The Covid-19 pandemic has changed almost every aspect of our lives, including our diets.
There has been a shift towards home cooking. We got more creative in the kitchen. And a significant number of us actually increased our consumption of unhealthy snacks, desserts and sugary drinks.
So, what’s in store for 2022, especially if you’re looking to eat healthier?
Here’s what I think will be some of the biggest healthy food trends in the New Year:
Water lily seeds
While new to the Americas, water lily seeds have been around in India for centuries. Light and fluffy with a texture like a cheese curl, these mildly flavored morsels are loaded with nutrients. Because they’re almost tasteless on their own, these seeds are the perfect vehicle for added spices – both sweet or savory. As a good plant source of essential amino acids protein, they’re also gluten free and full of vitamins — and they’re waistline friendly with around 100 calories for a big handful.
While the battle of plant-based versus animal-based eating continues to rage, it’s becoming increasingly apparent that like most parts of nature, the best diet may be somewhere in between! That’s why more and more people are looking for balance by returning to eating like an “omnivore” – which humans are engineered to be. As omnivores, we are physically able to digest both plant and animal proteins equally well — and that variety supports optimal health.
Incorporating foods in both the animal and plant worlds is the basis of what is known as “flexitarian” eating — but the balance it up to you. And a related concept has now entered this arena: “reducetarian eating”, meaning an intentional shift towards plant-based eating, but still including animal products.
Along with the continued interest in plant-based foods (especially for meat substitutes), mushrooms are becoming ultra popular. Mushrooms of all types have a meaty-like texture and taste, and serve as an authentic swap for meat — think a grilled Portobello mushroom instead of a burger on a toasted bun. The “umami” flavor predominates in mushrooms, making them a savory and flavorful treat on their own, or as part of a soup, stew, or even jerky!
Southeast Asian flavors
While Asian cuisine spans all several regional areas, the traditional flavors from Southeast Asia, including Vietnam, Singapore and the Philippines, are gaining a stronger hold on everyday eating. Many of the widely used basic ingredients include Jasmine rice, garlic, ginger, sesame seeds, chilies, dried onions, and soy proteins (tofu, tempeh). Foods are often steamed, boiled or stir-fried.
The uniqueness of Southeast Asian flavors is all about combinations creating complex flavors. Think citrus and basil, or lime and cilantro. More unusual signature ingredients — like tamarind and lemongrass — are readily available in most supermarkets.
It’s a healthy way of cooking and eating that requires only a few new ingredients to freshen up your daily meals.
Our immune system is the foundation of good health, and there are several ways to strengthen it. One is with a trip to your local supermarket. While food supports a healthy immune system as part of a healthy lifestyle — any positive impact is the result of long-term eating patterns. That’s what puts the “life” in lifestyle! And these benefits come from real food — no shortcuts with supplements that can only support, not replace healthy eating. Whether eaten as a stand-alone or used in a recipe, are some top foods to mix and match that support a healthy immune system:
- Berries (fresh, frozen or dried)
- Fermented foods (yogurt, kefir, kombucha, sauerkraut)
- Spices (ginger, turmeric, cinnamon)
- Cruciferous vegetables (broccoli, cabbage, Brussels sprouts, cabbage)
- Nuts and seeds (almonds, walnuts, sunflower seeds)
- Citrus fruits (oranges, lemons, limes, grapefruits, kiwis)
Canned, bottled, or freshly made, alcohol-free alternatives are growing in popularity and availability. With a complex taste, and some tasting similar to classic cocktails — they’re a great option for those looking for something more than a seltzer and a splash of juice. With people cutting back or eliminating alcohol altogether these creative alternatives create a comfortable option whether you’re in a restaurant, bar, or at home.
Simplified food preparation
With escalating food prices, and supply chain issues impacting supermarkets across the country, cooking at home will be shifting to a more downsized, streamlined approach. Recipes will be simplified, using more limited basic ingredients obtained locally. Easily prepared fresh foods will shine, with optimal nutrient content and visual appeal, and extending to healthier versions of comfort foods (think mac and cheese or chicken pot pie)
Madelyn Fernstrom is NBC News’ health editor. Follow her on Twitter @drfernstrom.