3 food trends for 2011

Wondering what the hottest new diet fad will be this year? Dietitian Sue Mah shares her predictions for food trends to expect in 2011

3 food trends for 2011

Source: Best Health Magazine, January/February 2011

Nutrition is a lot like fashion’some trends come and some trends go. Here are a few I think are going to stick.

New buzzword: SoFAS

I don’t mean the comfy sofa in your family room (although getting off it and being more physically active is always a good idea!). The acronym, which first appeared in the draft 2010 U.S. Dietary Guidelines for Americans, stands for ‘Solid Fats and Added Sugars.’ Solid fats are those artery-clogging saturated fats’think lard and butter’and trans fats, which are typically found in some cookies, cakes, donuts and fast foods.

Added sugars are basically sugars and syrups that are added to foods’think candy, baked goods, fruit drinks and non-diet soft drinks. You’ll know if a food contains added sugars if any of these ingredients are listed: brown sugar, corn sweetener, corn syrup, dextrose, fructose, fruit juice concentrates, glucose, high-fructose corn syrup, honey, invert sugar, malt syrup, molasses or sucrose.

According to the Dietary Guidelines for Americans, the driving force behind the ‘obesity epidemic (which, of course, Canada is experiencing, too) is that we’re not getting enough exercise and we’re eating too many empty calories from foods high in SoFAS.

To get off the SoFAS, pick foods that are ‘nutrient dense.’ In other words, eat foods that will provide lots of nutrition for the calories you’re getting. Eat an apple instead of an apple muffin, for example, or try a peanut butter sandwich without the sugary jam.

Eco-conscious ‘food production

Worldwide, there’s a growing movement ‘to reduce the carbon footprint of our food choices. Unlike the ‘eat locally’ trend, which considers only the distance a food ‘has travelled, carbon footprinting looks at the broader environmental impact of a food. It measures the amount of greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions released in the air when ‘a food is produced, packaged, transported and stored before it reaches our plates.

The carbon-conscious trend started in ‘the U.K. a few years ago when the amount ‘of GHG emissions was first labelled on a package of potato chips. Last year in the United States, the makers of Tropicana orange juice launched a carbon footprint’reduction program after learning that its biggest source of carbon emissions was the fertilizer that’s used to grow the oranges.

In Canada, Andrew Conway, co-founder of an organization called CarbonCounted, says food companies are definitely interested in measuring the carbon footprint of their products, even though no plans have been made public yet. Conway believes that being aware of the carbon footprint of a food will become as important as knowing its nutritional content.

Besides trying to reduce the carbon footprint of your food choices, buy only what you need (to minimize food waste)’and ‘get rid of that old energy-sucking fridge in the basement.

Nutrition info on menus

In the United States, a new health law will require that all chain restaurants with more than 20 locations post the calorie and nutrition information of foods they serve. Menu labelling in Canada, though it’s been around for about five years now, is done on a voluntary basis only, and by only about 30 restaurant chains. Back in 2006, federal MPs rejected a proposed bill that would have mandated restaurant menu labelling. But there’s still hope, at least in Ontario, where Bill 90’a restaurant menu labelling bill’passed first reading in June 2010. If it passes, maybe other provinces will follow suit.

A recent survey by the Heart and Stroke Foundation of Canada found that more than 70 percent of consumers are somewhat or very health conscious when purchasing restaurant menu items. If you’re one of the 70 percent, start asking for the nutrition information whenever and wherever you eat out.

To truly empower health-conscious consumers in making the right choices, I believe menu labelling’mandatory or not’should be visible when we are ordering food. Restaurants that have different daily menus could have wait staff point out the healthier choices, or could highlight their menus with special icons. I’m all for making healthy eating easy for consumers, rather than a game of hide-and-seek.

This article was originally titled "Food Trends for 2011" in the January/February 2011 issue of Best Health. Subscribe today and never miss an issue!