Top Healthy Food Trends | American News
The National Restaurant Association Show recently returned to Chicago after a two-year hiatus due to the pandemic. The global show was packed with new food and drink, equipment, packaging and technology for the foodservice industry, including kitchen robotics and beverage vending machines.
Among the 1,800 exhibitors filling the cavernous halls, here are some health-focused food trends.
Veggie Burgers Let’s celebrate the vegetable
Almost every aisle featured exhibitors enjoying a meatless burger, including the behemoths of the plant-based burger category: Impossible Foods and Beyond Meat. New vegan alternatives to chicken and pork were also on display. But one of my favorite plant-based burgers didn’t attempt to imitate meat. In place, cutting wave let the vegetables shine. These plant-based burgers were made mostly of artichokes, backed up with spinach, pea protein, and quinoa. In addition to tasty Cutting Vedge burgers, meatballs, sausages and plant-based crumbles were also featured.
The plant category is growing in the sea. A range of new seafood alternatives were offered for sampling at the show, including plant-based prawns, tuna, fish sticks, crab cakes and salmon burgers. Endless Foods tasted a new plant-based sushi grade tuna for poke bowls and spicy tuna rolls. Designed to be eaten raw, the tuna substitute is made with nine different plant ingredients, including winter melon, an oblong fruit with a mild taste related to cucumber.
A company called Mind Blown Plant-Based Seafood Co. tasted surprisingly good plant-based scallops made with konjac, a root vegetable grown in parts of Asia. This Chesapeake Bay family business, with a background in the seafood industry, also offers coconut shrimp and plant-based crab cakes.
Post-COVID audiences are increasingly focused on their health, and the sober-curious movement is growing. Companies are responding with more soft drinks, including non-alcoholic spirits, non-alcoholic beers and non-alcoholic wines. Restaurants are trying to entice non-drinkers with new options, including zero-proof cocktails that have the same appeal as craft cocktails created by mixologists.
A few of the many products showcased at the show included non-alcoholic bottled cocktails from blind tiger, named after a term for Prohibition-era speakeasies and non-alcoholic beers of various styles, including IPAs, golden ales and stouts from Gruvi and Athletic Brewery.
Tropical fruits and island cuisine
Pandemic-related travel restrictions have created a desire to travel through food, especially delicious island cuisine, including foods from Hawaii and the Caribbean. If you can’t make the trip yourself, experiencing the taste of the tropics is the next best thing.
The craving for a taste of the tropics is one of the reasons why tropical fruits like pineapple, mango, acai, pitaya and dragon fruit are all the rage. Drinks, smoothies and smoothie bowls made from tropical fruits were frequent sights on the show floor. Del Monte introduced new single-serve frozen pineapple wedges for on-the-go snacks. One of the acai bowl cafes highlighted at the show was a chain called Rollin’ n Bowlin’, which was started by college students and is spreading to campuses nationwide.
Comfort foods better for you
I spotted many different examples of Americans’ favorite foods revisited with a healthier twist. I particularly enjoyed a salmon hot dog from a Norwegian company called Arctic Kvaroy. Now no longer available in the US, these salmon hot dogs reinvent the nostalgic American staple with sustainably raised salmon that’s high in heart-healthy omega-3s per serving.
Ice cream was another food frequently turned into healthier versions, including the new Ripple dairy-free soft serve, which won one of the show’s food and beverage awards for 2022.
Reducing sugar intake consistently tops the list of changes people say they want to make to be healthier. Many frozen drinks and desserts on the expo floor boasted the absence of added sugars. Other exhibitors promoted natural sweeteners, including pure maple syrup and honey.
While sweetness was once in the spotlight, it has shifted into a supporting role as people move away from overly sweet flavors. The sweet is now balanced with other flavors, especially spicy, or what is called “swicy”. A prime example of the swicy trend is Mike’s Hot Honey, a honey infused with peppers. Hot Honey was originally created by Mike Kurtz, who told me it came from a pizzeria in Brooklyn where he worked.
A new sugar substitute called Zusto was unveiled at the show and was one of this year’s food and beverage award winners. Hailing from Belgium, the sweetener claims to have 75% fewer calories than regular sugar with the same taste and texture as sugar. The product contains a blend of dietary fibers including polydextrose, corn and chicory, supplemented with sucralose, steviol glycosides and other sweeteners.