From flexitarianism to climate diets and alcohol-free booze, dietitian Melissa Meier shares her verdict on up-and-coming food trends that you won’t be able to escape from in 2021.

After the year we’ve had, you might be wondering what’s around the corner, health-wise, in 2021. With everything from flexitarian diets to the resurgence of extra virgin olive oil and even no-alcohol booze on the horizon, it’s clear the year that was has made a lot of people a little more health-conscious.

The way that we eat is changing. Dietitian Melissa Meier predicts “climate diets” will see people eating more sustainably in 2021. Here are ten food trends that are expected to make it big in 2021.

1. Flexitarian diets

Plant-based diets are nothing new, but we might see a shift from a vegan way of eating towards ‘flexitarianism’ (read: flexible vegetarianism). In my opinion, that’s a very good thing – most people could benefit from eating less meat and more plants, and without any strict exclusions, it’ll be more sustainable for a lot of people.

2. More home cooking

There’s no denying the COVID pandemic has changed the world, for good. With more and more people staying at home, home-cooking is likely to prevail in 2021. And if what you’re cooking is healthy, wholefoods (think: veggies, pulse protein and whole grains, not air-fried chocolate pastries), I’m all for it.

3. Copious amounts of chickpeas

We all know and love chickpeas in hummus, but 2021 is going to expand the way we look at these humble little morsels. From ice cream to snack bars, chickpeas are projected to infiltrate the food supply. Packed with gut-loving fibre and plant-based protein, chickpeas are oh-so-good for you and something we should all be eating more of, anyway.

4. Resurgence of olive oil

Coconut oil has had its time in the sun, and it’s about time it’s put to bed. Exceptionally high in saturated fat, coconut oil is not a wise idea for your cholesterol levels (and therefore heart health).

Extra virgin olive oil, on the other hand, is packed with good fats and disease-fighting antioxidants and is scientifically proven to benefit your overall health. Luckily, it’s expected to make a comeback next year.

5. Collagen

Wellness gurus will have you believe that collagen can do anything from heal your gut to reduce anxiety – and the public’s rising interest in it might see more products with added collagen pop up on supermarket shelves.

My advice, however, is not to be fooled by the collagen health halo. As a type of protein, collagen is broken down into its constituent amino acids (i.e. protein building blocks) which can be used to create any type of protein in the body, not just collagen. The moral of the story: just because you eat collagen, doesn’t mean your body uses that protein as collagen.

6. Coffee everything

This is one trend I can certainly get on board with… because who doesn’t love the delicious taste of coffee?! Expect to see coffee flavoured anything in 2021, from snacks bars and breakfast cereals to yoghurts and baked goods.

My hot tip is to be aware of just how much coffee-flavoured foods you’re eating, because they’re likely to spike your caffeine intake, which could have dire consequences (goodbye sleep).

7. Wholesome comfort foods

2020 made a lot of us turn to the traditional comfort foods we all know and love (how many banana breads did you bake during lockdown?). But now that old mate COVID has been around for a while, these traditional comfort foods are supposedly in for a healthier spin in many households.

Think bolognese made with lentils and wholemeal pasta, salads made with ancient grains and air fried potatoes instead of deep-fried chips. And obviously, that’s a winner for your health.

8. Low and no alcohol bevvies

#isodrinking was trending in mid-2020, but low or no alcohol sips might take the cake in 2021. As a dietitian, this is something I’m all for, given that alcohol is energy-dense and nutrient-poor, and has been linked to a host of negative health outcomes, including high blood pressure and poor mental health. Cheers!

9. Climate diets

On top of recycling, reducing waste and ditching plastic bags, our diets might change in an effort to lessen our impact on the planet and help beat climate change.

In line with the aforementioned flexitarian trend, this could involve eating less meat (because producing meat leads to green-house gas emissions) and more locally-grown plants (because they take less energy to transport and store than imported ones). Getting creative with food so there is absolutely no waste is also on the agenda for climate-conscious diets.

10. Immunity-boosting foods

Surprise, surprise – in 2021, people are expected to be a little more interested in foods that are going to boost their immune system. But, buyer beware: if something sounds too good to be true, it probably is.

The best thing you can do to support a strong immune system is to eat a healthy balanced diet – there’s simply no need to waste money on superfood elixirs or miracle cures.

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