Sure, there will always be menu mainstays like soups, salads and sandwiches. Yet every year, we see new trends pop up in the culinary category that capture our imagination and our taste buds.
In 2018, there’s a virtual buffet of food trends to devour. Here are eight of them.
1. Putting the squeeze on sugar.
Kathlena “The Allergy Chef” Rails was among the official bloggers at this year’s Expo West, an annual food show that attracts thousands of attendees. Rails says one of the trends she spotted at Expo West was foods with reduced sugar or alternative sweeteners.
Rails says her “favorite find” in the low- or no-sugar category was a “super delicious” cookie with just 3 grams of sugar. Another stand-out, she says, was a superfood bar containing only 4 grams of sugar.
Elisa Burgos, a plant-based cooking instructor and nutrition coach at The Food Pharmacy, says fruit-and-water combos also are replacing sugar. For instance, she says, blending dates with equal parts water creates a small, sweet paste that’s ideal for baked goods, beverages and other uses.
“Other dried fruit, when blended with water, yield similar results and can sweeten without the effects of refined sugar or artificial sweeteners,” Burgos says, “and they have the added benefit of providing valuable fiber, vitamins and minerals.”
Registered dietitian Stephanie Ferrari, co-founder of Fresh Communications, a PR and marketing company that focuses on food, says it’s becoming more popular to dump sugar from our diets.
“It’s no secret that with obesity on the rise in America, people are starting to look for ways to cut back on calories and sugar. But some artificial-sugar replacements have been linked to disease and stomach discomfort,” Ferrari says. “Luckily, natural-sugar replacements are now on the market and are giving people an easy way to eat their cake and lose weight, too.”
2. Raising allergy awareness.
At Expo West, Rails saw plenty of voluntary labeling of shared equipment and facilities that benefits sufferers of food allergies. She calls this development “refreshing.”
“Manufacturers are rising up to meet the needs of the food-allergy and special-diet communities. While their efforts have been ramped up considerably, there’s still a great need for producers to commit to using dedicated equipment to prevent cross-contamination,” Rails says.
3. Calling all cauliflower lovers!
“We have seen it elevated from a humble side dish to the star of the table,” Burgos says. “What’s next for this versatile, nutritious vegetable?”
4. Giving more value to veggies.
Pegah Jalali, a registered dietitian at Middleberg Nutrition and an adjunct professor at New York University’s Department of Nutrition and Food Studies, says that during her visit to another major food show — Expo East — she noticed a lot of vegetables in snacks. Those included vegetable chips, dried vegetables, veggie ingredients in snack bars and, once again, cauliflower (this time in crackers and pretzels).
5. Taking a taste of Israeli cuisine.
In its 2018 trends report, restaurant and hospitality consulting firm Andrew Freeman & Co. serves up details on food from the Land of Milk and Honey.
“What is Israeli cuisine? Well, with a country that’s hardly 70 years old, it’s complicated — and extremely diverse. And almost impossible to resist,” the report says.
The report says we should be on the lookout for more Israeli-inspired ingredients on restaurant menus, including sumac, za’atar, tahini, halva, halloumi, harissa and chermoula.
“From shakshuka at brunch to sumac-spiced donuts for dessert, Israeli flavors are deep and vibrant, lending themselves well to both savory and sweet applications,” according to the report.
6. Un-cooping the chickens (yes, chickens).
The Andrew Freeman & Co. report makes the case for chicken being a bona fide trend in 2018. High-end chefs are flocking to the tried-and-true bird in the form of rotisserie chicken, fried chicken, chicken sandwiches and much more, according to the report.
The report gives chicken high marks for being cheap, delicious and comforting. In particular, rotisserie chicken is expected to take flight this year, according to the report, since it’s “easy on operations and the wallet, and perfect for delivery and takeout.”
7. Savoring the floral flavors.
“Foragers and epicureans have embraced edible petals for years, but this year floral inspiration will be in full bloom,” Cozymeal says. “From adding whole flowers and petals into dishes to infusing botanical flavors into drinks and snacks, this top trend makes for a subtly sweet taste and fresh aromatics.”
8. Making room for ’shrooms.
“A mushroom smoothie might sound … interesting, but the earthy, creamy notes pair surprisingly well with cocoa and coffee flavors,” the website says. “On the other hand, the rich umami flavors of mushrooms lend themselves to full-bodied soups that are loaded with health benefits.”