2021 Food Trend Alert: Healthy Eating at Home

2021 Food Trend Alert: Healthy Eating at Home

Leigh-Anne Wooten MS, RDN/LDN, FAND, LSS BB
Registered Dietitian
2020 was a tumultuous year for people around the globe. Jobs lost, lives lost, not getting to see loved ones, daily routines upended. While the world was brought to a screeching halt and we all retreated to our homes, many trends emerged as it relates to food. Today we will look at two of them:

The rise of the home-cook
A new focus on healthy and sustainable eating

    Where’s Your Chef Hat?

    Through the stress and anxiety of 2020, people discovered their kitchens and started experimenting.  And it’s not surprising; we find comfort in food. Each and every one of us can tell a story about being sick as a child and having a meal our parents would make to help us ‘feel better’. Mine: grilled cheese and chicken noodle soup. Mmmm. Not only is food  comforting, but many have discovered that the art, the science and the reward of cooking is comforting as well. In one recent survey:

    54% of respondents said they cook more than before the pandemic
    said they have become more confident in the kitchen
    said they will continue to cook more after the crisis ends

    Learning to cook is an activity that people took up for a variety of reasons: cost savings, boredom, restaurants closing and because people found they really enjoy it. It sparks creativity, pride, precision, science; there is something in it for everyone!

    One specific kitchen activity that seemed to be all the rage this past year: bread baking.  And this makes sense for a number of reasons.  Earlier in 2020, there were real supply chain fears, so people got creative and learned how to make some of those products that were flying off the shelves. As the year wore on some of the food security issues diminished but the obsession with home baked bread did not. Newbie and baking experts alike love this chia bread recipe. It’s quick. It’s easy. And because it’s made with chia oil and topped with the lovely little chia seed, the bread bakes up moist and soft with a whole grain texture and a slightly nutty taste.

    And an added bonus? People who frequently cook meals at home tend to eat more healthfully and consume fewer calories than those who cook less. Further, almost half of all recipe searches included the term healthy through 2020, a huge jump from previous years.  So, what does healthy look like these days?

    Healthy Eating

    It seems that with every New Year comes a new diet plan or marketing gimmick on ‘how to get healthy’.  In 2021, while some of these diets will remain relevant (think: keto, intermittent fasting, low carb etc.) we are also expecting a shift towards a more balanced approach, focusing on nutrient dense whole foods while still making sure to incorporate comfort, culture, tradition and enjoyment into the experience of eating.

    There is a flip side to this coin however: an increase in the frequency of cooking does not mean everyone is eating healthier during the pandemic. Stress or emotional eating is a real thing and to say that 2020 has been stressful is an understatement. Here Cleveland Clinic shares a few ways to deal with stress eating, one of which is to make sure you have healthy snacks to turn to, like these chia protein balls. They are packed with heart healthy omega-3 fats and protein which will help you feel fuller longer.

    One way to deal with stress eating, is to make sure you have healthy snacks to turn to, like these chia protein balls.

    Sustainable Food Practices

    People no longer define healthy as through the lens of calories, carbs, protein and fat.  They are starting to take a more holistic approach, and this includes an increase in plant-based food because it is both good for them and good for the environment. The research resoundingly shows that a plant-based diet has benefits for body weight, improved markers of metabolic health, blood pressure, reduced risk of type 2 diabetes, heart disease, cancer, etc. The list goes on and on.

    A plant-based diet has benefits for body weight, improved markers of metabolic health, blood pressure, reduced risk of type 2 diabetes, heart disease, cancer, etc.

    Not to mention, going more plant-based is a huge win for the environment.  It requires significantly fewer precious resources like land, soil and water and has an overall lower carbon footprint. While some people have supported this for years, many more jumped on the bandwagon this past year and will continue to in 2021. People place value (and their money) in companies that have sustainable supply chains and philosophies… Like SOW! Ever heard of regenerative agriculture?  It’s a way of farming designed to mimic nature. Benefits of these practices include richer soil, healthier water systems, increased biodiversity, climate change resilience, and stronger farming communities. AND it’s how SOW farms its chia!  Check out their sustainability story here.

    There is yet another way that going plant-based is beneficial: By 2050 we will need to feed two billion more people globally than today. How is this possible? Well, it’s not with our current trajectory, and it will have to be tackled from several angles, part of the solution needs to include more people focusing on plant-based eating.  Here is a great read if you’d like to learn more. 

    Here’s to 2021!

    These are just a few of the many trends we expect to see as we dive into 2021. I know we all can’t wait to go out to our favorite restaurants and sit at a table without a mask, to try and feel a bit normal again.  In the meantime, keep honing those culinary skills and try to enjoy your time in the kitchen.

    Hopefully, even after our world reopens, we will carry what we have learned in the kitchen for the long run.  If anything can come from this pandemic, there is a hope that this worldwide pause is giving us all time to reflect and refocus on the importance of our health and health of the earth.

    One more recipe before you go!  This one checks all the boxes: plant based, super nutritious and deliciously creamy.

    Suggested Healthy Recipes

    Chia Oil Hummus

    Chia Oil Hummus

    Chia Protein Balls

    Chia Protein Balls