As you might imagine, food is always a hot topic at the Sustainable Foods Institute at the Monterey Bay Aquarium in California.
At its recent gathering in Monterey, the institute discussed the latest trends popping up in the food world and what we can expect to see more of over the coming year.
With seven billion people on our planet, naturally, people eat many different kinds of food in many different ways.
Here are five of the biggest trends, according to the institute:
1. Prepared Foods
Of all the food eaten in the U.S., 77 percent involves some or all prepared foods. Most of these, 50 percent, are eaten as snacks. The other 27 percent are the boxed foods to which home cooks add a protein, vegetable or other kitchen staple to the mix. These continue to be quite popular for families with moms who work and need to get dinner on the table quickly.
2. Meal Kits
This growing trend takes the idea of boxed meals and raises the bar. Ordinary people can now feel like chefs making extravagant dishes alone or with the family, even with children old enough to participate. The boxes arrive with a recipe, but what makes this even easier for busy people is that the ingredients arrive at your house already pre-portioned. Easy peasy lemon squeezy. A few of the many companies that now ship these meal kits directly to your front door are: Blue Apron, Sun Basket, Hello Fresh, Green Chef, Home Chef, Plated, Peach Dish and Green Blender.
3. Plant Forward
The importance of taking meat away from the center of the plate is a growing trend. A global demand for a meat-based diet places higher stress on the planet’s resources. Plants can often replace our favorite animal proteins, and the choices for consumers are growing. So we are seeing more and more companies adjust their mindset on what it means to be the "spotlight" protein of a meal. The store shelves will continue to grow with options for meat alternatives like soy and pea-based protein.
4. Plastic Revolution
This trend is more food adjacent involving the bags we carry our food in. We might be looking at a forced change in how we do that in the future. The institute stresses the world's need to reduce the health and environmental impact of plastic pollution on the food we eat. A prime example of how we can help is by getting rid of plastic bags at the grocery store (take your own reusable bags with you) as there are 13 to 20 billion plastic bags used per year in the United States. Proposition 67 on the California ballot is pushing to ban these bags completely; if it passes, the idea could spread to the rest of the country.
5. Alternative Eating Styles
Just like we see new words being added to the dictionary each year, there are increasingly new ways to describe how we eat. It is no longer just "meat-eater" or "vegetarian."
Here is a list of the labels people are now using to describe their eating habits:
Gluten-free: People who cannot or do not eat gluten, which is found in wheat, barley and rye.
Locavores: Those who don’t want their food to travel long distances, so they focus on buying food grown within 50 to 100 miles of where they live.
Mediterranean: This is a diet based on habits of southern European countries, which uses a lot of olive oil in the recipes.
Paleo: People who go "paleo" eat vegetables, fish, meat and fruit, but avoid grain, dairy products or processed foods.
Pescatarian: This is basically a vegetarian who eats fish and other seafood, but no other kinds of meat.
Raw Foods: This diet consists of unprocessed and uncooked plant-based foods, usually organic.
Sustainable: This environmentally friendly diet focuses on ways of eating that have low impact on the planet, which contributes to food and nutrition security as well as a healthy life for present and future generations.
Vegetarian: This tried-and-true diet does not include any meat.
Vegan: This eating trend goes a step beyond vegetarian and does not include any animal products.
Monterey Bay Aquarium helps businesses and consumers choose seafood that’s caught or farmed in ways that support a healthy ocean. Click this link Seafood Watch to learn more about their programs.