As we come in to the last quarter of the year and gear up for holiday feasts, food becomes the focus of our celebrations. Given that, I figured it’s a perfect time to check out what’s trending in food.
Though gluten-free has grown in popularity, does it have staying power? The rise in locally sourced foods and farm-to-table produce is not only for the farmers but now available to inner cities. Food is ever changing and this coming year proves that point.
To get the lowdown on what’s hot and what’s not in food, I connected with Naperville resident Dani Bachar who recently received her bachelor of science in dietetics at the University of Wisconsin, Madison. She is serving as a dietetic intern to become a registered dietician. She shares her thoughts on what foods have staying power and what trends might fade.
Farm to table
As a gardener I love the idea of home gardening finding its way to more homes. Even big cities offer programs supporting local gardens and farmers.
“It is very easy to find a local farmers’ market or CSA (Community Supported Agriculture) program,” Bachar said. “It’s a great way to get fresh, local produce, especially, to consumers. In our area alone, Batavia, Aurora, Naperville and Wheaton all have their own independent weekly farmers markets that run Saturdays, June through October.”
Bachar noted that to promote healthy eating for all income levels, individuals can receive financial assistance through the Illinois Link program and use their Link card at certified farmers markets to purchase produce.
Further, many local restaurants also are doing their part to promote a farm-to-table mentality. For example, more restaurants list the farms their foods come from as a way to increase customer awareness.
Obesity fighting efforts
As the fight with obesity continues, so do the strategies to counter it. According to Bachar, she sees a surge in healthy convenience foods.
“Perhaps, we will soon see vending machines that offer fresh, healthy options,” she said. “As a soon-to-be (registered dietician), I am hopeful that nutrition information and ingredients will become more transparent to consumers.”
Whole grains are back
After the no-carb trend, it seems that healthy, whole carbohydrates are resurfacing, which is a good thing. Bachar encourages people to look for whole grains and leave the processed grains behind.
“I believe we will see whole grains such as quinoa, faro, triticale, etc., make an appearance in grain-based products for everything from chips and crackers to breads.”
Seeds to munch on
Have you had your chia today? Flax seed became mainstream a few years ago, and just as it has became a more widely used and accepted ingredient, Bachar believes we will see the same with the use of chia seeds. They contain calcium, manganese and phosphorus, and a healthy source of omega-3 fats. Unlike flax seeds, which need to be ground before consumption, chia seeds can be eaten whole or milled.
Kale, yogurt, exotic foods
“I think kale will become more common in conventional products,” Bachar said. “We’ll likely see Greek yogurt expand beyond the yogurt isle to other products such as cereals, bars and baked goods.”
And she sees another trend coming in “foreign” or “exotic” ingredients coming to mainstream foods.
“We saw this with the Acai berry,” she said.
Bachar said that trendy diets will continue to lure those looking for a quick fix. She says the trendy diets now are gluten free and the Paleo diet, also called the Hunter-Gatherer or Caveman Diet.
“Sadly, I think that there will always be a new, crazy diet promising quick weight loss,” she said.
Bachar believes that gluten-free should be followed strictly by those who live with celiac disease.
“For individuals who do not have celiac disease, avoiding foods with gluten can mean missing out on wonderful whole grains,” she said. “In addition, products that are specifically labeled ‘gluten free’ can often be more expensive, especially if the food is one that would naturally contain gluten.”
As for the Paleo diet, Bachar notes that some of the diet is positive, such as the focus on fruits, vegetables and nuts as well as the exclusion of refined salt and sugar.
“However, I don’t believe it is sustainable or healthy to eliminate entire food groups such as grains and dairy as they are essential components to a healthy diet,” she said.
I am sure that 2014 and beyond will introduce new as well as recycled weight loss programs or super foods. However, it seems that getting back to basics like farm to table; more fruits and veggies; and avoiding processed, high-sugar, sodium-laden foods is advice with staying power.
Here’s to a delicious 2014!