In fashion and in life, trends are a thing. Industries and professions across sectors operate around annual trends and what might—or might not—be trending. It should not be a surprise, then, that our food environment can also be full of trends. Different foods or beverages can suddenly become the hottest new thing and experience wild popularity, leading to empty shelves and even more demand.
However, we must be mindful when trends move away from skinny jeans and come to the grocery store. Food products or recipes that are trending will not always be healthy— even if they claim to be! In fact, making health claims (“The new superfood!”) is one-way food manufacturers try to ride the trending wave. Here are three things you can do to ensure you are making the healthiest choices when it comes to food trends.
Limit processed foods
Food manufacturers are experts at creating new textures, flavors, and products that both look and taste great. There is a reason it can be difficult to put down a bag of chips or why it can feel easy to consume the entire bag. Food companies design these products specifically to create that effect. The snack foods you find yourself craving are often processed foods, which should be limited in a healthy diet. If the product blowing up the airwaves is processed food, avoid the trend and limit your consumption.
Watch your portion sizes
Trendy foods or beverages are unlikely to be the best for you. Even if they don’t contain processed foods, foods or drinks that contain sugar, oil, butter, or salt can be extremely high in calories—even if other main ingredients are healthier foods like vegetables. Think about a pumpkin spice latte, for example. You may think pumpkin is healthy, so what could be so bad? But these drinks are often loaded with sugar and whipped cream, making them high-calorie drinks. By all means, you should feel free to partake in the trends if they are good for you! Just make sure to reduce your portion sizes or consume in moderation.
Tune out the trends
It is likely that most food trends will, errr, trend toward being less healthy. One of the most powerful things you can do to promote good health is to avoid processed foods and stick to “whole” foods that require you to prepare them at home. While more time-consuming than buying something off the shelf, preparing your own meals at home helps you stay in control. You can toggle the ingredients by using a little less sugar, for example, or you can perform healthy food swaps like yogurt instead of sour cream. Preparing and eating meals at home can also help you control your portions.
Food trends will not disappear any time soon, and every year will see the advent of new foods and drinks that everyone wants. Enjoying these in limited amounts and preparing your own foods can help ensure you are doing the most you can to be healthy.
With a PhD in Exercise Physiology, Jonathan Dugas spends his days thinking about how we can help more people be more active. With four Ironman finishes and 13 marathons and counting, he’ll see you out on the road.