10 nutrition trends for 2015

fireworks2015My predictions for the food, diet and nutrition trends that will make headlines in 2015:

  1. Fad diets will continue to be a source of comic relief or endless annoyance to nutrition experts everywhere. Sensationalism, magical thinking and “sciency” explanations are all it takes to sell diet books and products. If you doubt me, consider these prime examples: the Bulletproof Diet, Weight Loss Water and oil pulling. What hilarious new money-making diets does 2015 have in store for us?  Based on these three, it could be just about anything.
  2. Calorie counts are coming to a restaurant near you. The long (long) awaited FDA regulations on how restaurants must post calorie and nutrition information are finalized, which means 2015 will see menus cluttered with numbers. Will this magically fix the obesity epidemic? No, absolutely not.
  3. Food fats will make a come back. While I’m sure certain true believers will continue to worship at the altar of Low Fat Diets, there’s a rebellion brewing. Fat makes food taste good, and creates satiety. You don’t need to eat as much, when food is filling and delicious. Look for more publicity on the benefits of healthy fats.
  4. Probiotics will be hot. Yes our gut microbes play a key role in health. Our understanding of exactly how that happens is rudimentary at best. But lack of solid information isn’t going to stop the marketers. Look for more sales pitches for probiotics that supposedly enhance health or help with weight loss. And keep in mind: there’s no regulation of probiotics as far as effectiveness is concerned.
  5. Could this be the year that “natural” finally goes away? Consumers are confused about what natural means (hint: it means nothing) and are less and less inclined to value food products labeled “natural”. In it’s place, there will be more certifications for a variety of healthy food attributes. We already have certifications for organic, whole grain and GMO-free. What’s next? Place of origin? Animals fed or raised in a certain manner? Compostable packaging?
  6. More engineered foods. OK, this is the exact opposite of the popular emphasis on whole foods, but I think the time has come. Exhibit A: Soylent. This highly engineered food replacement drink is now hot with techies, who can’t be bothered to eat actual food. Food is distracting and time consuming; drink some Soylent and get on with work. Soylent isn’t the first or only such product; drinks like Ensure and meal-replacement bars aren’t much different, although they taste better. I don’t see this trend going anywhere but up. Will our food eventually be printed by a 3-D printer?
  7. More apps to tell you when to eat, what to eat, when to stop eating, how much you ate, how to cook and what foods to buy. People will use the apps for awhile, then drift back to their usual behaviors of choosing foods that are convenient and taste good.
  8. Age- and gender-specific supplements will to proliferate, while one-size-fits-all mega doses will (I hope!) fade away. There’s at least some validity to this idea: older people need less of some nutrients (iron) and perhaps more of others (B12), while growing children have different needs. I’m OK with this concept, as long as it doesn’t drift into marketing ridiculata: supplements for teen boys aged 14-16 who play baseball or supplements for red haired women aged 45-50 who haven’t gone through menopause yet.
  9. Foods to watch: nuts. They’re not superfoods; they’re just good foods.  They also happen to be moderately high protein, tying in to….
  10. Protein everywhere!  Yes protein is important. No it isn’t the answer to all our ills. And more – much much more – isn’t going to be better. Our metabolisms can only handle so much at one time; excess amino acids are turned into glucose and burned or stored as fat. And the metabolic pathway from protein to fat is a one way street. But we’ll definitely see more foods touted as high protein or fortified with protein, as well as protein powders to let you do your own fortification.

So in 2015 you can fortify your Soylent with more protein, while snacking on nuts (also high protein) and taking a gender/age-specific supplement. If you happen to crave real food, you can find a restaurant that will tell you about the calories and protein in your meal, while an app tells you what to order. The general conclusion: 2015 is the year of nutrition by numbers.

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