By Nav Sharma, Registered Dietitian
There is absolutely no doubt that 2020 was a shocking year. The emergence of the global COVID-19 pandemic took everyone by surprise, and hardly anyone could predict the full extent of potential dangers from such an event around the world. The toll that the coronavirus has taken on our health goals is a whole different topic. In early March, many people were still keeping up with their food and exercise goals in full force as well as other health-related New Year’s resolutions – us at NutriProCan know this for a fact. Come March 17th when a nationwide pandemic was declared, everything came to a screeching halt – availability of certain healthy foods became scarce (don’t even get me started on toilet paper…) and fitness facilities closed overnight with no particular reopening dates in mind. Health goals no longer were a priority and, instead, we were just trying to figure out how to adjust to staying home and avoid contracting or spreading the virus. And while people may have more time at home to cook, making baked goods at home has been on the rise, especially earlier on – something I am guilty of!
Fast forward to almost a year later with the pandemic still in effect. The only difference is, we’re kind of getting used to this ‘new normal’.
Needless to say, the global pandemic will continue to greatly influence nutrition trends for 2021. So what nutrition trends should we expect in the new year, you ask? Keep reading to find out our predictions!
Top 10 Nutrition Trends
1. Immunity Boosters
Covid-19 is a really good reminder of just how important it is to take care of our health to avoid getting sick. For this reason, more than ever we will be looking for foods in 2021 that will support a healthy immune system. This will include the search for foods and products which include ingredients that specifically help our immune systems such as vitamin C, zinc, selenium and vitamin D. Here are some details we should know about these nutrients:
|19 years or older Males: 90 mg/day. Females: 75 mg/day.
|Red/green bell peppers, strawberries, kiwi, orange, broccoli
|19 years or older Males: 11 mg/day. Females: 8 mg/day
|Oysters, beef, wheat germ cereal, pork, ricotta cheese, turkey, lentils (canned)
|19 years or older Males: 55 mcg/day. Females: 55 mcg/day*do not exceed 400 mcg/day
|Brazil nuts, oysters, canned tuna, cooked salmon, eggs, cottage cheese, canned pinto beans
|Children and adults 9-70: 600 IU/day* stay below 4000 IU/day
|Cow’s milk, fortified soy and rice beverages, fatty fish like salmon and sardines, egg yolks, fortified yogurts
*Adapted from unlockfood.ca **Other age groups/pregnancy may have different daily requirements.
Does your workplace have a wellness program? Check out our Boosting Your Immune System Through Food group wellness seminar: https://nutriprocan.ca/boosting-immunity-through-food/
2. Gut Health
It shouldn’t be surprising that foods that support gut health is on the list of 2021 lookouts. By now, hopefully all of us have heard of prebiotics and probiotics. Prebiotics are non-digestible carbohydrates (fibre) that act as food for probiotics, while probiotics are the healthy bacteria that live in our digestive tract and contribute to not only good digestion, but also immune health.
- Consuming prebiotics will help probiotics flourish and remain in your digestive system. Most preboitics are fibres and therefore we get prebiotics from high fibre foods such as whole grains, high fibre vegetables and fruit, and legumes.
- Probiotics are healthy bacteria that help to keep a balance between good and bad bacteria that live in the colon. We consume probiotics when we eat fermented foods, such as yogurt, kefir and kimchi (which also has prebiotics from cabbage).
- There is plenty of research indicating that consuming the right amount of probiotics can improve symptoms of IBS, better manage symptoms of ulcerative colitis and decrease diarrhea associated with use of antibiotics.
- Newer research is showing that probiotics can also help with mental health issues such as anxiety, depression and possibly neurological conditions, high cholesterol, high blood pressure, gut infections such as Listeria as well as psoriasis and chronic fatigue syndrome.
Now we’re learning about postbiotics. Postbiotics are byproducts of the fermentation process carried out by probiotics in the gut. So why are they important? They are being studied thoroughly for their potential benefits as anti-inflammatories and antioxidants and may boost the immune system and gut barrier. They also may help lower blood sugars, prevent obesity, and treat diarrhea. Some foods that can help increase the concentration of postbiotics in the gut are yogurt, sauerkraut, miso soup, soft cheeses, kefir, sourdough bread, buttermilk, pickles, and tempeh. Stay tuned in 2021 for new research and healthier guts!
3. Eating for Better Mental Health
With fears of contracting COVID-19, restrictions, lockdowns, limited social interactions, job losses, and strict work from home orders for many, mental health issues have been on the rise in 2020. While we know that food alone can’t treat or cure anxiety, depression, or stress (and no, stress eating isn’t a solution…), limiting the consumption of processed foods may help!
In 2021 we will be focused on food choices rich in antioxidants (e.g. vitamins C, E, beta-carotene), vitamins (e.g. B vitamins), minerals (e.g. zinc, magnesium), fibre (e.g. soluble and insoluble), healthy fats (e.g. omega 3s) and other compounds such a pre – and probiotics as these have been linked to improved mental health. Ask a friendly NutriProCan registered dietitian for support if you’re having trouble getting started!
4. Eating Local
With border restrictions and resulting shortages of internationally grown foods, we are appreciating local grocery stores, farmers markets and restaurants using local ingredients more than ever. In 2021 and beyond, we can expect a growing interest in purchasing and consuming locally grown food. For more information on locally grown foods in Ontario, visit: https://www.unlockfood.ca/en/Articles/Farming-Food-production/Celebrate-food%E2%80%A6from-field-to-table!.aspx
5. Environmentally Friendly, Sustainable Food Practices
Along with eating more local, we are becoming more conscious of the effects of food production on our environment and specifically our climate. Food production accounts for almost a quarter of global greenhouse gas emissions!
Luckily, we have the ability to counter these negative effects by making more environmentally responsible food choices – and this is exactly what we will be seeing more of in 2021. For example, many eating regimes will involve fewer animal products and when animal products are on the menu, many consumers will choose options with a lower environmental footprint such as picking chicken over beef or eating a few vegetarian meals over the week (we love meatless Mondays!). Further, choosing more locally grown plant and animal products will help to lower carbon emissions generated by long-distance food delivery.
6. Plant-Based Proteins
Plant-based proteins have been gaining popularity for a little while now, especially with the introduction of vegan brands like Impossible Foods and Beyond Meat which mimic ground beef. Basic meat replacements like tofu and beans/lentils are also becoming more popular amongst those looking to make a slight shift to consuming less meat whether it is for health reasons or personal beliefs.
The pandemic this past year made us experience meat shortages (remember that??) and large increases in the cost of meat and, thus, taught us how to be mindful of our food spending and more creative on a budget. This translated directly to people choosing plant proteins like canned beans (which are much cheaper!) over ground meats. The trend of eating more plant-based proteins isn’t going anywhere anytime soon, in case you’re wondering. Searches for vegan recipes were up significantly in 2020, according to Google Trends and this trend is expected to continue into 2021 with companies promoting more plant-based products.
7. Homegrown Ingredients (Gardening)
Whether it was because of food price hikes, limited produce available at grocery stores or just simply trying to avoid leaving the house whenever possible, in 2020, there was a major surge in people growing their own food. In fact, Google searches for gardening at home doubled in 2020 and it won’t be surprising to see this trend increase in 2021 as food costs are expected to go up even more (between 2-4% in Canada)!
It’s time to start planning now because nothing tastes better than fresh produce! Here are some vegetables to consider growing at home: fresh herbs, green beans, beets, carrots, peas, radishes, tomatoes, cucumbers, peppers, and leafy greens.
8. Learning to Cook More Culturally Diverse Foods
In the earlier days of the pandemic with newly implemented restrictions/shutdowns and so much uncertainty surrounding the virus, many of our clients admittedly resorted to the convenience of food delivery services like Uber Eats. The surge in cases and continued restrictions were a reality check that the virus is here to stay for a little longer and if we continued with the habit of ordering our meals, our weight would continue to increase (like many of us experienced!), not to mention that ordering food isn’t exactly cheap… For this exact reason (and after talking to their extremely knowledgeable NutriProCan dietitians), many people began to develop new skills in the kitchen and for those who already love to cook, this was an opportunity to be more creative. Et voila, another trend developed in 2020 – cooking more meals at home!
And since going to restaurants to enjoy our favourite delicacies is becoming a thing of the past… for now, cooking more culturally diverse foods, such as Thai, Indian, Chinese, Hakka, South American and Middle Eastern is on the horizon. This trend will likely continue into 2021 as the pandemic is far from over and lockdowns are still in place!
9. Eating Together as a Family
Okay, we all can agree that the pandemic was a terrible surprise for so many reasons but one positive outcome has been an increase in families eating together and this trend will continue into 2021.
With no certain dates for the vaccine just yet and healthy individuals falling closer to the bottom of the list, social distancing will remain a priority well into the new year. That means more meals will be consumed at home with the family, just like the good old days! Research has shown over and over again that eating together promotes sensible eating habits, positive family dynamics and improved health.
Are you and your partner looking to improve your nutrition together so that you can eat better as a family? Check out our couples nutrition program: https://nutriprocan.ca/nutrition-counselling/
10. Child Nutrition
Just as in 2020, parents will be focusing more on healthier ingredients and products not only for themselves but also for their little ones in 2021. COVID-19 has taught us that our health is extremely sensitive and how important it is to take care of ourselves through a healthy lifestyle including proper nutrition.
In fact, it is becoming more and more common to introduce healthier habits at a younger age. Parents are putting a bit more emphasis on balanced meals, variety, the amount of treats/sugar being offered and even the language used around food and weight. Best of all, parents are getting their kids involved in the kitchen more than ever, all the way from set up to prepping and cooking to clean up! Companies are picking up on this trend and in 2021, we will see more food products for kids using natural ingredients rather than sugar and artificial