March is National Nutrition Month, yet I can’t help but think of the meme currently circulating: “Welcome to the One-Year Anniversary of the Two-Week Lockdown!” The past year has been a mixed blessing, especially when it comes to health and nutrition.

Good nutrition — especially as it pertains to enhanced immunity — suddenly became a real and universal concern. On the other hand, the driving force was disease and fear. Positively, more people have been seeking fresh produce. But then, eating and drinking climbed concomitantly with depression and stress. Confusing, isn't it? Still, as 2021 opened up, trendcasters (including myself – see “‘21 is Gonna Be a Good Year,” January 2021) were busily making predictions about food’s future trends as usual.

At the one-year mark since the first lockdowns, it now looks like things really are going to return to some semblance of normal. So I decided to examine nutrition-related predictions and put in my two cents’ worth. Culled from research organizations, food companies, ingredient companies, movers, and shakers, here are the five most common nutrition-oriented trends I found:

• Lab-grown meat and plant-based meat mimics. Already mentioned in last January’s forecast, progress keeps doubling in meat, poultry, and seafood fake-outs. Although a number of naysayers argue as to whether this is nutritional progress, and while I don’t think there’s anything wrong with the “original versions,” most research agrees with the idea that a plant-centered diet is best. I predict sales of animal protein analogs will outstrip even the boldest estimates.

• Allulose and esterified propoxylated glycerol (EPG) fat replacers. Anyone starting out in the field of food and nutrition in the ’80s and ’90s will tell you that the “Holy Grail,” the seemingly impossible dream, would be real sugar and real fat without the calories. Many false starts and ingredients came close, but nothing nailed it like these two ingredients. Both perform like their caloric muses in formulations, with no taste challenges or negative side effects (gastric or otherwise). Look for these two ingredients to break out hugely in the coming year or two.

• Like that one friend with a pick-up truck, beverages and bars always seem to get tapped as the main vehicles for nutraceuticals. That might change. With the past year putting comfort and indulgent foods back on the table, it also has made healthy baking bigger than ever. And ingredient technologies make it easier than ever to create such goodies. Better-for-you baked goods should continue trending for a while longer.

• Ingredients for better aging, especially those for a healthier brain and mood, were already expanding. Then, the disruption of the last year took our aging population and rattled its psyche. Foods, beverages, and supplements with botanical and other natural ingredients designed to: 1) mitigate anxiety and stress, 2) enhance calm, 3) help memory and cognition, and 4) support immunity emerged as a sort of Four Horseman of the anti-Apocalypse. These include more plant-based/produce-based foods (including leafy greens, botanicals, seaweed/algae-derived ingredients, mushrooms, and seeds), pre- and probiotics (look for more “synbiotic” matchings of specific prebiotics and probiotic strains), and healthful lipids. With the first Gen-Xers becoming grandparents, the healthy aging movement is only going to keep growing.

• This last trend surprised me, yet it was in nearly every forecast: Better booze. Although a shift in attitudes toward drinking began before the 2020-2021 global health crisis, the past year saw launches of a tidal wave of mocktails/mocktail mixes, alcohol-free craft spirits (let’s call them booze “analogs”), and full-proof spirits designed for moderation and savored sipping versus chugging or shooting. Of the latter, one that’s trending astronomically is sotol. Described as a cousin of tequila and mezcal, it’s made from the Dasylirion cactus and has a far more delicate and subtle flavor that conforms perfectly to this “take it slowly” drift in alcoholic beverages. 

In fact, one of the leading sotol makers, IZO Spirits, Inc., promotes that spirit of moderation with its slogan, “Made to Sip.”

Take it slowly…That’s the spirit!