Curious which foods and flavors will be dominating your plate in 2016? From funky ferments to lesser known seafood varieties and sea vegetables, here are a few trends you can expect to eat in the New Year.
Eat More, Waste Less. 2015 was a big year for the sustainability and food waste movement. From the rise of the ugly fruits and vegetable to the "No Waste Kitchen" movement, we are becoming more aware of the impact that food waste has on the environment and the consumer's wallet. We are also learning ways we can prevent this startling epidemic as it is estimated that 30-40 percent of the food produced in the United States is wasted. Because of this trend, lesser known cuts of meat will make their way to the butcher's counter along with unfamiliar fish varieties often referred to as "trash fish" or "bycatch" which are unintentionally caught while fishing for more mainstream species and, historically, have been wasted. Leftover recipes are on the rise and expiration dates are being challenged. Chefs across the nation, including local restaurateur and chef, Michael Solomonov, are committing to zero-waste cooking, a method that utilizes the whole animal as well as vegetable "scraps".
Vegetables, Glorified. The power of plants has been trending for several years but 2016 may be their time to truly shine. The National Restaurant Association noted that chefs will be increasing their use of vegetables as a main ingredient with animal proteins moving away from the center of the plate. From a nutrition standpoint, this trend is exciting as there is much evidence to back the virtues of a more plant-centric meal.
Powerful Pulses. Staying on theme with the vegetable-centric plate, pulses, a previously underappreciated plant-based protein, will be in the spotlight this year. The United Nations is proclaiming 2016 to be the International Year of Pulses. What is a pulse you may ask? Pulses include high-fiber plants like beans, dry peas, chickpeas and lentils.
Sustainable Seaweed. Sea vegetables are an environmentally friendly, sustainable and plentiful plant that contains an abundance of nutrients like fiber, iodine, vitamin C, iron and B vitamins. Who knows, they might give kale a run for its money this year. In the Specialty Food Association's 2016 Trend Forecast, seaweed is "set to explode thanks to its sustainability angle and umami appeal." From snacking strips to salads, soups and even desserts, look for sea vegetables to pop up in more than just sushi.
Funky Ferments. While kombucha may seem "so last year", fermented vegetables like artisanal krauts and kimchi are still all the rage. Fermented foods boast a delightfully funky, acidic flavor as well as an army of "good" bacteria that benefit the health of your gut and boost your immune system. While cabbage was historically the go-to vegetable for fermentation, beets, carrots, Brussels Sprouts and more are becoming available. Not in the mood to munch, kraut juice (the liquid in which the sauerkraut soaks and ferments) is slated to be available from California-based kraut company, Farmhouse Culture, this year. Additionally, "Gut Shot," a probiotic-rich drink also speaks to the "no waste" food movement. Feeling adventurous? Try fermenting at home as kits and starter cultures become readily available to consumers.
Alternative Flours. The gluten-free trend continues with the rise of hip flours. Pasta, grains and baked goods are boasting bases comprised of beans, lentils and coconut as well as ancient grains like quinoa, millet and amaranth. Bean flours, including chickpea, are becoming increasingly popular among pasta and snack options popping up on supermarket shelves.
Fear not the Fat. Bid farewell to the days of vilifying fats as this mighty macronutrient looks to be redeemed. The no-fat craze of years past was fed by un-warranted scientific data, which led to the overconsumption of sugar and refined carbohydrates, thus leading to an increase in obesity and disease. As consumers are encouraged to include healthy fats in their diets, foods like nuts and seeds, avocado, fish, eggs and even meat will share room on the aforementioned plant-centric plate.
Last, but not least, is the noted trend that consumers are slowly but surely moving away from processed foods and more towards a traditional, whole foods diet. Bravo! As consumer preferences change, large companies are beginning to act by pledging to remove artificial colors and flavors from processed foods by 2020. Until then, do yourself a favor and simplify your nutrition philosophy. A healthy diet can be summed up in one sentence: Eat a variety of whole foods, many of which are plants.