A taste of things to come: looking at nutrition in 2021

From carbon counting to intermittent fasting, whatever food trend you decide to follow in 2021, remember to include your five portions of veg a day
A taste of things to come: looking at nutrition in 2021

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It is that time of year when chefs, foodies and those in the know are asked to give us some food predictions to chew on for the year to come. It’s a fraught business but, in 2021, it is one that is very much shaped by the year just gone when we rushed not only to stress-bake banana bread but to rediscover the joy of cooking from scratch at home.

With level 5 restrictions back in place, that trend is set to continue along with other food trends influenced by the changes have taken place right around the globe. Meal kits and pop-up food venues are predicted to continue, along with a growing interest in plant-based eating and sustainability.

Many dieticians and chefs have reported a renewed interest in boosting health – and in particular immune health – through diet. There is some evidence to suggest that certain micronutrients, including vitamins D, zinc, selenium, can boost your immune response but the general advice, without exception, advises people to eat a diet high in fruit and vegetables.

CARBON COUNTING

As is always the case, 2021 will bring its fair share of buzz words. One new phrase that will become commonplace is ‘carbon counting’, as we learn to calculate the environmental impact of various foods on the planet.

Making more sustainable eating choices is certainly a trend noted by nutritionist Heather Leeson at Glenville Nutrition. “We are seeing an increased interest in local and sustainable food choices, which is good for health, your bank balance and also the environment. There is also an increased interest in growing some of your own food, even if it is just herbs in a window box, a great way to add both flavour and nutrition.”

Looking ahead, she tells 'Feelgood' that intermittent fasting, a trend that started a few years ago, really grew legs in the last year.

Initially, the benefits were noted in animals but now good human research is starting to come through. “Of course, we believe in a sensible and sustainable approach to this form of eating, starting with a 12-hour overnight fast; this may be the longest fasting window for some people.

“You also need to eat a healthy diet in your 12-hour feeding window, but this is a very simple and flexible approach that works well for most people. In addition to the overall health benefits of intermittent fasting, it also cuts out the mindless grazing in front of the TV that can be an easy habit to slip into, especially when none of us is going out,” she says.

HEALTHY HABITS 

Whatever you decide to do, don’t overdo it as January is not a good time to make radical changes, says senior nutritionist Dr Ciara Wright

“Most of us are just setting ourselves up for failure by doing this, as too much change is almost impossible to maintain,” she says. In her experience, it is better to focus on one or two changes at a time and keep working on them until they become second nature.

“This might seem like a slow way to make progress, but we know that longer term, it is the habits that we stick to most of the time that make the biggest difference,” she says.

She advises picking one or two of the changes, listed below, and focusing on them until they become a habit like brushing your teeth. 

The four changes that can bring the most effective results are:

  • Eating at least five portions of veg every day, half of your plate at lunch and dinner
  • Limiting treats to two days per week, for example, at weekends
  • Fasting for 12 hours overnight, even five days per week
  • Planning meals, at least a couple of days in advance and ideally a week ahead

There has been much talk of Veganuary, too, the portmanteau word describing a trend where people opt to eat a plant-based diet for the month of January. Again, it is best to make changes gradually as vegan and author Holly White explains.

“I think people should make changes at a pace that suits them. I often suggest adding in a few plant-based options that you enjoy, rather than taking away all your staples. However, each to their own – whatever you feel in your heart is best,” she says.

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