Nutrition Notes

Top Food and Diet Trends for 2020

The start of a new year is typically a time when people reflect on what went well during the year that just ended, what went not-so-well, and what they can do better going forward. With regard to diet and health, gyms are flooded with new members seeking to establish or get back to a habit of regular exercise, and dietary detox programs fly off the shelves as people try to “atone” for perceived dietary sins and indulgences over the holidays and start the new year with a clean slate. For people looking to improve their health—or perhaps just be trendy and stay on top of the latest crazes—what does 2020 have in store? Let’s take a look at some of the anticipated food and diet trends for the new year.

According to Janet Helm, MS, RDN, who attended the 2019 Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics’ Food and Nutrition Conference and Expo, some of the topics featured in presentations included detoxification, personalized nutrition, and at least two things it’s hard to miss these days if you spend more than a few minutes engaged in health- and diet-related social media: ketogenic diets and CBD. In an article about food trends for 2020, the publication Business Insider also acknowledges that keto-oriented products and menu options are “experiencing a surge in popularity as people embrace a low-carb lifestyle.” This goes hand-in-hand with what Ms. Helm predicts being popular in the new year: low-carb coating, crumbs, and croutons.

Beyond coatings and crumbs, alternative flours have exploded in popularity the last few years and this rise shows no signs of stopping. As food intolerances become more common and more people are paying attention to their carb intake, flours made from nuts, seeds, non-gluten grains, and even cauliflower, are peppering the shelves even in discount and big-box stores. These alternative ingredients are no longer solely the purview of bulk bins at health food stores and co-ops.

The Business Insider article notes that bone broth and collagen powders will continue to occupy a place in popular foods as consumers value them for their potential in supporting healthy skin and joints. The article also mentions reishi mushrooms, which consumers are paying attention to for their immune-supporting properties. Everything old is new again. The use of mushrooms as medicine dates back thousands of years, and broth has been a valued component of a range of diverse ethnic culinary traditions for centuries. Things like this persist because they work, and modern technology has made it easier for consumers to take advantage of these products without having to make them at home. (Even if broth is as easy as throwing some bones and aromatics into a stock pot, adding water, and letting it do its thing on a back burner for a few hours.)

In looking at food trends for the new year it would be nearly impossible to miss the growing presence of plant-based alternatives to meat products. These are helpful options for those who choose to avoid animal foods, but the marketing messages may be misleading. According to the EPA, greenhouse gas emissions from the agricultural sector account for just 9 percent of total US greenhouse gas emissions, compared to triple the amount being produced by the transportation and electricity sectors, at 29 and 28 percent, respectively. Additionally, evidence indicates that properly managed ruminant animals may actually reduce atmospheric carbon rather than contributing to it. Both the environmental and nutritional aspects of these novel products are currently the subjects of heated debate. It will be interesting to see if consumers embrace these meat alternatives or if they move toward a return to less processed foods.

Perhaps one of the most encouraging potential trends for 2020 is a shift in kids’ menus at restaurants. There’s more to food than chicken tenders and hot dogs, and while certainly, not all children will be interested in anything beyond mac & cheese or spaghetti, some may have adventurous palates and be willing to try foods that might surprise their parents. As noted in Forbes magazine, “Millennial parents are raising a generation of little foodies.”

These are all just predictions, of course. Time will tell whether these trends catch on or continue, or if unexpected players emerge that take the food and health worlds by storm in 2020.