What do oat milk, cauliflower pizza, and probiotic foods have in common? They were all major healthy food trends of 2019. It was also a big year for meat alternatives (hello, Beyond Burger), low-carb eats, and more vegan-friendly products than ever before.
But what will the New Year bring in the way of healthy food? Women’s Health consulted trend reports and nutritionists, to gain insight on what type of foods you’ll be digging into in 2020.
1. Even more plant-based protein
2019 saw more plant-based options than ever before, especially when it came to protein sources. And that train isn’t slowing down any time soon. “They’ve always been around, but as people become more conscious about the sourcing of foods, plant-based proteins will likely gain more momentum in 2020,” says Laura Iu, RD.
Brands like Impossible, Beyond Meat, and Gardein are coming out with more and more meat-mimicking products, while other brands are offering up vegan protein powders and plant-based protein drinks. And these brands will continue to use so much more than classic soy and tempeh as a protein alternative. The Whole Foods 2020 Trend Report touts mung bean, hempseed, pumpkin, avocado, watermelon seed, and golden chlorella as protein sources to look out for in the New Year, as they offer a spectrum of plant-based amino acids.
“Overall consumers have been encouraged to consume less red meat and food companies/restaurants are responding,” says Keri Gans, RD. “Perhaps more ‘hot-dogs’ and ‘chicken-tenders’ will be next!”
2. Plant-based, but not plant-exclusive
While there’s definitely an influx of vegan options hitting the shelves, there will likely be an increased focus on plant-based eating for omninvores and flexitarians in 2020.
“I really appreciate that ‘plant-based’ is a way to describe a meal or snack, not a way to define someone’s identity,” says Maggie Moon, RD. “This makes the idea of eating more plants approachable; people can and should feel good about trying out a meatless Monday or a plant-based snack.”
There will likely be more hybrid products that incorporate veggies in 2020. Think: companies adding plants to real meats, says Gans. For example, Whole Foods’ 2020 Trend Report notes that some brands are creating their meat products with 25 to 30 percent vegetables—a la the Applegate Farms Beef and Mushroom Blend Burger.
“According to the landmark Eat Lancet report, a sustainable diet—one that supports human and planet health for the long run—is based on plants, but still makes room for smaller amounts of animal foods,” says Moon. “Progress, not perfection, right?”
3. A new era of mocktails
While “Dry January” is a popular way to start the year on a healthier note, more and more people are jumping on the booze-free train year-round these days. “Millennials and Gen Z are drinking less in general,” says Moon. “It was only a matter of time before someone came up with a creative solution. Enter ‘zero-proof’ drinks.”
More and more brands are introducing alcohol-free spirits, wines, and beers. Plus, countless restaurants and bars around the country are including mocktails on their menus, and there are even some non-alcoholic bars opening up across the country, according to Yelp’s 2020 Trend Forecast Report.
4. You’ll learn the term “nootropics”
“As of 2020, we’re just one short decade away from every Baby Boomer being retirement age, making one in five Americans 65 years or older,” says Moon. As a result, “people are increasingly concerned about brain health and staying sharp.” That’s where nootropics may be able to help.
“Nootropics are compounds that help improve brain function, including memory and cognitive function,” says Faroutan. They come in supplement or drug form, but there are also a number of nootropic foods that boost cognitive health, like turmeric, wild blueberries, salmon, broccoli, walnuts, egg yolks, and seaweed.
Plant-based eating is a big trend for 2020. Check out these celebs who are proudly vegan:
5. More non-dairy milk alternatives
2019 was certainly the year of oat milk—you can now find the vegan-friendly beverage in supermarkets and coffee shops across the country. And with so much of the population switching to a vegan or plant-based diet, the need for alternative milk won’t slow any time soon, says Gans. “Today almost every nut—almond, sunflower, cashew, walnut—has an accompanied milk version,” she says. Gans also suspects these dairy alternatives will extend to coffee creamers, and other places where dairy milk traditionally reigns supreme, too. Think: yogurts, cheeses, and ice cream.
6. Goodbye flour, hello veggies
According to the Grub Hub’s “Taste of 2019” report, cauliflower pizza was the most ordered food of the year. That’s not surprising considering the breadth of cauli products on the market, and Gans predicts you’re going to see a lot more flour options in 2020. “From chickpea flour and almond flour to sorghum flour, I think more food companies will be baking with these nutrient dense flours versus basic white flour,” she says. The Whole Foods trend report also suspects there will be more packaged products going alt-flour as well—think: tigernut flour in chips and snack foods, and pastries made with seed flour blends.
7. Fresh snacks > packaged
While the word “snack” may seem synonymous with processed pretzels and chips, Sonya Angelone, RD, predicts there will be a lot more healthy snacking choices in the New Year. Particularly, snacks you store in your fridge. The Whole Foods 2020 Trend report similarly notes, “The refrigerated section is filling up with the kind of wholesome, fresh snacks typically prepared and portioned in advance at home: hard-boiled eggs with savory toppings, pickled vegetables, drinkable soups, and dippers of all kinds, all perfectly portioned and in convenient single-serve packaging.” That extends to protein bars, too, like the brand Perfect Bar which contains a number of fruits and veggies, and therefore requires refrigeration.
(For more info on the latest snacks, check out the Women’s Health Healthy Snack Trends Report.)
8. CBD is here to stay
A year ago, CBD may not have even been on your radar. Now, it’s in skincare, muscle-soothing lotion, and even clothing. CBD has certainly made an impact on the food world. Products include candy, seltzers, gum, and even coffee. “CBD’s popularity shows no signs of slowing down,” says Farouton, “and will continue to be big on the botanical medicine scene as we continue to learn more about its many benefits.”
9. Spotlight on truly natural sweeteners
“According to the International Food Information Council, the number-one thing Americans are doing to eat healthier is limiting sugar intake,” says Moon. “But the National Institutes of Health shows while Americans have cut back, they are still getting way too many added sugars from foods like white bread and pasta, sodas, and pastries.”
To remedy all that sugar intake, Moon predicts more people will embrace natural sweetness from foods like Medjool dates, raisins, and other fruit. The Whole Foods 2020 Report predicts that brands will likely launch more “syrupy reductions from fruit sources like monk fruit, pomegranates, coconut, and dates” to add flavor to desserts, meat glazes, and marinades.
10. Carbs are back…sort of
There’s no denying 2019 has been very anti-carbs (looking at you, keto diet). “But for every action there is an equal and opposite reaction, and the tide is finally turning against all the carb-phobia out there,” says Moon.
Make no mistake, keto will likely still linger in 2020, but Moon predicts people will be a bit more accepting of healthy carb choices. “Carbs aren’t the enemy, they’re just a little misunderstood,” she says. “Carbs from healthy whole grains, pulses, starchy vegetables and fruit are amazing. Please don’t put those in the same category as chips.” Some of Moon’s faves to try in the new year: farro, sorghum, red lentils, black beans, carrots, purple potatoes, figs, and watermelon.