As 2020 has officially come to a close, together, we embark on a brighter and healthier journey to look forward to in 2021. Many of us have taken a closer look at our health and wellness over the past year and 2021 brings even more opportunities to take care of our body, mind, and soul.
This quarter’s NBCA Health Bulletin provides some of the health, wellness, and nutrition trends to be on the lookout for in 2021. Although we are all looking forward to some sort of “normalcy” in the upcoming year, focusing on the following trends may help in jumpstarting this new year.
*Nutritional tips written by Stacy Goldberg, MPH, RN, BSN, the Official Health and Wellness/Nutritional Consultant for the National Basketball Coaches Association.
1) COOKING AND EATING AT HOME
Due to COVID-19 and the stay-at-home mandates forcing many restaurants and food companies to close, people are forced to eat home more often as well as learn how to cook. Some have embraced this change by taking virtual cooking classes, scouring social media for the hottest recipes, buying cookbooks and searching for ideas on food blogs. Cooking at home can bring about increased confidence in the kitchen and be a source of enjoyment rather than a burden. Eating in the comfort of one’s home during the pandemic has shifted our nation’s habits and more people are leaning on homemade comfort foods and creating even their own versions of restaurant favorites rather than opting to eat out.
One of the benefits of eating at home is that people often make healthier choices and exercise more portion control. Many also report that eating and cooking at home is cost saving and they are learning to make healthy meals without breaking the bank, as well as consuming leftovers. The concept of the “family meal” is also making a comeback with the lessening of work/social commitments, travel and extracurricular activities. This is a trend that may be here to stay as people have really enjoyed reconnecting with their families at dinner time and not eating on the run.
Another continuing trend in 2021 will be the usage of mail order meals and meal kits such as Hello Chef, Freshly, Blue Apron and Daily Harvest, just to name a few. These easy at home solutions are also on the rise providing convenience with cooking at home and meal planning. Lastly, one-stop shopping when it comes to kitchen appliances is trending. This includes the use of convection ovens, air fryers (with toaster combinations), blenders, slow cookers/crock pots, waffle and panini makers, coffee/cappuccino/espresso machines and more. Getting creative with kitchen appliances fosters creativity in the kitchen and makes eating at home fun and enjoyable for all family members.
2) EATING BREAKFAST MORE OFTEN AND MORE REGULARLY
Working and schooling remotely has allowed for more time to prepare breakfast at home and consume breakfast foods without the morning rush and commute time. This has forced many to have a more consistent and regular breakfast routine, which provides an optimal window of opportunity for consuming nutrient dense foods. Fruits, vegetables, whole grains, healthy carbs and fats all have the potential to make their way into breakfast consistently for both adults and children. This also presents the time to make your own to-go or frozen breakfast favorites at home in a healthier version such as 2-ingredient bagels, egg sandwiches, smoothies without loads of sugar as well as DIY baked goods (rather than large sugar filled muffins at your local coffee shop). With more people working from home in 2021, there’s predicted to be a rise in people meeting for breakfast and brunch at their own tables and even conducting coffee or breakfast “zoom” meetings. Sous vide egg bites, vegan egg substitute scrambles and mid-week pancakes are predicted to be popular breakfast options in 2021.
3) WEIGHT LOSS
Many people have reported weight gain since the pandemic due to eating more comfort foods, snacking more often, lazy eating habits and lack of physical activity (more sedentary lifestyle). Sugar has fueled and comforted many during this difficult year and emotional eating has been prevalent for many. 2021 will focus on weight loss, as people are feeling better about themselves, envisioning a brighter future, becoming active and taking a closer look at their physical activity levels post COVID. There will be an emphasis in the nutrition community to continue to encourage healthy, realistic and sustainable weight loss through the use of whole, natural foods, and nutrient-dense food choices rather than quick-fix trendy diets. These diets have been heavily criticized for unrealistic restrictions, eliminating key nutrients and fostering unhealthy weight loss. This trend aims to bring people back toward consuming all food groups in moderation and balance. This could also be a direct correlation with the trend mentioned earlier, cooking at home. Data also shows there will be a trend in 2021 that consumers will be seeking products from companies transparent in their advertising and who avoid promoting unhealthy diet messaging such as restrictive dieting, quick-fixes, and villainizing certain food groups.
4) FOOD PRODUCTS THAT ARE USING INGREDIENTS MORE BENEFICIAL TO YOUR HEALTH
Boosting immunity is not a new trend, but it is extremely top of mind for most of us since the beginning of the pandemic. This has created a growing demand for probiotic products that aid in immune and digestive health and increase overall energy levels. The push to promote and innovate with the use of probiotics is evidenced by the new food products you will see in the marketplace in 2021. While many consumers have been pushing toward clean eating, the desire for natural and herbal products as the preference of ingredients shifts from synthetic and chemical ingredients to natural ingredients even more in 2021. Food companies are keenly focusing on their labels to ensure the ingredients are clear and cleaned up so the average consumer has complete clarity about the foods they are eating. In 2021, nutrient dense foods such as brightly colored fruits and vegetables, nuts, seeds, herbs and honey are just some of the ingredients being used in products to support immunity.
5) FRUIT AND VEGGIE “JERKY”
Are you a jerky fan but want to avoid meat and excess sodium? Do you struggle with getting your fruits and vegetables in on a daily basis? Then 2021 may be the year for you! One of the top food and nutrition trends includes fruit and vegetable “jerky” emerging into the marketplace. You may be thinking about your kid’s traditional fruit roll ups, but this is a definite upgrade! Portable, easy to carry and nutrient dense, food manufacturers are innovating around this category in many fun and exciting ways. All types of produce are being dried at the peak of freshness to be transformed into a nutrient-dense, shelf stable way to enjoy fruits and vegetables. Produce such as eggplant, kelp, zucchini, cauliflower, mushrooms, jackfruit, banana and mangoes are just a few examples of ingredients you can find on the shelves or in DIY produce recipes to make at home. Unique seasoning and spices (such as chili powder, ginger, salt, pepper and cacao) are being added to many of these commercially prepared jerky options to create exciting and unique flavors, while also adding versatility and interesting taste profiles to these snacks. Due to the increasing popularity of jerky (not just produce based but meat and vegan alternatives), another kitchen appliance that is becoming increasingly popular in 2021 are food dehydrators. These are a helpful tool to make homemade jerky in the comfort of your own home. However, jerky can also be easily made in a regular oven and there are hundreds of recipes available online.
6) GROCERY E-COMMERCE
Per stay-home-stay-safe orders, grocery stores are seeing online orders increase by 40% in 2020 and are expected to continue rising into the new year. Consumers are also online shopping in more categories from more retailers with the easy use of technology. There has been a dramatic increase in the use of curbside pick-up, Instacart, online food delivery and those looking to stock up on their favorite nonperishable items in order to make less trips to the grocery store. While fresh food is still extremely important, due to health concerns, many people are attempting to limit their trips to the grocery stores as well as enhance their options for convenience. Getting your groceries delivered curbside or to your doorstep is becoming the new norm for many, especially those with busy lifestyles. Many are recognizing the time savings as a bonus to avoid having to go into the grocery stores. Based on projection values and websites becoming more personalized for a better online experience, it is estimated that more than 60% of consumers will be shopping online for groceries by the end of 2022. However, not everyone is enamored with online shopping as most quality complaints stem from those who receive produce that they do not feel is up to the standard they would have picked out themselves.
7) USING MORE HEALTH-CONSCIOUS INGREDIENTS
2021 is the year to take a deep dive into the foods and beverages you consume to see if they align with your health and wellness goals. Do you have pre-existing conditions affected by diet? Are you monitoring your dietary intake for the foods you should include or avoid? These are questions to be asking yourself in 2021. The nutrient dense superfood avocado is becoming a headliner again being used in foods such as ice creams and freeze dried crispy snacks (think potato chip alternatives). There is also a trend in 2021 to see vegetables such as cauliflower and zucchini being used as a replacement for potatoes in starchy sides such as tater tots, hash browns, fries and noodles. The beverage market is continuing to expand with healthier options and ingredients this year with soda being replaced with naturally sweetened sparkling seltzer water and beverages with added benefits such as probiotics, vitamins, minerals and adaptogens. Lastly, while we did see a slight rise in sugar intake during 2020, overall many consumers believe that they should reduce the amount of sugar in their diet and will continue to use natural alternatives to sugar.
8) PLANT-BASED CONTINUING REVOLUTION
While many health, wellness, and nutrition trends come and go, we know one is here to stay: plants. The plant-based diet and wellness revolution is growing even stronger this year with a reported 600% increase in the amount of people who identify as vegan in the last three years. While one does not have to be completely plant-based in order to be healthy, including nutrient dense plant-based foods into your diet is highly recommended and encouraged. Doing so is getting easier whether you’re at home or on the road. Soy and pea proteins are still continuing to replace meat and dairy proteins. New “pork” and “fish” based vegan products are being introduced in China and the UK, with minced “pork” and vegan poke bowls emerging as exciting new products. Plant-based foods are being purchased by vegans and those who eat animal products. New consumers have the expectations that these plant-based products taste and mimic meat or dairy products. There is also a perceived notion that they are always more nutritious options, however this may not always be the case. It remains important to check labels and read nutrition information because some plant-based products can contain more sugar, salt, unhealthy fats, and can be more processed than animal products. Some of the newest products emerging this year in the plant-based category include: vegan wine, “milk” chocolate, “meaty” banana peel pulled “pork,” new vegan egg and cheese options, Disney vegan nuggets, vegan pepperoni and salami and more butter substitutes. Additionally, if you travel often more restaurants are providing vegan options this year and some are offering completely vegan, plant-based menus.
9) BUYING PRODUCTS & SERVICES FROM COMPANIES THAT ALIGN WITH YOUR MORALS & VALUES
We are hoping that 2021 brings about change globally and in our local communities. One of the projected trends in 2021 is consumers putting money toward businesses that support their morals and values. This includes small businesses, women-owned, black-owned, people-of-color owned, as well as businesses with ethical labor practices. Consumers as a whole are becoming more politically and socially conscious with their spending, buying from companies that align with their beliefs. This is especially true when it comes to health, wellness, and nutrition. 2021 may be a good time for families to examine their spending habits and identify the types of businesses they are supporting including grocery stores, restaurants, clothing stores, online retail brands and more to see if the companies they financially support align with their values and support the communities that are important to them.
10) MENTAL HEALTH
It comes as no surprise that increasingly stressful surroundings have caused people to focus more on their mental health, stress, and sleeping patterns. This is true for work, home, school and even social environments. Many people are struggling with feelings of grief, social isolation, change in routines, depression, anxiety and many other mental health related disorders. 2021 is an opportune year for people to start making the connection to the foods they are eating and the impact on their mental health. There will be a trend for minimally processed diets being complimented with new healthful foods and products containing more antioxidants, vitamins and minerals, fiber, healthy fats, bioactive compounds, and CBD. The usage of mental health tools and support platforms has increased as have the modalities to assist those in need. These include meditation apps, journaling, engaging in therapy with a professional or a support group as well as other mindful techniques, such as yoga. With an increase in time for many and the lack of social engagements or public gyms, there is a window of opportunity to try these new mindfulness activities in the privacy of your own home. “Mental fitness” exercises to improve mental health over time are being stressed this coming year. Additionally, tele-therapy is becoming more readily available; allowing those to speak virtually when help is needed from mental health practitioners, as well as group programming.
We hope that you found these trends useful and recommend utilizing as many of them into your daily routine as quickly as possible. Remember, new habits take time to form, but if you can start thinking about ways in which these 2021 health, wellness, and nutritional trends can assist you in achieving your personal goals, the better you will be in taking on a new year!
Stay Safe & Stay Healthy!