Food trends can be interesting for the general public, but for a Registered Dietitian, battling misinformation around what’s actually a good food trend can be difficult.
We’ve seen celery juice, raw water (The Daily Show has a great segment on this), and oh so many supplements. While the internet can help us debunk the validity of certain trends, it’s also guaranteed to sell things that make wild – and unproven – health and wellness claims (cough, cough, Jade Egg).
If you’re an RD, or looking to get RD certified, here are some food and dietetic trends to look out for. The more you know, the better equipped you will be to help steer current and potential clients towards healthy solutions that are backed by science.
1. Online food shopping
One study found that online food shopping went up by 80% from 2018 to 2020. While many people were doing their food shopping online before the pandemic hit, those numbers understandably skyrocketed. As we slowly move out of the pandemic, the online numbers may not stay as high, yet it stands to reason that a lot of people will stick with the delivery food options.
What does this mean for dietitians? Potentially good news. A study published in 2021 by the Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health found that people spent less money on candies and dessert items. Their theory is that these items are often impulse-buys, and we’re less likely to impulse buy that candy bar when we’re not physically in line next to it.
Roughly 90% of RDs believe online food shopping is the biggest trend to come out of the pandemic that will stick around. Online food shopping can help RDs work with their patients to maintain consistency with food planning and curb unhealthy impulse buys.
What was good news for trend #1 is a bit more cautionary for trend #2. Being home all or most of the time means we have faster and easier access to food. Given that the pandemic took a severe toll on our mental wellbeing, having food within arm’s reach at all times may not be the best thing.
The NPD group reported that feeling sad or depressed during the pandemic led to a 35% increase in snacking.
But, there’s good news!
A longitudinal study from Japan showed that while snacking increased, the overall quality of foods also increased during the pandemic. So yes, we sometimes snack when we’re sad, upset, or depressed which isn’t always good, but many of us are reaching for more fruits and veggies.
The key is what people keep on hand. Some of us have great control around food, while others know if that jar of Nutella is in the house, it’s going to be an issue. RDs can help their patients by recommending nutritionally beneficial snacks to keep on hand.
3. Social media fad diets
Thanks, TikTok. In all seriousness, dietitians have a lot of competition in terms of making sure their patients are properly informed. The 10th annual Pollock Communications and Today’s Dietitian “What’s Trending in Nutrition” survey reports that the tops sources of misinformation come from:
- Social media
- Friends and family
Celery juice is a great example. It gained traction in 2019 after being popularized by Anthony William Coviello who claims to be a ‘medical medium.’ He believes celery juice can fix digestive problems, autoimmune disorders, psoriasis and more. None of these claims have yet to be proven by science. While celery juice won’t hurt you, the belief that it can magically fix ailments might lead some to forgo traditional medicines and remedies that will actually help them.
Another and more dangerous trend is TikTok’s #whatieatinaday. What seemingly started out as something simple and harmless, it has now morphed into a harmful social diet trend that often promotes unrealistic standards and nutritionally deficient foods.
The result of this has promoted fatphobia, unnatural eating habits, restrictive eating, and is damaging to individuals’ mental health.
While some trends are relatively benign, others can negatively impact our relationship with food. As an RD, keep your ears open to any potentially harmful trend your patient may have stumbled into.
Folks have always been interested in immune-boosting superfoods and supplements. When the pandemic hit, that interest became a burning desire. Things that claim to promote immunity, gut health, anti-inflammatory, etc. are going to continue in their popularity.
While there’s a lot of fuzzy information out there on immunity, there are two factors that have been scientifically studied: sleep and stress. Both strongly affect our body’s ability to fend off illness and recover faster.
If your patients want to load up on vitamin C, elderflower, and tumeric that’s fine. Just make sure they understand these supplements won’t fix a high-stress or low-sleep lifestyle.
While superfoods aren’t new, the pandemic has led to an increase in their already popular popularity. The term ‘superfood’ isn’t regulated, but these foods are generally high in the following:
- Healthy fats
Many of todays’ superfoods come from plants. From the aforementioned “What’s Trending in Nutrition” survey, there are the top 10 superfoods RDs predict will be in high demand during 2022:
- Fermented foods
- Exotic fruit
- Green tea
- Ancient grains
- Spinach & leafy greens
The good news for RDs is that these foods have real and studied nutritional benefits. The thing to be aware of is that some people might overdo it in one area while leaving others out. For example, a client might go overboard on avocado and nuts. Both are wonderful, but have a high fat content.
With everything in life, the key is balance. As an RD, you have to balance your patient’s lifestyle, health profile, and nutritional needs with what’s realistic. With a job outlook that is projected to grow by 11% between 2020 and 2030, RDs will continue to be in high demand.