Fit Food Trend Predictions For 2020

Lori Nedescu, MS RD CSSD
by Lori Nedescu, MS RD CSSD
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With every new year comes new trends. In 2019, we saw the rise of cauliflower, oat milk and collagen powders, so what will 2020 bring to your diet? Here’s a look at what to expect in the 2020 healthy food scene — and how it can help or hurt your fitness goals.

What it’s About: Look out for ground up everything because your typical spreads are getting an upgrade from an exciting variety of nuts, seeds and flavorings. Try watermelon seed butter instead of boring old peanut butter, macadamia nut spread over the standard dairy-based cream cheese or goji beetroot chutney instead of traditional mango chutney.

These new varieties can offer added vitamins, minerals and health benefits from adaptogen powders, beet powder, protein powderseedscollagen and probiotics that you may not get elsewhere in your diet. Of course, not all of these new varieties come with a nutritional bonus; options like granola butter and brownie batter hummus are likely loaded with fats, sugars and processed junk — so beware.

The Verdict: As with traditional spreads, the new versions will be just as calorie dense, so keep portion control in mind. If you need extra calories in your diet to support an active lifestyle, want to add a boost of fun flavor to your meals or are looking for a creative way to consume supplemental ingredients, this trend is for you. Otherwise, spread sparingly.

What it’s About: As people cut back or cut off their alcohol consumption, and the non-imbibing lifestyle grows more popular, many beverages are popping up to add sophistication to your zero -proof cocktail. From herb-forward, distilled, non-alcoholic Seedlip to tea-based sparkling kombuchas and hop-infused fizzy waters, these drinks will have you saying “cheers!” without the hangover. This is a win for athletes who abstain from drinking in hopes of boosting performance but still want to meet friends at the bar. The only potential downfall is the extra calories from non-nutritive sources. For example, if you switch from ordering a sparkling water to a juice-, soda- or coconut milk-based, booze-free cocktail, you’re just adding calories and sugar to your diet. Of course, if you were ordering those drinks with alcohol, and this trend has you cutting out the liquor, then it’s likely to have a positive impact on your overall health.

The Verdict: Alcohol consumption largely works against performance, so giving up booze (even just leading up to a key race) can promote success. Just like any beverage (hello, coffee), make sure you are factoring it into your overall dietary needs.

What it’s About: Having to pick a side on the animal versus plant debate is a thing of the past! Quality meat- and seafood-based options make getting enough iron, protein and vitamin B12 easy for busy athletes with high nutrition needs. Plant-based foods offer fiberphytonutrients and complex carbohydrates that help healthy bodies thrive. While the argument on plant versus animal nutrition is blurred, what is straightforward is the negative impact farming animals for food has on the environment. This 2020 food trend represents the current educated, activist culture and helps provide a winning compromise: You don’t have to give up meat, just eat less of it. You’ll now find a variety of burgers and protein powders that include a mix of animal and plant proteins. Try doing this in your own kitchen by subbing half the beef in burgers with chickpeas.

The Verdict: Eat this one up! You’ll help the planet, but also yourself by consuming a more well-rounded nutrient profile without feeling like you have to go fully plant-based.

What it’s About: Just because you want to eat well doesn’t mean you want or need to slave away in the kitchen. For those who demand nutrition, flavor, speed and less hassle in their food options, and can’t master meal prep, meal delivery might be the best bet. Many brands are stepping up to fill this gap by offering diet-specific options (Think: organic, gluten-free, plant-based, performance, etc.) that are customizable, flavor-forward and high-quality. Make sure to explore what each service offers as some meals might not offer enough calories for the high-energy needs of some athletes.

The Verdict: If not wanting to cook keeps you from your nutritious eating goals, this trend could help you stay on track.

What it’s About: If you’re looking for standard wheat-based cake flour, you might have to go to a specialty baking shop because the non-flour flours are taking over. Cassava flour tortillas, banana flour baking mixes, coconut flour chips, almond flour pasta, tigernut flour donuts, cauliflower flour pizzas … the list is endless. Basically anything can be dehydrated and ground into flour and that’s exactly what’s happening. While these items might seem exotic and fun, in many cases, changing the flour does not mean more nutrition. In fact, many products made from these flours are more refined and processed. For athletes needing carbohydrates to fuel workouts, almond flour bagels aren’t going to cut it. Those looking to limit carbs with cauliflower-based foods will find hidden carbs in the added tapioca or other starches used to bind the cauliflower. Grains also provide nutrients such as iron, folic acid and B vitamins, which are essential to an athlete’s health.

The Verdict: Have fun trying a variety of flours if that appeals to you, but don’t base your diet off processed grain-free alternatives masked as healthy.

What it’s About: The snack drawer used to be just that, a drawer. Now we are entering the refrigerated section with a host of new items to bridge the gap between meals. Hard-boiled eggs can now be purchased in single-serve packages complete with seasoning. Fresh nutrition bars, sippable bone broths, organic cottage cheese cups, chia puddings and hummus with sliced veggies are all joining yogurt cups as snack options that must be kept cold. When a food is perishable, it is an indication the item has fewer preservatives and that is a good thing. Popcorn and pretzels are great for those needing to get extra carbohydrates in throughout the day, but having more protein, calcium and whole-food, nutrient-rich snack options can make for a more satisfying and healthier intake — over-packaging be damned.

The Verdict: Snacking is essential for many athletes to add calories, energize workouts and promote recovery from training, so having diverse, nutrient-rich options is a plus. But beware of too much packaging and, where possible, make your own.

What it’s About: Regulations apply to back/side panel data such as nutrition facts and ingredient labels, but front of packaging labels have never meant much. Any claims made on the front are there to draw you in and rarely have much credibility. The term ‘natural’ is stamped on millions of food products to draw you into thinking it is a healthy item when, in reality, the term has never been regulated or even defined by the FDA. With the rise of popular dieting terms such as paleo and keto, 2020 is likely to see much more of this labeling nonsense. Watch out for the term ‘friendly’ — as in: keto(-friendly), paleo(-friendly), vegan(-friendly) — which holds no meaning at all and acts simply as a marketing tool. Cocktail menus have even started labeling drinks as paleoWhole 30 and vegan. Checking the nutrition and ingredient labels on any food (trendy or old-school) is the best way to know if it is good for your body and lifestyle.

The Verdict: Hard Pass! Don’t let these marketing labels influence what you buy. The lines between diet styles are blurred, not well defined in the food market and certainly do not define nutritious versus not.

About the Author

Lori Nedescu, MS RD CSSD
Lori Nedescu, MS RD CSSD

Lori, MS RD CSSD is an accomplished sports dietitian; she holds a Master’s Degree in Human Nutrition and Certification as a Specialist in Sports Nutrition. As a current professional road cyclist and previous elite marathoner and ultra-runner, Lori knows firsthand that food can enhance or diminish performance gains. She understands the importance of balancing a quality whole food based diet with science-backed performance nutrition and strives to share this message with others. Learn more about her @HungryForResults.

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