Dissecting 2017 Food Trend Predictions

now they’re a trend

Year end lists are fun, from resolutions to Best Of, Worst Of and predictions for next year’s trends.  So of course I had to check out “Every Single Food Trend That’s Been Predicted for 2017″.  Sounds like quite a list.  And it is, 81 items long!  And those are just the trends that were cherry-picked from other lists.  What could go wrong with a list that predicts every possible trend?

In the interest of brevity, I’ve cherry picked a few of those trends for deeper analysis from a nutrition and health point of view.  Just not too deep.

#1: Adaptogen supplements.  Seriously, what?  Apparently adaptogens are extracts from plant foods, such as herbs.  So basically adaptogen supplements are just another case of processing a plant to remove possible bioactive compounds that are added to some other food.  Great.  I’ll stick to actual food.

#7: Beef.  Remind me, when was beef not popular?  It needs to make a comeback?

#9: Buddha Bowls.  While the name Buddha Bowl may be trendy, the actual food looks more like a composed salad.  It’s not a bad idea, especially if the basis of your Buddha Bowl recipe is a cooked whole grain (good choices include brown rice, quinoa, millet or even couscous or cooked orzo, both of which are technically pastas).  On top of the cooked grain, or whatever you’re using, arrange raw or cooked vegetables, a high protein food (cooked meat, legumes or tofu), garnish with chopped nuts, fresh herbs or a drizzle of dressing for a filling and healthy meal. By the way you don’t need a special type of bowl to do this.

#10:  Cauliflower.  Well, brussels sprouts have had a good run, so time for another brassica family vegetable to take over.  Nothing wrong with cauliflower, although nutritionally speaking it’s not the power house that broccoli is.

#11: Casual family dinners.  As opposed to all those formal Downton Abbey-style family dinners we have all the time?  Given how hectic family schedules have become, any dinner that includes the whole family is going to be casual by definition.  Perhaps the trend should be re-worded to “family dinners”, which are probably a novelty for many families.

#12: Cereal (as in ready-to-eat cereal).   RTE cold cereal is one of the original fast foods.  It can be pretty junky, or it can be fine as a quick and filling meal.

#16: Classic French Cuisine.  Well, maybe in bastions of cultural elitism (and wealth) like New York.  But French cuisine might have something to teach us about healthy eating: small portions, meals that aren’t preceded by non-stop snacking, simple whole foods, delicious flavors.

#17: Coconut. This ‘trend’ is from Whole Foods, and sounds like a purely self-serving marketing scheme to me.  Enough with the coconut people!  It’s not a super food or weight loss miracle or health food.

#31: Food Waste.  I think the trend means food waste starts to get the negative attention is deserves, not that food waste should become a ‘thing’.  While some of what we call food waste is what’s leftover after foods are trimmed and processed, a lot of waste happens in the home or at the table.  How to reduce waste?  Don’t buy so much food that you can’t use it in a reasonable time and don’t prepare too much for a meal.  Restaurants are especially notorious for creating waste by serving excessive portions of cheap side dishes to create the appearance of value.  Food waste is a problem because, well, it’s a waste.  Food production uses up vast amounts of energy and water, and wasting that energy and water is increasingly problematic.

#32: Healthy Chips.  Sorry, this stuff has been around for years and it’s an oxymoron.  Chips are invariably high fat and/or high sodium, whether made from potatoes or rutabagas.  Speaking of which, why would a chip made from a rutabaga be “healthier” than one made from a potato (also a vegetable)?  This is just nonsense.

#33: Healthy Kids’ Meals.  Again sorry, this is nothing new.  Parents have been trying to serve healthy kids’ meals for decades.  Not that it’s a bad idea, but I think the ‘trend’ concept is being used to market kids’ meals at restaurants and perhaps ready-to-eat prepared meals.   As if a healthy kids’ meal was a novelty.  Actually until recently, it was a novelty at most of these restaurants.

#41: Kombucha.  This is a growing trend, at least with a small contingent of health-foodie types.  Kombucha is known for its probiotic potential, although it’s an acquired taste.  It may be trendy, but it’s unlikely to be BIG.

#47: Meaty Vegetables.  No not hearty potatoes or legumes.  This is about screwing with plant foods to create fake meat.  The trend will supposedly blur the line between meat and vegetables.  Well, only if you use a lot of texturizers or additives (NOTE: no one ever attempts to make meat more like vegetables.  Hmmm).  Another prediction: plant butchers.  Oh please.  If you’re not going to eat meat, then don’t eat fake meat either.  Plant foods are wonderful on their own without excessive tinkering and processing.  Oh by the way, nutritionally speaking, vegetables are never equivalent to meat and vice versa.  Just not going to happen.

#58: Porridge: Oh you mean oatmeal?  This is new because you gave it a quaint name?

#63: Savory Yogurt. As opposed to sweet yogurt which is not at all new or trendy. In fact, savory yogurt is probably part marketing ploy to gain shelf space for more yogurt varieties.  The idea of a savory yogurt may be new to many cultures, but has been around for awhile elsewhere.  In India, raita is a yogurt condiment that’s not necessarily sweet, but always delicious.  I tried a fascinating frozen yogurt/olive oil/sea salt combination at a Greek restaurant recently.  And tzatziki is another very popular Middle Eastern savory yogurt condiment.

Various #’s: ethnic/street foods like tacos, tamales, Syrian food, poke, pho, Japanese food, naan, Filipino food, empanadas, frybread and octopus.  Most of these have already been around for a long time.  It’s almost as if the trend predictors are leading from behind, so to speak.  It’s a trend because they finally discovered it last year.

I’m guessing you won’t find octopus featured at any of those 2017 trendy “casual family dinners”, but tacos would be a great choice.  They’re easy to make and easy to customize to personal taste, plus everyone likes them, which is essential for family dinners.  Healthy?  Sure.  Soft shell tacos are lower calorie and easier to handle (they don’t crack and crumble like the hard shell ones).  Use refried beans, grated cheese, chopped fresh vegetables (tomatoes, lettuce, peppers), sautéed vegetables (potatoes, peppers) and salsa.  Optional: ground meat, which could be beef or turkey.  Since beef is now trendy, you’ve got 3 of the 2017 trends going for you at one meal.

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