Top 10 Food and Nutrition Trends for the Year

Of the food and nutrition trends that are dominant as we move into 2014, children and local sourcing come out on top. Here’s a quick rundown of the top ten trends, derived from industry experts, reports, and consumer attitudes.

  1. Childhood obesity and nutrition. First lady Michelle Obama has kept the nation, the food industry, and the restaurant industry focused on childhood obesity and nutrition. McDonald’s has started a process of re-staging their trademark Happy Meals for better nutrition and even facilitated behavioral research published in Obesity to understand the results. Others are following. Schools are in the midst of major changes in the foods served under their watch, and parents are more focused than ever. As all this unfolds, public health officials are seeing signs of improving trends in childhood obesity statistics.
  2. Stoneledge Farms CSAEating local. A growing contingent of consumers are flexing their muscles in the marketplace and demanding locally produced everything — in restaurants, supermarkets, and outside of traditional food distribution channels. Even schools are beginning to search for ways to feed children with locally produced food. Tech startups like are finding ways to bring local food right to the door of consumers.
  3. Gluten-free everything. This trend has all the markers of a food fad, but it just won’t quit. For the foreseeable future, gluten-free seems to be a lucky-charm marketing claim that offers nothing but upside — even to marketers who offer gluten-free versions of products that never had any gluten. Remember low-fat candy and cookies? What could possibly go wrong with this one?
  4. Paleo diets. After decades of obscurity, the Paleo diet has taken off like a rocket. Eat like a caveman! The most Googled diet of 2013, Paleo has eclipsed the Mediterranean diet, despite latter diet’s much richer base of evidence for its health benefits. Time and research will tell how sustainable this trend is, but it has plenty of momentum going into 2014.
  5. Kale. This leafy green wonder vegetable continues to fascinate the nutrition tastemakers and shows no sign of fading. Labeled as a superfood, celebrated with its own National Kale Day, and memorialized in bestselling cookbooks like 50 Shades of Kale, this veggie has some staying power. We only hope that the crispy fried kale chips will fade before the good stuff does.
  6. Plant-based diets. Passionate advocates for plant based diets continue to sift through nutrition research to boost the popularity of this approach to nutrition. Are vegetarians and vegans morally superior? Maybe not, but they claim to be healthier.
  7. Boredom with low-fat diets. Consumers are totally over the their now very dated affair with low-fat diets. With so many other fresh and seductive options, low-fat doesn’t have a chance. Not until it’s revived with a retro twist — but not anytime soon.
  8. Nutrition apps. Consumers now have close to 100,000 different health apps available to them and the top ten apps account for four million downloads every day. The market for mHealth products and services will grow to $26 billion by 2017. An overwhelming majority of this feverish activity is focused on nutrition and fitness. Expect innovations here to shake things up.
  9. Hunger for information. Nutrition ranks high on the list of information for which consumers forage. They seek it on the web, from mobile apps, from consumer media, and sometimes even from nutrition professionals. In response, nutrition and health information is proliferating.
  10. Rampant misinformation. Mixed in with good information based on sound evidence is an overwhelming load of misinformation and suppositions reported as fact. Perhaps this is why stories about misreporting of nutrition and obesity research ranked number one in importance among ConscienHealth readers for 2013. Dietitians report that fully two-thirds of nutrition information shoveled at consumers is based on personal beliefs and half-truths, rather than scientific evidence. And they expect it will be worse in 2014.

Click here, here, here, and here for more perspectives on food and nutrition trends as we move from 2013 into 2014.

Cabbage Patch, photograph © Flood G. / flickr

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