories reducing the number of ingredients per product. A shorter ingredient list was the top 2010 trend identified by readers of SupermarketGuru.com.

Low carbon is the new low carb.

This year will bring the mainstreaming of sustainability, predicts Kay Logsdon, editor of The Food Channel, a Web site devoted to food. Before 2009, many people didn’t even know what the word “sustainable” meant; now it has become a priority — or at least shoppers are making small steps, she said. Expect to see more green restaurants and eco-labeling on foods, including carbon footprint, water footprint, food miles, biodegradable packaging and fair trade. Eating “local” will still be in vogue, but the definition will be expanded to make it more practical and realistic.

Food is the new insurance.

With concerns about health care likely to remain, people will intensify their efforts to stay well. Increasingly this will mean looking to food as a solution. Research conducted by HealthFocus International indicates that shoppers have a growing desire to control their own health and “live long and live strong.” The single greatest concern of shoppers is retaining mental sharpness as they age, according to the research. That means we can expect to see even more foods and beverages touting brain-related benefits. Other big claims will focus on immunity, heart disease, arthritis, eye health and the ability to “detox.”

Meat-free is the new meat.

Move over meat — you’re no longer the center-of-the-plate star. Now there’s a new approach, with meat viewed as a condiment or left out entirely at mealtime. While we may not become a country full of committed vegetarians, expect to see more people choose to eat meat less often, predicts Dawn Jackson Blatner, a dietitian and author of “The Flexitarian Diet.” Meat will be increasingly viewed as optional as more people opt for plant-based plates dominated by whole grains, beans, nuts and vegetables. The triple concerns over our health, the environment and the economy will help drive this trend, Blatner said.

Dining in is the new going out.

We will continue to reduce our reliance on restaurants in 2010 and eat more meals at home. But food preparation has changed with “warming and heating” now the method of choice, said Harry Balzer, chief industry analyst for The NPD Group, a research company that regularly tracks America’s eating habits. He predicts a resurgence of the microwave oven and more products specifically designed for microwave cooking. That may mean more respect for frozen foods, including steam-in-the bag meals and claims related to freshness locked in.

Sodium is the new trans fat.

Now that packaged foods and restaurant deep fryers have taken out trans fats, expect all eyes to turn to sodium. Sodium reduction is poised to be the next major health movement, according to Mintel’s Lynn Dornblaser. Yet this movement is being driven by the government and food industry, rather than the consumer, she said. Other trends typically start with the consumer, and then the industry delivers. Expect to see more companies announce sodium reductions, although the cuts will likely be gradual so consumer taste buds can adjust. Taste still rules, and shoppers are not willing to sacrifice.

Buzz words:  Sustainable * Local  *  Flexitarian  * Artisan * Natural  * Ethical eating * Clean eating

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  • I certainly hope these trends ring true in the new year, particularly those involving processed foods and their ingredients.

  • Seth W.

    Too bad people are misled about meat and sodium. If people were eating animals which were raised in a humane manner in their natural environment, they can have many health benefits (And even the meat consumed from conventional means today is better than no meat…). We also need sodium for many body processes…

  • Tara

    I agree with Seth. I was a vegetarian for over 15 years but my love of travel and cooking brought me back to eating meat. However, I always buy meat that is sustainably and humanely raised. My thought is that people will never stop eating meat but if we can continue to increase the demand for sustainably raised meat the people and animals will greatly benefit.

    Great article, BTW!!!

  • It will definitely be interesting to see what new products are rolled out. After spending a week in Argentina, I came back to the U.S. just with a fresh, clear head and a realization that so many people in the world get along with healthy, fresh food and they don’t have all the choices we do here in the U.S. How much stuff do we buy that we don’t really need — food included.

    My nutrition hat says it is a good thing to reduce meat and sodium intake. Eating out less frequently at restaurants/fast food is definitely one way to make that happen. Our portions of meat really are too large and restaurant food is riddled with salt. We all know that plant-based eating is healthy and naturally low in calories, saturated fat and sodium.

    My only concerned is the “food=insurance”. I know plenty of people (clients) whole will tweak their food to pieces, but won’t exercise or manage their stress. These nutrition steps are definitely in the right direction, but they have to be balanced with a joyful life that includes appreciating your quality of life with family and friends and having fun with exercise.


  • Cassandra

    Some of these have validity, but some sound more like wishful thinking from foodie elitists, or self-fulfilling prophesies from the PR agencies that are selling these same trends to their food product clients. It’s a chicken-and-egg situation.

  • Another excellent article, Janet!

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  • There was just a very interesting feature in the Boston Globe that addressed your “meat-free is the new meat” trend. Even in a town where seafood and boiled dinners are the norm, the article, “Health food mecca? More restaurants honor vegetarian, vegan, raw food philosophies,” shed light on the growing demand for alternatives.
    Great article Janet.

  • Hi and thanks for this nice entry.I think your blog has some features that will be proved to be of greater help.Thanksagain for this great job and for sharing the views with u.

  • I like these trends and hope that they will be mainstream and not just common among the elite! Eating less meat and salt (by way of processed foods) is not simply more healthy but also good for your wallet.
    Even if people did not cut down on meat and salt, we can make a lot of progress by simply reducing the portion size.
    I noticed you did not write about organic foods. Was that a passing fad?

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  • I definitely agree that a lot of these will be trends, which is for the good because I love most of them. Good buzz words as well. I actually was asked to write an article about flexitarianism a little while ago, and “clean eating” is everywhere!

  • Great post! I agree; I love cooking at home and eating pure, wholesome ‘clean foods’. My philosophy is “Clean Eating.” Thanks for this great post!

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  • Good list, but I would like to add two more:

    1.) Comfort foods, especially breakfast since more operators will be offering breakfast all day long.
    2.) Source of origin since those individuals that subscribe to a sustainable lifestyle will want to know exactly where the food is from so they better understand farm stewardship, labor practices, energy & water practices, etc.

  • Awesome post, Janet! I think that you nailed all of the most important food topics for 2010. I agree that people are ready to get back to basics and start cooking at home with real food!

  • Wow – who knew I was so trendy!

  • Sara Costanzo

    I’m trendy.

  • I disagree with some of your points.

    But, the point about sodium is bang on. This has been an overlooked thing for a looooong time. It’s great that people are starting to realize the dangers of high sodium.

    Thanks for this post!

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