Trends in 2024: Nutrition | News

Last year, Ozempic, plant-based foods, and inflation-driven sticker shock on everyday groceries accounted for many of the nutrition and wellness headlines.

With the new year upon us and many people once again resolving to eat healthier, nutrition expert Mindy Haar, Ph.D., RDN, clinical associate professor and chair of interdisciplinary health sciences, forecasts what consumers will be eating, drinking, and cooking this year.

One key prediction: they will be increasingly attentive to how and the extent to which their food is processed.

“The past year brought more research indicating the consequences of consuming a diet high in ultra-processed foods, especially those high in added sugar, fat, and salt,” says Haar. “In addition, the World Health Organization came out strongly against the use of non-sugar sweeteners [like the aspartame found in diet soda] for the purpose of weight loss. In the coming year, this is likely to bring more interest in eating nutrient-dense, filling whole foods with minimum processing.”

Another big trend to watch for will be the continued shift toward plant-based eating, which, in recent years, has driven sales and interest in Impossible Burgers and other meat alternatives that mimic the taste and texture of meat. However, Haar predicts that 2024 will see consumers starting to seek less processed options in this area as well, with consumers opting more for vegetable and lentil burgers.

“This year will likely see a growing interest in meat replacement items that look like vegetables. Think veggie burgers that don’t look like hamburgers. Meals using legumes such as lentils and split peas as the ‘main’ will do double duty in providing plant-based protein with high-fiber carbohydrates,” says Haar.

She adds that mushrooms will also be among the vegetables having a moment, as they offer vitamins, minerals, and fiber and can be incorporated in a variety of soups and stir-fries.

This time last year, Haar noted the increased options of “non-traditional” pasta made from beans or brown rice. This year, where carbohydrates are concerned, Haar believes that buckwheat will start to gain some traction among consumers, given its ability to be enjoyed by most eaters, including those who need to restrict gluten intake.

“Despite its name and appearance, buckwheat is not wheat and is not even a grain. It’s actually a seed packed with vitamins, minerals, and fiber that can be served instead of regular pasta and white rice,” says Haar. “As it’s not wheat, it’s gluten-free and can be enjoyed by those who need to restrict gluten due to celiac disease or gluten sensitivity. It joins quinoa, amaranth, farro, and fekka—other seeds or grains that make great nutrient-dense, high-fiber side dishes or main courses.”

She also believes that more people will seek alternatives to Ozempic and Mounjaro, two semaglutide-containing drugs prescribed mainly for Type 2 diabetes that caused a stir in 2023 for their off-label weight loss usage. By decreasing appetite, in addition to having further metabolic impact, these drugs are known to help manage blood sugar and weight. However, as Haar explains, they also come with a lifelong commitment, as benefits are typically lost when medication is stopped.

“For those not prepared or not able to stay on these drugs long term, a likely renewed interest in lifestyle changes that include improved meal patterns and exercise plans may be fostered,” she says.

Haar offers the following tips for those looking to improve their diet in the new year:

  • One of the most important considerations when setting goals is to ensure they are achievable. This is usually possible when goals are smaller and can be incorporated into permanent routines. Instead of saying, “I will lose 40 pounds by the summer,” think of individual, specific behaviors that can be changed. For example, during week one, I will walk 15 minutes daily and increase each week until I’m walking 45 minutes a day, four or five times a week. Instead of saying I will eliminate all cake, cookies, and ice cream, consider what may be satisfying desserts (perhaps baked or frozen fruits, yogurt, etc.), how many days making the substitutions will work, and how some flexibility can be built in.
  • There are many temptations to go for the quick fix to lose weight, but realize that health improvements are sustainable when lifestyle changes are sustained. Weight lost quickly is typically gained back quickly.
  • Eating well means moving to a more plant-based diet by substituting a few animal-based meals with plant-based meals, lots of vegetables and fruits, healthful fats such as nuts, olives, and avocado, and calcium sources that include milk, yogurt, and plant-based calcium-fortified milk (like soy, almond, and oat).
  • Becoming more mindful when eating can help as well. Since it takes 20 minutes for the brain to register that the stomach is full, by putting down utensils between bites, you can help slow down eating speed considerably.

This article is part of the “Trends in 2024” series, which features perspectives from New York Tech experts on emerging trends, tips, and predictions for what’s to come in the new year.