Health trends have always ebbed and flowed — varied in direction and scope depending on a variety of factors — but we may currently be on a more wholesome track than has been seen in recent years.
Consumers are increasingly aware of what they’re putting into their bodies, Molde said on an episode of “The Food Institute” podcast. Recently, this has looked like eating more immune-boosting foods and cutting back on fat and calories. Healthful snacking has come to replace strict mealtimes, and more people are looking to limit their intake of GMOs, sugar, and vegetable and seed oils.
This all points to heightened intentionality on behalf of the consumer, pushing brands to produce healthful alternatives to the highly processed foods we’ve become accustomed to.
“Gone are the times when people viewed health and wellness through a specific lens,” Molde said. “Especially since the pandemic, consumers have adopted a more holistic view, focusing on the quality of what they’re eating.”
Other 2024 health trends include a continuation of the Mediterranean diet’s popularity, the prevalence of gluten-free options on restaurant menus, and plant-forward diets (a term that refers to focusing on consuming plant protein without entirely excluding animal protein).
As for new weight loss drugs such as Ozempic and Wegovy, since they’re largely unaffordable and only 3% of Americans currently use them, Molde didn’t consider them to be likely to affect food service just yet.
However, with our increasing desire for convenience, the perceived gap between healthy living and tangible cause-and-effect may lead some to reach for immediate solutions that may or may not prove healthful in the long run. When it comes to health, it’s about lifestyle, not quick fixes.
“In developing healthy habits, there’s a lag time between when you start to make a change to when you start to see results,” Molde said. “There isn’t a magic pill to help with weight loss.”
Of course, everyone’s body is a unique biome of nutrients, needs, and sensitivities, and it’s important to first look at one’s personal biology before deciding what health trends to follow.
Regenerative agriculture is making a name for itself, too — a practice which focuses on soil health and whole-farm ecosystems — with more and more farmers, big and small, deciding to make sustainable practices a priority.
“Consumers conflate nutrition and sustainability. It’s not just about their food, it’s about planetary health, too,” Molde said.
With the surplus of dietary options that exist today, it may feel overwhelming to navigate one’s personal health goals, whatever they may be, but as the new year unfolds, consider keeping an eye on these trends and others — if only out of curiosity for where food service is headed from here.