- One word: Paleo. If 2013 was the ‘International Year of Quinoa’ (and according to the United Nations, it was), surely this year was the year of the caveman. A primal way of eating has been on the rise for the past few years, and, having clocked in as the top-searched diet on Google this year, it seems the Paleo diet is here to stay. And is there really anything so wrong with this? If going Paleo means favouring whole, unprocessed foods over the discretionary items so many of us overdo it on, then maybe not. But if going Paleo also means forfeiting whole food groups (grains, legumes and dairy) that, as Dr Joanna McMillan comments, “make a healthy diet affordable, appealing, varied and environmentally appealing,” then I hope the trend stays firmly in 2014.
- Fat is back. In what seemed like a throwback to the fanaticism surrounding Atkins diet in the ‘90s, 2014 saw a revival of a ‘Low Carb, High Fat’ way of eating. Perhaps it’s no surprise, as LCHF goes hand in hand with a Paleo lifestyle, both of which gained a significant following amongst the sporting world in particular. Click here to watch the controversial episode of Catalyst, “Low Carb Diet Fat or Fiction”. Be sure to watch this with an objective eye, though, as none of the ‘experts’ interviewed are high-profile researchers in the field – and all of them just happened to be speakers at the ‘Low Carb Down Under’ conference earlier in the year.
- A disturbing mistrust of dietitians. This year highlighted the scepticism and mistrust levelled at my future industry by individuals in the media and even the wider public – lucky I enjoy a challenge! I’d argue that much of the confusion was fuelled by our buddy Pete Evans, and stems from the bogus idea that dietitians peddle processed foods to their patients and clients. Which, of course, is simply not the case. It is true that dietitians need to keep abreast of foods populating the supermarket shelves, both to understand what people are eating and to be able to offer healthier alternatives. To quote dietitian Bill Shrapnel of The Sceptical Nutritionist, “The cause of public health nutrition is not served by a few people achieving dietary perfection; it’s achieved by making small improvements in the diets of the masses.”
- We’re still looking for an alternative to the boring adage “eat less, move more.” This year, the hot favourite appeared to be ‘The Fast Diet’, or 5:2. Proponents claim that sticking to around 500 calories a day biweekly, and eating normally otherwise, results in kilos shed and energy and health restored. While the diet has some positive reviews, I’m foreseeing copies of the book gathering dust on op shop shelves in the coming years.
- Superfoods are still in vogue. Quinoa, maca and mesquite powder, freekeh, acai, cacao. The pricier and harder to pronounce, the better.
- How many people does it take to milk an almond? Thanks to this tongue in cheek assessment by journalist Tom Philpott, I can answer this one. His assessment found that despite a typical serving of whole almonds (~30g) containing 6g protein, 3g fibre and 12g each of mono and polyunsaturated fats, a whole glass of generic almond milk contains just 1g each of protein and fibre, and 5g of fat. In Philpott’s words, “The almond milk industry is selling you a jug of filtered water clouded by a handful of ground almonds.” Based on this, I would argue almond milk is not all it cracked up to be. (Plus, am I the only one who thinks it tastes crap?)
- Despite the fact that the prevalence of Coeliac disease is likely underestimated in Australia, and diagnosis is on the rise, many of us still aren’t actually clear on what the protein is. Clever marketing and that continued trend of low carb/paleo fever might have something to do with it, leading to an explosive surge in the Australian gluten-free food market (predicted to reach $94 million in 2015). But the reality is that in the absence of an abnormal immune reaction to the gluten found in wheat-containing grains, there is very little benefit to be had from going gluten-free.
- Taking healthy eating to a virtuous extreme. Exacerbated by social media and celebrity trends, orthorexia, or an obsession with healthy living, has made for a worrying trend in 2014. The 12.5 million posts hashtagged “clean eating” on Instagram showcase this, and, in the absence of a good dose of perspective, create a recipe for guilt and shame.
- It’s easy being green. The buzz around green-hued juices and smoothies reached a new level this year, and to quote journalist Mia Freedman, “green smoothies have become shorthand for ‘smug,’ and the people who drink them have become shorthand for ‘Gwyneth’.” In other words, slurping down green gunk is a trend almost absolutely catapulted into our routines via the sways of social media. If your cold-pressed/nutribullet/vitamix concoction is encouraging you to up your vegie intake, then great, as less than 9% of Australians meet the target of 5 serves each day. But just remember, drinking a green smoothie will not make up for an otherwise poor diet.