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29 Jan 2022

Laurann O'Reilly: Twenty Irish food and nutrition trends, that you need to know...

This week's column in The Nationalist

Six top nutrition tips for boosting your immune health with Laurann O'Reilly

Laurann O'Reilly

The way we eat and what we consume is constantly changing.

This can be due to numerous reasons, such as busier and more demanding lifestyles, changes in food allergies and intolerances, the following of influencers as well as new findings in food research.

Here nutritionist Laurann O’Reilly and owner of Nutrition by Laurann explains some of our latest food trends, the good and the bad.

1) Health & Wellness – The past year has seen many of us become more aware of our health and the impact of food on our bodies, this led to changes in how we eat and how we move. With many individuals also working from home and saving on commuting time, home exercise classes have never been so popular and accessible with everything from yoga, pilates, dancing and even kids exercise classes to choose from. We’ve also seen an increased interest in immune health due to Covid.

2) Sustainability – There has definitely been a continued focus on the environmental impact of our food and drink choices in terms of reducing packaging and food waste at an individual level. Whilst at a national level, Origin Green Ireland’s “pioneering food and drink sustainability programme continues to make great progress as well as it being “the worlds’ only national food and drink sustainability programme”.

3) Functional Food & Beverages – As mentioned above, the pandemic has heightened our interest in improving our health and wellbeing and one area which has taken off is that of ‘functional’ foods and beverages. That is those with specific health benefits such as fermented foods for gut health or foods which promote sleep. An article from the food producer Kalsec discusses how there will be a focus on those products with mental health and mood modifying ingredients (which often starts with your gut health too). They also state that we should expect “a repositioning around those food and beverages that are not always deemed as healthy” such as “beers for running and hard seltzers”

4) Outdoor Dining – Covid has seen a whole new way of dining, that being al fresco. With the bars and restaurants closed, outdoor socially distanced dining has been a safer option for many. Technomic describes how food chains are “looking to develop ‘outdoor friendly foods and beverages’ for functional and active lifestyles and packaged for outdoor food consumption”. Heading into the longer and warmer summer evenings expect this trend to be one that will definitely warm up.

5) Fermentation & Pickling – More time spent at home has seen an increase in people experimenting with different cooking techniques. Fermentation and pickling are not only a traditional way of preserving our foods but they are amazing for our gut health too as they are prebiotics (foods that feed our good gut bacteria). Fermented foods include kombucha, kvass, kimchi, tempeh and sauerkraut.

6) Plant Based Eating – A health trend that has exploded over the past year is plant based eating. Whilst plants have the most amazing benefits and it’s really great that we’ve begun to increase our intake, the plant based lab grown meat industry is also on the increase. For this reason, it’s really important to check your labels (you can find last week’s article on how to read labels on tipperarylive.ie if you missed it). Whilst some plant based products are genuine and healthy others may not be, read those labels.

7) Personalised Nutrition – Many have come to realise that there isn't one size fits all when it comes to nutrition and that each of us have our own nutritional needs and requirements. We all have different lifestyles, activity levels, medical conditions and for some medications and it really is important to have the right types, quantities and even the timing of your foods adapted to suit your individual needs. Tip: This is my speciality to feel free to contact me (information below) if you have any questions.

8) At Home Restaurant Experiences – As we couldn’t get to a restaurant this past year, many restaurants have innovated and brought the dining experiences to us through boxed meal kits and they really have done an amazing job with this. From your regular restaurant, to your Michelin star and from just a main dish to a full course menu, from the safety and comfort of your own home.

9) Coffee – For many of us, working from home meant less trips to the coffee shop and a new focus on homemade coffees, myself included. This has led many of us to explore new coffee brands and blends and some of us are even experimenting with coffee subscriptions. For those coffee lovers out there, this is a great way of expanding your coffee taste buds.

10) Convenience & Comfort Foods – Convenience foods have been a hit for many households over the past year with the added demands of juggling work, family and homeschooling. It’s important to remember that convenient foods can be healthy too and this is where meal planning comes into play. Similarly, many have turned to comfort foods such as chocolate, biscuits, crisps and sweets this past year as a means of pleasure and out of boredom – not to worry, what’s done is done but it’s important to break the cycle sooner rather than later. Tip: Taking a day plan and prep your foods for the week ahead turns the unhealthy into the healthy convenient. It’s also worth checking out the new Twitter tool called ‘Chefbot’, where you 1) take a photo of the foods in your fridge, 2) Tweet your photo to @KrogerChefbot 3) Chefbot then identifies your ingredients, and scans the Kroger.com website for thousands of unique recipes to provide you with a list of personalised recipe recommendations!

11) Influencer Food Trends – This past year has definitely seen an increase in social media use and exposure and with that an increase following of influencer food trends. One great food trend has been that of charcuterie boards, although these traditionally involved a selection of cured meats and other ingredients, a new trend of ‘jarcuterie’ has come about which are jars with a combinations such as bread sticks/crackers, meats, cheese, fresh fruits which are perfect for outdoor dining and picnics.

12) Epic Breakfasts – As many of us haven’t been rushing out the door to go to work, there has all of a sudden been an increase in breakfast consumption, and what a beautiful meal this can be from berry loaded pancakes, delicious juices and eggs in every way, there are so many possibilities. This is one positive trend that we can hopefully maintain. Tip: I always say that “every meal is an opportunity to nourish” and that includes our breakfasts and can be done by adding beautiful fruits, berries, nuts and seeds

13) Virtual Cooking Classes – There has been a huge surge in cooking classes and demos of every kind over this past year from all over the world, with your basic dishes, baking and the more elaborate complex dishes. Whether you feel that you lack those cooking skills or you want to build your collection of staple dishes, why not jump online and find a class that suits you many of which are free!

14) Flavour Trends – One exciting trend we’ve seen this year is that of food innovation, the use and combination of unique flavours as well as an appreciation for raw and nutritious ingredients. According to Datassential here are some of the upcoming flavour trends. 1) Fermented Honey – This is described as a “tangy and sweet fermented honey”, 2) Chicory Root – This is one that has seen growth as “consumers seek out caffeine free alternatives”, this contains a fibre called ‘inulin’ which is great for your digestive healthy and stabilising blood sugar levels, 3) Carob – This has always been a chocolate free alternative for those with dairy or cocoa allergies or intolerances or for vegans. Datassential describe how there has been a rise in its’ popularity due to people seeking out “more health driven, plant based alternatives” and 4) Garam Masala – Such a versatile spice which can be used in savoury dishes such as stews and curries to desserts like ice cream to give a little kick of flavour!

15) Air Fryers – Where did these come from? One day we’re using our regular ovens and then these devices appear. From what I’ve seen there’s not much that an air fryer can’t cook from your meat, vegetables, popcorn and lasagne and more. Also known as ‘health fryers’ they use hot air instead of oil, so they're healthier to cook with than deep-fat fryers. You do need a little bit of counter space for this device (which are widely available to buy) but they’re well worth the investment.

16) TikTok Food - Not just for the kids, TikTok has taken over all age groups, don’t worry you can just watch if you wish and don’t have to participate and you may find that it’s a great hub for food inspiration!

17) Home Growing – Our time at home has seen many start growing their own herbs, fruits and vegetables. As a result, ‘home grow kits’ have become a huge hit and can be a great activity to do with the whole family as they can really help children understand where food comes from as well as the gaining appreciation of eating their own grown foods.

18) Home Grocery Delivery – Certainly the start of Covid saw a huge surge in the amount of people getting their weekly groceries delivered from a personal safety perspective and whilst masks weren’t mandatory. This appears to be a trend that has continued for many, partly due to convenience and partly out of personal safety, as its’ next to impossible to get a delivery slot within a week. Whilst there are some other benefits to buying your groceries online such as deals and special offers, I’m sure some of us prefer the real shopping experience and smelling the freshly baked bread.

19) Digital Dining Technology – From the larger restaurants to the smaller cafes, there have certainly been huge changes. One of these has been the use of technology to improve the user experience from a take-away but also from a Covid hygiene perspective, with many now using menu QR codes (scan the code and get the menu) and digital order platforms for food delivery and collection. From an environmental perspective it certainly saves on paper to! Maybe this one here to stay.

20) Supporting Local – As we begin to come out of lockdown it’s important that we continue to support our local businesses. We can often under appreciate what an amazing country this is for delicious, pure and good quality food. There’s also nothing like freshly prepared, home grown foods in terms of taste and wholesome ingredients. Let’s support Irish by looking for the quality Irish stamp in our stores and support our local food producers at your nearest farmer’s market. One Tipperary website to watch is neighbourhoodfood.ie from which you can do your local food shop online, choosing products from “local businesses and its surroundings” and then pick up in Cahir on a Thursday, genius! You can also find a list of Tipperary food producers here www.tipperaryfoodproducers.ie 

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