I have to wonder if yearly food trends are a chicken-or-egg proposition. Do consumers suddenly start eating the same thing and make it trendy or do marketers, food writers and chefs decide what they want to be trendy and then make it so?
I suspect it's a combination of both, with the influence of marketers, food writers and chefs playing a heavier role in the dance. December is the month when the following year's predictions are made, and there have been plenty of 2017 food trend predictions spilling forth from those in the know recently. Not all the food predictions are for good-for-you foods, but it's clear that in the past few years that I've been paying attention to the end of the year food trend predictions, more healthy foods end up trending each year.
Here are a trendy things in the food world to pay attention to in 2017:
Jackfruit as a meat alternative
One of The Wall Street Journal's predictions is jackfruit, a fruit that grows in warm climates easily and is able to resist drought and pests. It also has a meaty texture and can soak up flavors easily so it makes for a versatile faux meat, able to imitate foods like pulled pork. (Read more: Why jackfruit might save the world)
Cauliflower, last year's "it" vegetable, is still in, but now if you want to really be trendy, you'll need to be eating purple cauliflower as well as "black rice, purple asparagus, elderberries, acai, purple sweet potatoes, purple corn and cereal," according to Whole Foods. Foods with a purple hue are high in antioxidants. In fact, purple carrots contain 28 percent more of the antioxidant anthocyanin than orange carrots.
Alternative ingredients in pasta
The nutrition in traditional pasta is pretty lacking, and there are many people who stay away from it because it contains gluten. So while Food & Drink Resources says that pasta is "so back in," Whole Foods says those pastas may be made with different ingredients like quinoa, lentils, or chickpeas. For pastas that do still contain gluten, that gluten may come from fresh, locally-milled whole grains. (I wonder if anyone has created a jackfruit meatball yet?)
Creative or house-made condiments
In the store, according to Whole Foods, "rare and unfamiliar sauces and dips are showing" are showing up on shelves. Tahini made from black sesame instead of white, black garlic puree (black garlic is fermented garlic), date syrup, fruit spreads with chia seeds, and piri piri hot sauce are some of the creative condiments that will be trendy.
The National Restaurant Association also says condiments will be big, but they won't be coming off store shelves. They'll be made in-house. Made from scratch mustard, ketchup, mayo and hot sauce will be big.
In the last five years, seaweed food and drink products have increased 76 percent in North America, according to Food.Mic, and it predicts it will be on of 2017's biggest food trends. Seaweed is dairy-free, gluten-free, fat-free, low in calories, and loaded with calcium and protein. It can be eaten raw or cooked, and used as a snack on its own or an ingredient in salads and other dishes.
You'll notice that all of these trends are meat-free, and of the dozens of trends that I saw predicted for 2017, very few of them had anything to do with meat. It seems we're trending toward eating less meat, and Whole Foods predicts that more and more people will consider themselves flexitarians, people who eat mainly a vegetarian or plant-based diet, but add in meat every once in a while.