What's New in Diet and Nutrition Trends

Last Editorial Review: 2/14/2006

Experts weigh in on the latest food and diet trends.

By Colette Bouchez
WebMD Weight Loss Clinic - Feature

Reviewed By Louise Chang, MD

Our fascination with self-improvement shows no signs of waning, and there's no shortage of new diet trends aimed at helping us meet our health goals. Watchers of food and nutrition trends say the road to better health is paved with new possibilities -- along with some old ones that are poised to make a comeback.

While the trend for low-carb diets appears to be past its prime, according to experts, trends that are on the way up include:

  • Whole-health diets.
  • Back-to-basics eating plans.
  • Exotic dietary influences.

Just the Basics

"The biggest trend I see is a back-to-the-basics approach -- getting away from highly processed foods and back to whole foods," says nutritionist Cynthia Sass, MPH, RD, a national spokeswoman for the American Dietetic Association.

Similarly, trend forecaster Gerald Celente predicts a turn away from the "strictly weight loss diet book" and a move toward what he calls "whole health" eating -- diets that not only help us lose weight, but live a healthier lifestyle.

"We will focus our attention on those plans that provide us with 'recipes' for staying healthy in mind, body and spirit," says Celente, publisher of The Trends Journal and director of TrendsResearch.com.

"Functional foods" will be another trend, adds Sass, co-author of Your Diet Is Driving Me Crazy: When Food Conflicts Get In the Way of Your Love Life.

"Food as medicine or functional foods will continue to grow -- foods that heal, foods for prevention, anti-aging foods, foods for specific health issues, foods as nutrition therapy," she says. "Foods will be increasingly marketed this way to consumers."

More Diet and Food Trends to Watch

Here are three other trends experts say they expect to grow.

1. Exotic Tastes

Some food experts say we'll be looking to exotic spices and side dishes to perk up our diets.

"Americans have become more open-minded about different tastes and flavors from the world," says Greg Drescher, senior director of strategic initiatives at The Culinary Institute of America in Hyde Park, N.Y.

This will not only mean tastier meals at home, but healthier restaurant eating, too, Drescher predicts.

"When restaurants first rolled out health initiatives, sales collapsed for items marked 'heart healthy,'" says Drescher, who coordinates the institute's annual Worlds of Healthy Flavors conference held in conjunction with the Harvard School of Public Health.

"But thanks to the convergence of America's growing immigrant population, interest in culinary adventure, changing palates, and the availability of diverse ingredients, the food industry can meet health challenges with full-flavored cuisines."

Drescher says he expects to see both home and restaurant cooks using more ingredients like:

  • Pomegranates, pistachios, and peaches.
  • Exotic grains such as quinoa, millet, and bulgur.
  • Bread alternatives like rice paper, tortillas, and pita bread.
  • Spices with a Middle Eastern twist, like cardamom and zatar.

2. Location, Location, Location!

If a location is known for thin and glamorous people, then eating what they eat will make us thin and glamorous too, right? We're not so sure, but some experts believe we can expect to see lots more books about diets based on places.

"Forward-thinking diet experts know that readers will have positive associations with places," says Cathy Lewis, whose media firm has been tracking location diet trends for the past year.

"That's why we connect The Miami Mediterranean Diet with buff, sun-kissed roller bladers and the Nantucket Diet with svelte, well-bred sailboarders."

Lewis notes that the publishing industry has been through the diet gurus, and is now turning to authors who create brands not based on themselves, but their locations.

It started with The South Beach Diet and French Women Don't Get Fat, and has continued with The Sonoma Diet and Japanese Women Don't Get Fat or Old. Lewis said other locale-based diets are sure to follow as Americans continue to search for a thinner, healthier culture to copy.

Celente categorizes this concept as more fad than trend, and believes that it will run its course in time.

"I think it will peak, and we'll all get excited and want to do it, and then it will fade -- and some other fad will take its place," says Celente.

3. Personal Responsibility

Celeste says the time is ripe for us to stop looking for an easy way out, and decide to take responsibility for our own health.

"Often, things have to hit a breaking point before they start to reverse," he says, "and the breaking point is happening now -- it is the age of self-responsibility."

Anything that can help us take responsibility for our health more seriously, he says, is going to have staying power.

Published February 2006.

SOURCES: Cynthia Sass, MPH, RD, national spokeswoman, American Dietetic Association; co-author, Your Diet Is Driving Me Crazy: When Food Conflicts Get In the Way of Your Love Life. Gerald Celente, publisher, The Trends Journal; director, TrendsResearch.com. Greg Drescher, senior director of strategic initiatives, The Culinary Institute of America, Hyde Park, N.Y. Cathy Lewis, director, CS Lewis and Co. Media Specialists.

©2006 WebMD Inc. All rights reserved.


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