Health on a plate

Tess Warnes takes a look at trends and hot topics in nutrition, and concludes that there is a growing interest in the content of what we eat


Interest in nutrition and hydration by the general public has been growing exponentially for years, and with the aftermath of a global health pandemic, is likely to accelerate. Combined with the ever-increasing popularity of plant-based diets for both health and environmental reasons, there appears to be a big shift towards being more aware of what we are eating and how it may affect our own health and that of the planet.

As may be expected, consumers are considering the nutrient profile of what they’re eating now more than ever, especially when it comes to the specific nutrients for immunity such as vitamin C, zinc, selenium and vitamin D. Probiotics and fermented foods have been growing in popularity along with the emerging evidence-base that good bacteria is essential for various health aspects including immune health. The interest in these products is expected to continue to grow and we can now find fermented drinks such as kombucha not just in health food shops but being served in restaurants and bars.

Additionally, there is a growing market for non-alcoholic beverages as consumers are taking a more mindful approach to their alcohol intake. Younger generations are taking notice of the damaging effects that alcohol can have on health, both physically and mentally, and as such the community of ‘sober-curious’ individuals is increasing. Manufacturers are listening and responding to this with low/no alcohol wines and beers and alcohol-free spirits. Furthermore, new drinks with functional ingredients are now on the market and growing in popularity with more focus on enhancing mood and relaxation and less on the traditional ‘buzz’ from alcohol.

The health benefits of eating a plant-based diet seem to be a key driving factor for consumers in making dietary changes, not just the impact of meat eating on the planet, as shown by a survey conducted by the British Nutrition Foundation where 42 percent of those following a plant-based diet said that they do so for health reasons. However there are concerns that the increased availability of plant-based convenience food can lead to an overreliance on ultra-processed foods, especially in those with limited cooking skills.* Therefore, this could be seen as an opportunity for chefs to consider this in their menu development and marketing as healthy, nutritious plant-based meals without ultra-processed ingredients.

The world of plant-based milks is a fast-growing one with over 25 percent females and 17 percent males claiming to choose a plant-based milk alternative according to the British Nutrition Foundation. Oat milk is already a popular product and ingredient, but we can now replace our regular dairy from-the-cow milk with buckwheat milk, pistachio milk, macadamia milk and pea milk. Somewhat surprisingly, the latest to hit the shelves in 2022 will be potato milk. Low in saturated fat and sugar and with potatoes being a source of antioxidants and vitamins, it is also a great alternative for allergy sufferers as it is free from dairy, gluten, and soy. One thing to consider when switching milks is that the nutritional profile can vary dramatically and won’t necessarily provide the same nutrients that can be expected from cow’s milk. For example cow’s milk is rich in protein, calcium, vitamin D and B vitamins. Many, but not all milk alternatives will contain added vitamins and minerals, but protein cannot be supplemented and currently the only milk alternative that comes close to cow’s milk protein content is soya milk.

Staying with the plant-based theme, Food and Wine magazine predicts a surge in the use of seeds in 2022 diets. With the wide variety of seeds available from pumpkin, sunflower, chia and flax – all providing different combinations of nutrients and a generous helping of fiber, protein and healthy fats, these can be convenient additions to plant-based (or in fact any) meals to boost nutrient density.

A big change in the hospitality sector with regards to nutrition is the introduction of the regulations for large food businesses to display calorie contents of their food offerings from 6th April 2022. This new law relates to the out of home sector where food or drink is prepared in a way that means it is ready for immediate consumption, whether on or off the premises. The government says that this is part of the campaign to reduce obesity and aims to support consumers to make informed decisions by increasing awareness of the energy contents of the foods that they are choosing. They also hope that it will encourage businesses to ‘reformulate the food and drink that they offer and provide lower calorie options for their customers’. Critics suggest that the new regulations will impact negatively on those with eating disorders and will add pressure to an already burnt-out hospitality sector.

Whatever your thoughts, consumers appear to be taking more notice of the nutritional content of their foods these days. Whether that be the health benefits of plant-based eating, consideration for the negative impact of alcohol on health or taking more time to understand what is in their food, and the industry is listening and responding to these changes well. D

Sources:
British Nutrition Foundation survey: https://www.nutrition.org.uk/news/2020/majority-unlikely-to-go-plant-based-in-the-new-year-bnf-survey-reveals/#:~:text=In%20the%20survey%2C%20the%20most,is%20healthier%20(42%20percent).
*https://www.news-medical.net/health/What-are-the-Health-Effects-of-Ultra-Processed-Vegan-Foods.aspx
Food and Wine Magazine https://www.foodandwine.com/lifestyle/biggest-food-restaurant-trends-2022

Allmanhall
Tess Warnes is a Dietitian at procurement expert allmanhall. Established in 2006, allmanhall is an independent, family-owned and managed business providing expert food procurement and supply chain management, combined with hands-on catering and nutrition advice. Working in a partnership with its clients, allmanhall’s purpose is to deliver the best food, the best cost savings, and the best support, and is committed to a focus on sustainable food supply. Clients enjoy essential food cost savings as a result of allmanhall’s supplier negotiations. In addition to procurement support, allmanhall provides exceptional foodservice consultancy, including nutrition and dietetics support, headed up by allmanhall’s Registered Dietitian. allmanhall has been awarded the Best Food Procurement Specialists 2021 from the Southern Enterprise Awards body, plus the Customer Service Excellence Award 2021.
For further information, please visit: www.allmanhall.co.uk