According to the young American social activist group Do Something, 52% of Americans polled in a recent study said that doing their taxes was easier than figuring out how to eat healthy. It’s a noteworthy statistic considering the fact that, in recent years, there’s been a tremendous growth in scientific knowledge that has informed dietary recommendations to promote good health and longevity.
In other words, how can the average American know so little about nutrition when there is so much information available nowadays? Or perhaps they do understand the relationship between diet and health but are somehow unable to change their eating habits.
However, that trend may be about to change.
According to Food Business News, the NPD Group has forecasted that healthy eating and freshness will be at the center of rejuvenated food service traffic and sales in 2014. But, despite the growing demand for locally sourced foods, the majority of that traffic will not be coming from proponents of the "eat local" movement. With obesity becoming epidemic across our country, an increasing number of Americans-- particularly those with families-- have begun to slowly change their eating habits to emphasize healthy eating and nutrition.
Families will be looking for fresher, healthier alternatives for fast food or traditional ready-to-eat meals.
Are Families Who Eat Together Healthier?
The Journal of American Medicine states that close to half of all American families eat together every day. And according to Rutgers University, family mealtime provides a wealth of health benefits.
Data suggests that kids who eat meals with their families eat more fruits, vegetables, fiber, and calcium rich foods. Moreover, social improvements have also been linked to frequent family meals. Sharing a family meal may also improve children’s school performance and reduce the risk of behavioral problems.
Although clinical results have proved inconclusive, survey data from addiction and substance abuse specialists CASAColumbia seems to support the assertion that teens who regularly dine with their parents are less likely to use alcohol or marijuana. Cornell University has also published studies that have linked family mealtimes to lessened instances of depression and disordered eating in adolescents.
Healthy and Affordable Menu Options
With more families looking for more healthful dinner options-- at home and at restaurants-- healthy menu offerings will be one of the most critical food service trends in 2014.
According to USA Today, food prices increased 5.5% in 2008, which was the highest annual increase since 1990, and prices continue to soar in 2014. Cooking healthy, inexpensive meals can be a challenge for a working parent. One of the last thing mom or dad wants to do after spending a long day at the office is prepare a full, fresh meal from scratch.
Retailers and restaurants can take advantage if this particular demand by offering meals-- whether RTE at home or prepared in the restaurant kitchen-- that are obviously healthy choices.
Many chain restaurants have already picked up on this trend. Panera Bread lists the calorie count of each meal on the menu board. Applebee's offers Weight Watcher's endorsed meals. Outback Steakhouse offers an "Under 600 Calories" section of their menu. And with some smaller, local restaurants starting to adapt to this consumer demand-- you can't afford to be left behind.
Open Book Transparency
In this day and age, consumers want transparency when it comes to the ingredients that go into making their meal. They want to know where the produce in their side salad came from, how many preservatives are in the dressing, and the overall calorie count of the meal.
Food service trends rise and fall, explode in popularity only to fade a year later, but healthier eating seems to be turning into a habit.