If you want to know where American food traditions are headed, look back. Many of today’s most healthful eating trends bear a strong resemblance to yesterday’s: Nearby farms offering nutritious, peak-of-season produce; slow-cooked dinners that foster leisurely family meals; an emphasis on meatless dishes and minimally processed foods.
Fortunately, these five food trends provide exactly that — flavorful, nutrient-rich meals that are easy to prepare and can help you fulfill many of your dietary requirements.
Like vegetarians, “flexitarians” eat a primarily plant-based diet composed of grains, vegetables, and fruits, but they occasionally obtain protein from lean meat, fish, poultry, or dairy.
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A quarter of Americans fit the description, consuming meatless meals at least four days a week, according to the American Dietetic Association.
Locally grown foods
As people seek fresher foods, they have begun to connect with local family farms. Community-supported agriculture (CSA) programs and farmers’ markets give consumers direct access to produce, meats, cheeses, breads, honey, and other foods that are produced in nearby communities.
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In the past 10 years, the number of local farmers’ markets has more than doubled — it is up from 1,755 to 3,706, according to the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Agricultural Marketing Service.
Functional foods are enriched with nutrients that may not be inherent to a given food. Familiar examples include orange juice fortified with calcium or milk fortified with vitamins A and D.
As sales of these foods have soared in recent years, more functional foods have reached the market, such as eggs and pastas with omega-3 fatty acids, sterol-fortified chocolates and high-fiber, high-protein flours.
These are foods produced following a government-regulated practice of growing and processing that minimizes exposure to pesticides, herbicides, and other chemicals used in traditional farming. Organic food is one of the country’s fastest-growing market segments; sales have risen more than 20 percent per year since the 1990s, according to the USDA’s Economic Research Service.
Launched in Italy 20 years ago by restaurateur Carlo Petrini, “slow food” was originally designed to protest the encroachment of fast food on the traditional Mediterranean lifestyle. The trend’s principles — choosing locally grown and produced items, preparing them in traditional ways, and eating with friends and family — celebrate a relaxed approach to living that provides a welcome contrast to the fast-paced, eat-on-the-run lives many people lead.