This year, food trends will overwhelmingly focus on health and nutrition–and with good reason. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), 84.8 million U.S. adults regularly eat fast food, and over one-third–37%!–will eat it on any given day. On top of that, almost two-thirds of men and women are overweight or obese. Obesity is related to stroke, heart disease, and type 2 diabetes, all health conditions that can be severe, or even deadly. Plus, the vast majority of low or average weight Americans consume a ton of highly processed foods and sugar. To put it lightly, as a whole, our diets are a problem.
Finally, more and more Americans are taking note and resolving to do something about it. According to a study published in the Journal of the American Medical Association (JAMA) in 2019, Americans cut back on high sugar foods and highly processed foods by 3% in recent years. While it is better than no progress at all, there is still a lot of work to do. That’s where 2020 food trends largely focusing on health and nutrition (with the occasional cheat and comfort foods) come in.
Here are the top foods trending in 2020.
1. Intermittent Fasting
U.S. men and women spend a full 12.6% of their earnings on food. Thankfully, intermittent fasting may help curb those costs somewhat. Intermittent fasting involves setting specific times to eat and specific times not to eat. A popular option is eating for eight hours out of the day and completely restricting food intake for the remaining 16 hours. Most adults embrace this new trend for its weight loss benefits. However, it may offer health benefits as well.
Cycling eating and fasting can help adults retain more muscle than other alternatives. Most diets rely on calorie restriction, which can lower overall muscle mass. Plus, intermittent fasting lowers insulin levels and increases the production of the neurotransmitter and hormone norepinephrine. Both of these things help you keep weight off. Low insulin levels help you burn body fat and high norepinephrine concentrations help burn calories. In fact, the National Institutes of Health (NIH) show that the method can reduce body weight by an impressive 8% in just three to 12 weeks.
If the health benefits are not a compelling enough reason to give it a shot, intermittent fasting does not require giving up or heavily restricting certain types of foods. In other words, you can eat as much delicious Italian food as you like, as long as it is during your eating window.
If oven repairs, kitchen renovations, a new kitchen, or kitchen cabinet refacing is keeping you out of the fridge for hours at a time, it may be the perfect time to take the leap and try out intermittent fasting.
Another 2020 food trend that is taking off while promoting health and nutrition is flexitarianism. Veganism and vegetarianism can be viewed as extreme, and sometimes these lifestyles are difficult to maintain. Full vegans, after all, cannot eat honey or processed sugars. Honey negatively impacts bees, and manufacturers process most traditional white sugar using animal bone.
If a life without honey sounds unbearable to you, relax. A rising trend called flexitarianism entails eating a diet mostly consisting of plants and plant-based products, making the occasional exception to eat meat. Flexitarianism can range from “Meatless Mondays” or just one day a week without meat, its opposite (i.e., consuming meat just one day per week), or eating meat only on special occasions.
3. Sober Curious
In 2020, a greater amount of food and beverage production funding and restaurant funding will go to alcohol alternatives. As our education about alcohol gets more and more extensive, so does the unfortunate truth that it is not particularly good for you–especially when it comes to your health. A study published in the peer-reviewed science journal The Lancet relayed troubling news to the American public. That being that even one alcoholic beverage comes with some risk. Even drinking very sparingly can raise your risk of cancer, tuberculosis, alcohol-related health problems, and premature death. Yikes. Enter the sober curious movement.
Traditional sit-down restaurants, trendy restaurants with outdoor kitchens, and even bars are embracing sober curiosity, offering alcohol alternatives or low-alcohol alternatives. Sparkling tea, especially varieties made with hops and capturing that traditional IPA flavor, and low-alcohol champagne and wines, like Piquette, are becoming increasingly popular.
4. Fast Food For Breakfast
For even the most health-conscious of us, the occasional cheat day or comfort food is a must. The good news is that restaurants across the country are diversifying and adding onto their breakfast menus. Popular breakfast places are adding plant-based alternatives for sausage and bacon. Fast food places, in particular, are ramping up their menus to give you just as many options as your favorite brunch place. Getting takeout for breakfast or going out to eat for breakfast is just as popular as ever before.
“In 2019, we saw that sustainable cooking and sourcing is becoming less of an aspiration and more of an expectation,” Chef Hiroki Odo tells Food & Wine magazine. Consumers will push that trend even further in 2020. For example, you are more likely to find locally sourced seafood in restaurants’ fridge freezers than seafood imported from overseas. Japanese restaurants will serve local fish, not Japanese fish, and plan to do it without sacrificing the quality.
Similarly, for many years, the only foods you could order in edible containers were ice cream cones and soup in a bread bowl. That is about to change, too. In addition to those two delicious classics, restaurants are working on serving and presenting meals in or on top of edible or biodegradable plates, bowls, cups, and silverware. More to-go containers will be biodegradable as well.
Finally, restaurants will offer more vegan and vegetarian menu options and source more ingredients from regenerative farmers, or farmers that focus on maintaining soil quality, lowering pollution, and practicing sustainable farming. Consumers understand that a focus on health and nutrition does not have to mean a focus on just our physical well-being–it can be a focus on reversing climate change and helping the planet, too.
6. Filipino Desserts
What is ube (pronounced oo-beh)? If you don’t know already, you will be very familiar with ube by the end of the year. Simply put, an ube is a type of yam. It’s purple, and it is from the Philippines. Ubes are sweeter than traditional yams, with notes of vanilla, white chocolate, and/or pistachio. Right now, the trend is to mash the vegetable into a smooth consistency and blend it with condensed milk to create various desserts. Expect Instagram and social media to be bombarded with pictures of deep purple ube ice cream, ube brownies, ube cookies, ube cupcakes, ube macarons… and the list goes on! Searches for ube and other Filipino desserts are already up by 76% on Pinterest. Plus, if you want to enjoy ube for more than just dessert, you can even purchase ube waffles and pancakes.
While ube cupcakes and ube waffles may sound indulgent, there is a reason these Filipino desserts are taking off in 2020, the same year we’re all hyper-focused on health and nutrition. Ubes are extremely high in antioxidants, vitamins, fiber, and healthy carbohydrates.
7. Ghost Kitchens
Ghost kitchens are not quite as elusive as they may sound. Unlike ghost towns, ghost kitchens are not abandoned. In fact, they are very busy–so busy they do not have to come along with chairs and tables and dining areas for their customers. Ghost kitchens consist of a kitchen only. Customers can order take out or delivery, and that’s just about it. These restaurants can produce more food and fit in perfectly in our Uber Eats- and GrubHub-obsessed culture. What’s more, while these options may seem contrary to the 2020 health and nutrition goals, that is not necessarily true. Some ghost kitchens may be best enjoyed in moderation. Ghost kitchens selling vegan comfort foods, healthy food options, and even ghost kitchen coffee places will be cropping up more and more in 2020.
8. Less Sugar
Every day, U.S. adults eat and drink 17 teaspoons or more than 71 full grams of sugar. The World Health Organization (WHO), on the other hand, recommends consuming no more than 6 teaspoons or 25 grams of sugar per day. With figures like that, it almost goes without saying that Americans are consuming way too much sugar.
Finally, Americans, food manufacturers, and U.S. restaurants are doing something about it. More food companies are favoring sugar alternatives, like Stevia, Splenda, honey, and syrups. Some sweets producers are even experimenting with restructuring the molecules in table sugar to ultimately contain fewer calories.
Plus, by law, all food labels must clearly stipulate the presence of added sugars by 2021. The new addition to nutritional labels will be clearly and unmistakably marked “added sugars” to differentiate between added sugars and naturally-occurring sugar, like the sugar in fruit or natural sugar in lactose and dairy products.
Limiting sugar intake is a critical part of health and nutrition as it reduces chronic inflammation in the body, plaque, cavities, obesity, type 2 diabetes, heart disease, and overall dental and oral health problems. Plus, cutting back on sugar can reduce belly fat and body weight, give you more energy, and make you look younger, too.
If you are a fan of bread, 2020 food trends will be surprisingly kind to you. Thickly sliced, soft breads, like pain de mie, are gaining traction this year. Tea shops are serving the soft, satisfying breads with sides of ice cream, thick, creamy custards, and syrups. Some restaurants and top chefs are even stuffing whole loaves of bread with different custards flavors.
According to The New York Times (NYT), a similar variety of Taiwanese toast will grow in popularity in 2020, too. The Taiwanese variety will use lighter, airy breads, served with cheese, custard, or condensed milk. The U.S. will also start seeing more of Singaporean style toast or kaya toast. Kaya toast is made from coconut jam, pandan leaves, and unsalted butter. The delicacy is best-served with soft-boiled eggs on the side or on top.
While this particular foodie trend is expected to go strong in 2020, it is a bit of a departure from the health and nutrition focus. Everything in balance, right? While we eat more vegetables, more plant-based foods, less sugar, and drink less alcohol, creamy, custard- or condensed milk-topped toasts will be a succulent treat to indulge in every once in a while.
10. Japanese Cuisine
The 2020 Summer Olympics will be in Tokyo this year. With all eyes on Japan, The New York Times predicts that our stomachs will be embracing the country with open arms, too. We will see the resurgence of popular Japanese foods, like taiyaki or fish-shaped ice cream cones and souffle pancakes–and the introduction of new, Japanese cuisine or Japanese-based foods, like Itameshi.
What is Itameshi? Itameshi is the combination of Italian and Japanese cuisine, or Japan’s take on Italian food. With this cuisine, expect a lot of ramen, spaghetti, sashimi, crudos (raw fish and tartare-style meats), and meats cooked in a pizza oven or cooked robatayaki style, a method of cooking similar to barbecuing.
Generally speaking, Japanese foods contain a lot of vegetables, fiber, and minerals. Going along with health and nutrition trends, they are nutrient-dense and relatively low calorie.
When it comes to food, the driving forces of 2020 trends will be health and nutrition, health and nutrition, health and nutrition! U.S. men and women are becoming increasingly aware of unhealthy eating habits and doing whatever they can to put an end to them. The coming year will see big changes in the ways we eat, and that means we will see big changes in our physical and mental well-being as well! Healthier diets will reduce heart disease, cancers, and obesity-related conditions and boost our mental health. That’s big news, considering that one in four U.S. adults struggle with some degree of mental illness. According to WebMD, healthy food choices may help you slim down and go a long way to lower depression and anxiety rates too.