If you want to know where American food traditions are headed, look back. Many of today's most healthful eating trends bear a strong resemblance to yesterday's: nearby farms offering nutritious, peak-of-season produce; slow-cooked dinners that foster leisurely family meals; an emphasis on meatless dishes and minimally processed foods.

These six food trends—Flexitarianism, Community-supported agriculture, Slow Food, Organic Food, Functional Foods and Small Plates, provide flavorful, nutrient-rich meals that are easy to prepare and can help you fulfill many of your dietary requirements.

Flexitarianism

Like vegetarians, "flexitarians" eat a primarily plant-based diet composed of grains, vegetables, and fruits, but they occasionally obtain protein from lean meat, fish, poultry, or dairy. A quarter of Americans fit the description, consuming meatless meals at least four days a week, according to the American Dietetic Association (ADA).

Why it's here to stay: Flexitarianism is exactly what dietitians, nutritional researchers, and public health advocates have been recommending for years. "It's about eating a varied diet that's low in saturated fat and high in fiber," says Milton Stokes, M.P.H., R.D., chief dietitian at St. Barnabas Hospital in New York City, and an ada spokesperson. Because the emphasis is on produce rather than protein, flexitarians are more likely than most Americans to meet the recommended daily intake of fruits and vegetables and the vitamins and minerals they contain.

What it means for you: Studies show that people who follow this approach to eating generally weigh less and have lower rates of hypertension, heart disease, diabetes, and prostate and colon cancer. In one large study from Tulane University in New Orleans, researchers tracked the eating habits of more than 9,600 people over a 19-year period and found those who consumed fruits and vegetables at least three times daily lowered their risk of stroke by 42 percent, and their risk of cardiovascular disease by 27 percent.

See Community-supported Agriculture Next

A flexible take on vegetarianism, this approach involves a primarily plant-based diet supplemented with occasional protein.

Maria Condo
October 13, 2008

Like vegetarians, "flexitarians" eat a primarily plant-baseddiet composed of grains, vegetables, and fruits, but theyoccasionally obtain protein from lean meat, fish, poultry, ordairy. A quarter of Americans fit the description, consumingmeatless meals at least four days a week, according to the AmericanDietetic Association (ADA).

Why it's here to stay:
Flexitarianism is exactly what dietitians, nutritionalresearchers, and public health advocates have been recommending foryears. "It's about eating a varied diet that's low in saturated fatand high in fiber," says Milton Stokes, M.P.H., R.D., chiefdietitian at St. Barnabas Hospital in New York City, and an adaspokesperson. Because the emphasis is on produce rather thanprotein, flexitarians are more likely than most Americans to meetthe recommended daily intake of fruits and vegetables and thevitamins and minerals they contain.

What it means for you:
Studies show that people who follow this approach to eatinggenerally weigh less and have lower rates of hypertension, heartdisease, diabetes, and prostate and colon cancer. In one largestudy from Tulane University in New Orleans, researchers trackedthe eating habits of more than 9,600 people over a 19-year periodand found those who consumed fruits and vegetables at least threetimes daily lowered their risk of stroke by 42 percent, and theirrisk of cardiovascular disease by 27 percent.

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