Five Food Trends That Have Jumped The Shark

Sometimes food trends have just gone too far.  They’ve jumped the shark.

If that reference escapes you, then maybe you’re not a fan of Happy Days (or you’re simply too young).  The term “jumped the shark” goes back to a 1977 episode of this popular TV show2312730966_21acc3f82d when a leather jacket-clad Fonzie was water skiing and literally jumped over a shark in the water.  

That was a watershed moment, if you will.  At that point on, the show went downhill and was eventually cancelled.

You can see for yourself:

Jumping the shark even has its own Wikipedia definition to describe a point in time that marks a decline in quality that is beyond recovery. Jon Hein, creator of the now defunct website explains the concept:

“It’s a moment. A defining moment when you know that your favorite television program has reached its peak. That instant that you know from now on…it’s all downhill. Some call it the climax. We call it ‘Jumping the Shark.’ From that moment on, the program will simply never be the same.”

So as a lover of pop culture, I’m fascinated at how this TV reference has come to mean anything that just goes too far.  I think some food trends have had their “jumped the shark” moments.  Maybe it started out with good intentions, but things got carried away.  The hype just took over. These are the five trends that remind me of Fonzie.

1. Bacon


Don’t get me wrong, I love bacon.  But does everything need to contain bacon?  And must it be candied, covered in chocolate, in our drinks, our snacks, chapstick and even baby formula (OK, that part was hoax).  One recent survey identified bacon as the #1 food trend that people wanted to see less.   I agree.

2. Agave Nectar


Agave nectar is riding high as a natural sweetener, embraced by vegans and lovers of raw food.  It’s sugar.  In fact, agave nectar is not too different from high fructose corn syrup (although it contains even more fructose).  Yes, it comes from the agave plant, but it’s still a refined sugar.  Enjoy it in moderation, but don’t let the health halo blind you.

3. Chia Seeds


I like seeds, and chia seeds are just fine — but they’re not a miracle food. (See previous post) I  don’t think you need chia seed supplements or go out of your way to incorporate spoonfuls in everything you eat.  Yes, chia seeds contain omega-3s, but only about as much as a bite of salmon.  Go ahead and enjoy chia seeds (along with flaxseed, sesame and other seeds), just don’t let them distract you from eating more seafood or incorporating more fruits, vegetables and whole grains into your diet.

4. Antioxidants

splenda antioxidants

To me, the antioxidant trend has gone too far with the fortification of artificial sugar.  New Splenda Essentials are fortified with 20% of Daily Value of vitamin C and E “like those found in fruits and vegetables.”  Splenda will never be like fruits and vegetables.  Why even try?
5. Acai


This nice little purple berry from South America just went too far almost from the beginning.  You could never even find this fresh fruit anywhere.  It was typically the pulp in juices, sweetened teas and other foods — then supplements.  And then the claims got carried away really quickly.   How did this all even happen?

What trends do you think have jumped the shark?

[photo credits on agave nectar from Elana’s Pantry, Chia from jerushy44]

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  • As always, right on target… love that you frame these in the proper context… that while things like Chia ARE in fact good foods, they’re not a panacea for all that ails.

  • Dan

    I love the “Jumping the Shark” premise. I’m too young for Happy Day but always wondered where this phrase origninated. Entertaining post today.

    I wonder how many people actually know what Acai is? Or how to pronounce it. The more exotic it sounds the better, I suspect.

    And, although in my heart I concur, I feel I must gently disagree with you on bacon. Nothing burps like bacon.

  • Great post, Janet! Hadn’t heard that phrase “jumping the shark” before but it makes sense. I get questions about these 5 all the time… especially using agave for people with diabetes. People tend to think it’s a freebie. Not so.

    I think coconut is another one… coconut water, coconut milk, coconut oil and coconut flavored everything… not necessarily harmful but I wonder how much of the attention comes from the purported “healing” powers of coconut.

  • Currently, coconut water is making the leap, oh yeah. I think green and white tea were both touted way farther than necessary, as was pomegranate juice. Don’t we all yearn for the fountain of youth and beauty. Hmmm … not sure anything is the answer to everything.

  • Such a great post!! These things are so trendy, and it drives me nuts that they are marketed as being so healthy when they’re kind of arbitrary at best.

    I agree with those who’ve mentioned coconut oil and coconut water, and I’d also add the barrage of gluten-free foods that have swarmed supermarkets — just processed food in a new form!

  • Tamara

    Any blog that shows me one picture of oatmeal per day is being eliminated from my reading list. People have been eating porridge for centuries; it was hardly a “trend” to begin with. Protein-fortified spinach smoothies (“Green Monsters”) need to step aside too–they’re mostly sugar and expensive, artificial protein powders. Same with processed snack bars of nuts stuck together with fruit and sold for $2 for 6 oz.

  • Happy Days Janet. Another killer post. I would add wheat grass and “lite” foods to the list & on a culinary front I’m a little over heavily salted desserts and macarons. And yes, showing my age and wreaking my cool crediblity, but I had a poster of Scott Baio on my bedroom wall.

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  • Fantastic post here! People need to avoid these ‘fad’ kinds of diets/foods if they’re trying to achieve healthy weight loss or improve their overall nutrition.

  • Loved the post! Even though I’m young I still had a crush on Fonzie when I was about 10 lol. I can’t believe they make bacon flavored soda! Gross!

  • Ashley

    Thank you for this post! This one holistic nutritionist that I know tells her clients to sprinkle chia seeds in their morning smoothies, on toast, etc. I always thought the 1-2 teaspoon amount she recommended couldn’t have offered as many nutrients and omega 3s as she touted. So thanks for confirming my suspicions! Plus the seeds always get stuck in my teeth.

    I’m also really sick of this quinoa craze. Sorry but I think quinoa tastes weird. Give me some brown rice instead.

  • Love the post!
    Yeah, Acai berries…yes they are great antioxidants but if you ever been in Brazil (and I hope people don’t take this wrong), you know they are not a magic weight loss fruit – Acai is everywhere and big butt and stomachs are as well. Definitely good for you, but probably same as other berries.
    Another product – Fidji water……

  • Splenda w/ antioxidants??? I had not seen that-yikes! I agree with all your food trends, and I remember that episode of Happy Days like it were yesterday, but never heard the term “Jumping the shark.” I like bacon too, but not in everything. Ditto for chia seeds-like ’em and think they’re good for you, but so are so many other seeds and foods. In the end for me, a healthy diet boils down to variety, variety, variety!

  • In my opinion antioxidants have gained popularity/fame more than it deserves, I mean the benefits claimed for it are actually not that many. We do get lots of antioxidants from normal diet and if you plan well there is no need for extra antioxidant supplements.

  • Janet,

    I’m with you on the trendiness of these foods, but wanted to clarify a couple of facts you stated.

    I just double checked in and 1 ounce of chia seeds contains 4915 mg ALA and 1 ounce of salmon contains 339 mg of primarily DHA and EPA. That’s a pretty huge difference in a couple of ways…total amount and type. I had poo-pooed chia until I started doing some work for a local company that sells them and I came home to look it up because I thought there was a typo on their label. The audience we need to reach most effectively is the one prone to radical diets such as raw, and in order to do so it is really important to get the facts straight.

    Secondly, yes, agave nectar does have a high amount of fructose but it is also 72% sweeter than sugar. Again, working for several companies looking to more sustainably use the agave they were harvesting for other reasons I did a pretty thorough analysis last summer. My disclosure: I do make money from companies that sell agave but I do not actively sell it on my website. Here is the analysis, based on recommendations published in the European Food Safety Authority Journal.

    It’s still sugar, it just doesn’t deserve to be vilified by our profession in the fashion that it is.

    Monika M. Woolsey, MS, RD
    inCYST Institute for Hormone Health

  • Janet Helm

    I appreciate your comments, but it’s interesting that you’re working for both of the products that you’re defending. Glad that you disclosed that.
    First, my comments about chia seeds are exactly what you mentioned…they are NOT providing DHA and EPA omega-3s, which is the only type that has research behind it. So I don’t really care that they contain 4915 mg ALA. It’s not the same and people need to realize that. It’s fine to eat chia seeds, but people should understand that eating all the chia seeds in the world does not replace fish. The conversion of ALA to DHA and EPA is pretty lousy, so a boat-load of chia seeds will not measure up to fish. So not sure what you’re trying to clarify?
    And what’s your point about agave nectar. Yes, it’s sweeter than sugar, so that’s a positive that you might use less. I’m not vilifying it, but I’m trying to help people realize that it’s not a “natural” sugar that can be eaten in unlimited quantities because it’s good for you. That’s what I’m afraid is going on.

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  • Joel
  • froufrouha

    I eat chia seeds every day. I never even considered them a source of omega 3s, though. I eat lots of salmon and take a good salmon oil supplement for that. I find that putting two to four tablespoons of chia seeds in my morning smoothie (which is unsweetened, thanks) gives me a nice, um, shall we say evacuation each morning. I used to take psyllium husk but got tired of it. Chia seeds are much cheaper than psyllium husk, and much easier to incorporate into my routine. They are pretty much odorless and flavorless and, when you make them into a gel by soaking them overnight in water, they are a cinch to take. Also, they do have a good nutrition profile. No, they are not a miracle, and they won’t give you anything more miraculous than a cup of steamed broccoli or an orange — but I eat those sorts of things daily, too.

    The best thing to do is buy chia seeds in bulk and then keep a large jar of the seeds soaked in water in the refrigerator. This turns them into a gel which is easy to use, nutritious, and full of fiber. You’ll wake up every day and have a very nice, um, evacuation. Thanks, chia seeds!

  • kandi

    To the person who brought up gluten free foods. They ARE NOT just another processed food a lot of gluten free foods are organic and very expensive. What I hate is that people who do not need to be gluten free are turning it into a fad. Yes it is making it easier for us with Celiac or Gluten Intolerance to find GF foods. It makes me wonder how many of these companies will stop producing gluten free foods when the fad dies.

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