2023 Food and Nutrition Trends
Like everything else, food and nutrition go through their own trends each year, with more and more discoveries we can learn about keeping our health and wellness in good shape.
We talked to two experts about some of the most popular trends to expect in 2023 about food, nutrition and wellness, learning more about what we all can all be expecting as the new year starts!
Kathy Warwick is a Registered Dietitian Nutritionist and Certified Diabetes Care Education Specialist with more than 40 years of experience in several areas of nutrition care practice. She is owner of Professional Nutrition Consultants, LLC in Madison.
Melissa Harrell McKissack is employed with Merit Health River Oaks in Flowood and works in the bariatric clinic helping patients with weight loss, optimizing health outcomes and quality of life. As a Family Nurse Practitioner, she has worked primarily in health and wellness, advocating health promotion and disease prevention.
Today’s consumers want to know not just what the nutritional values are of the foods they eat, but where the food is grown or raised, and the sustainability practices of where it was produced. Why is that an important factor in food shopping now?
Warwick - Citing a study by the 2022 International Food Information Council Survey, Kathy Warwick points out that more than half of Americans believe their food and beverage purchases have an impact on the environment.
“Sustainability is associated with practices that conserve natural resources and reduce food waste,” she said. “For healthy food to be widely available at all income levels now and in the future, sustainability also means keeping food affordable, which has become more important in times of inflation and increasing food costs.”
Curbing food waste is an important key to sustainability, she said “The Feeding America organization reports that $408 billion in food is thrown away each year. Shockingly, nearly 40 percent of all food in America is wasted.”
To avoid food waste, consumers are reporting that they are planning meals before shopping, freezing leftovers, and storing foods more carefully to prevent spoilage as means to reduce food waste.
Warwick mentions that Mississippians fortunately have access to a wide variety of high quality, locally grown produce, meats, dairy products, and more. Visit the Genuine Mississippi Grown website at https://genuinems.com/members/grown/ for options.
McKissack points to the possibilities of potential toxins that could impede on sustainability.
“As consumers are becoming more aware of the harmful effects of toxins to the body, they are more attentive to how agricultural products are grown and processed,” she said.
She cites the writings of Dr. George Burnell, author of “Toxic Food Nation,” who explains how processed foods, fat, sugar, pesticides, and antibiotics are toxic, causing “chronic inflammation to the body, which can lead to obesity, arthritis, heart disease, diabetes and many other conditions.”
The United States Federal Drug and Food Administration’s actions to ensure that farmers growing organic crops “are not allowed to use certain types of fertilizers, genetically modified organisms (GMOs), or pesticides” are making organic foods very popular, she said.
McKissack believes that “more and more people are making nutrition a priority, and research has found that organic foods have been found to be more nutritious than conventional foods,” helping to eliminate harmful farming agents that could threaten sustainability.
Instead of short-term weight-loss diets per se, there has been a shift to more of a “lifestyle change” based on meal plans such as Keto, Paleo, Mediterranean or other nutrition-guided patterns of eating. Do these types of programs really work, and are they healthful?
Warwick - As a registered dietitian, Warwick said she has “seen many trendy fad diets come and go” during her 40- year career, emphasizing that some meal plans don’t always deliver on weight-loss promises and “may be difficult to sustain.”
“These restrictive diets often eliminate one or more nutritious food groups such as whole grains or fruit, and people usually find that they are preparing two different meals because it may not be safe or practical for everyone in the family to follow,” she said. “We do not know the long-term health effects of these diets. The current research supports moving to more plant-based eating patterns with a variety of fruits, vegetables, whole grains, nuts, and seeds, with moderate amounts of fish, lean meats, and healthy fats. The Mediterranean-type eating pattern is more closely aligned with this advice.”
She also noted that a “mindful eating” trend is emerging, explaining that it involves “eating slowly and savoring flavors, working to identify when you are eating as a response to stress or other emotional triggers rather than eating out of true hunger can be very helpful.”
McKissack believes using a well-planned diet program that emphasizes nutrition and wellness - and can be customized for each person - may very well encourage participants to adjust to new meal routines based on foods specifically recommended or removed from your daily diet.
“Short-term weight loss diets are just that, short-term, she said. “Most people are unable to achieve sustainable weight loss with short-term, fad diets. Essentially all efforts result in moderate weight loss with subsequent regain.”
She encourages consumers to consider various meal plans or programs such as the Keto Diet (“great for diabetics”), the Paleo Diet and the Mediterranean Diet and decide if any of these programs fit their personal diet goals.
“Those who commit to the lifestyle changes not only lose weight, but they reap the benefits of an increased quality of life,” she said.
In an emerging trend for 2023, shoppers may find new information added to meat packaging designating that those items are “animal welfare certified,” meaning animals grown for beef, pork, chicken, eggs, and other foods are raised humanely and in quarters similar to their natural habitats. What are your thoughts on this idea?
Warwick - While Warwick believes this labeling is a good option for consumers, she adds that “many people do not realize that most farmers do all they can to ensure the health and welfare of their animals because their livelihood depends on it.”
According to the USDA, she said, consumers perceive that grass-fed beef and organic meat products are safer to consume, but “all meat processed for sale in the United States is subject to inspection by USDA’s Food Safety and Inspection Service under a set of scientifically based food safety criteria. The science available at this point does not clearly support the claims that these (certified) products are safer, significantly more nutritious or have greater health benefits.”
McKissack believes consumers who purchase Certified Animal Welfare (CAW) meats “will likely do it for the same reasons one would choose organic fruits and vegetables. As Diane Sanfilippo, the author of ‘Practical Paleo’ explains, just as conventional crops pass on toxins to our bodies, the same happens with animals”.
“In the United States, meat is graded based on the ‘marbling,’ which is the intramuscular fat swirled in the meat. While more fat in the meat may make for a tastier eating experience, the residue from exposure to pesticides, herbicides, fungicides, antibiotics, or hormones is simultaneously ingested as well. Again, toxins cause inflammation. Inflammation leads to disease.”
In addition to CAW meat containing less fat, it is also proven to be more nutritious, she explained, thanks to the amount of conjugated linoleic acid (CLA), an antioxidant shown in many studies to fight heart disease, diabetes, cancer, and other health conditions.
Another rising trend since the pandemic is to grow home gardens or purchase fresh fruits, vegetables, meats, and other products at local farmers markets. Do these actions really make a difference in our overall health?
Warwick - While Warwick has long grown her own gardens, she admits that “it is a lot of work, and many factors that are out of my control can impact garden success in any given year.”
That said, she believes that “most people may opt out of growing their own food” thanks to the abundance of farmers’ markets in our area that provide fresh goods at a reasonable cost.
However, since everyone does not have access to fresh foods on a regular basis, she suggests that frozen and canned fruits and vegetables found in local grocery stores or dollar stores are equally nutritious.
“In fact,” she said, “most frozen veggies are harvested, washed and flash frozen within hours, which preserves the nutritional value even better than ‘fresh’ vegetables that may have traveled several days all the way from the West coast or South America to our local grocery stores.”
“The most important take-away message is that eating more fruits, vegetables, and other simple staple items will provide health-promoting nutrients without the added sugar and salt of highly processed convenience foods,” she said.
McKissack agrees with the assessment of the nutritional value of fresh, garden-grown foods.
“I believe people who decide to ditch unnatural and processed foods become more empowered to eat healthier, easier, and smarter,” she said.
While she is all for farmers’ markets, she believes having a backyard garden is even better.
“Knowing that your food is coming from your own yard means you can be certain it is free of chemicals, and it’s much more convenient to step into your backyard than it is to drive to the grocery store. Also, gardening can potentially help keep you fit because it requires some degree of labor, and from a mental health standpoint, it could likely save money,” potentially decreasing anxiety caused by overpriced options at grocery stores now.
Another option she recommends for those who want a garden but don’t have the space or outdoor growing conditions is using a gardening technique called the “Tower Garden,” offered by the Juice Plus+ company.
“This system allows you to grow your own produce indoors or outdoors, year-round, and without chemicals or “loads of work,” she noted.
The phrase “food is medicine” is becoming more common as people are seeking ways to incorporate nutrition into their health routines, and physicians are becoming more interested in “functional foods.” What is your take on this idea?
Warwick - “Functional foods are certainly gaining popularity and there is a lot of research that has been conducted to support the benefits of including these foods in our diets as a way to enhance health,” Warwick said.
“Interestingly, most of these functional nutrients are included in foods such as fruits, vegetables, legumes, whole grains, nuts, seeds, oily fish, dairy, fortified dairy alternatives, healthy fat sources and some herbs and spices. These functional foods often have anti-inflammatory or antioxidant properties that may play important roles in maintaining health by protecting our cells from damage. These foods are frequently higher in fiber and colorful.”
She also emphasizes the importance of eating fresh foods over downing supplements to add more nutrients to one’s plan for overall health improvement. “Many people feel that taking a supplement carries the same value as eating the whole food sources of these beneficial nutrients, but the science does not support this idea.”
McKissack confirms the concept that food can provide healing, noting that Greek physician Hippocrates supported this idea as early as the late-400s BC when he said, “Let food be thy medicine, and medicine be thy food.”
“Simply put,” McKissack said, “this means eating whole foods that provide the proper nutrients for your body and avoiding processed, refined and calorie dense factory foods. Organic, nutrient-dense foods are proven to provide many health benefits.”
“As a primary care provider practicing evidence-based medicine, I am a proponent of the idea that ‘food is medicine.’ There is a lot of research supporting this idea. I believe eating food in the whole form provided by nature optimizes health benefits.”