AS A REGISTERED dietitian I’ve seen so many food and diet trends come and go. And, if 2024 is any indication, even once-strong trends like the keto diet, plant-based meat, and air-frying everything in sight may be on their way out.
But, as I saw recently when I traveled to Denver for a major nutrition conference, 2024 also has some promising things in store. After I walked an expo showcasing all sorts of new products, sat in on sessions about the latest nutrition research findings, and talked with my colleagues, I got a good idea of the food and nutrition trends that we’re going to see a lot of this year.
And, surprisingly, they’re actually kind of great.
Here they are, and how I score them for usefulness and overall health.
Protein-Packed Snack Foods
Protein bars and powders are still a thing, but there seems to be a greater awareness around ultra-processed foods. And, as a result, manufacturers are bringing forth a new class of on-the-go choices that are made from whole proteins.
At the expo, I tried flavored egg sandwich wraps like the ones from Egglife, which are high in protein and the unflavored variety is completely neutral-tasting. You can literally eat them with peanut butter and jelly and they’re perfect.
I also loved Starkist’s SmartBowls, to-go packs of flavored tuna with grains. They have the perfect snack macros and they’re super portable. Wilde chicken-based protein chips—made with chicken breast, egg whites, and bone broth—are delicious and satiating. Same goes for Whisps cheese crisps have new cheese and nut mixes, which hey contain the same toasty cheese as regular Whisps, but with a dose of good fats from a mix of nuts.
Trend score: 4 out of 5
Not only do whole-protein foods taste better, they’re often far less processed. Now we have more to-go options besides beef jerky and dusty-tasting protein bars.
Balance Over Restriction
Restrictive diets may work initially for weight loss, but they’re usually unsustainable for the long-term. And no matter how it makes you look, a diet isn’t healthy if it makes you feel terrible.
More permissive (but still healthful eating patterns) are trending. Think, a Mediterranean-style diet, which contains a wide variety of foods and focus on health, not restriction. This trend is supported by research showing that restrictive diets often have multiple negative consequences both physically and emotionally.
Trend score: 5 out of 5
As a nutrition professional, I’m seeing many of my clients, followers, and colleagues moving towards the rejection of restrictive diets that have never worked long-term. People want to feel peace around food now. It’s a good thing.
The benefits of balanced diets are many: They deliver a wide variety of nutrients, they’re easy to maintain for the long-term, and they allow you to live your best life, without restriction getting in the way.
Creatine has a reputation for gains, but it may no longer be just for muscle building.
There is talk that creatine may also help prevent bone loss and improve cognitive function—and it seems to be backed by emerging scientific studies.
A recent study gave 129 participants 5 grams of creatine daily for 6 weeks. As a result, researchers found a small but significant increase in cognitive function in the participants.
Though, as far as bone loss, the research is mixed, and mostly negative, especially in men.
Trend score: 3 out of 5
Creatine monohydrate is one of the safest, well-researched supplements available, but the best evidence for taking it is still for muscle gains, and not much else.
Research around creatine and cognitive function is still in its infancy, and the bone loss prevention claims don’t seem to be supported by strong science.
Adaptogens, Especially Ashwagandha
Ashwagandhais a herb used in traditional Ayurvedic medicine for a variety of things, including male fertility, inflammation, and sleep quality.
Although there are a lot of health claims being made about ashwagandha on social media, this supplement does have positive research around its cortisol-lowering properties, and its stress and anxiety-relieving effects.
Ashwagandha may also increase cognitive flexibility, which is a measure of how well a person can switch their focus between tasks.
Trend score: 4 out of 5
Although we need more research to confirm ashwagandha’s effects, it appears to be safe when taken according to supplement dosing directions. Opt for brands that are third-party tested, and deliver 300 to 600mg, which is the ideal dosage per research. Having another tool in our stress and anxiety-coping toolbox is definitely a value-add.
Living longer and stronger is a major focus of the wellness industry. Cold plunges, red light therapy, extended fasting, and NMN supplements are just a few of the longevity trends making their mark right now. This trend is circulating among biohackers online, as well as among some popular public figures.
Score: 2 out of 5
Unfortunately, there’s a lack of human studies to prove that any of these interventions really have the desired effects, including lengthening our lives.
There’s always a danger of going overboard with our health interventions and ‘hacks,’ which can lead to the opposite effect. We all die; why not just focus on living our best life without complicating it?
While it’s great that people want to optimize their health, some of the longevity trends have yet to be supported by human studies. Many of them are expensive, and the anxiety that can be caused by trying to ‘hack’ our bodies can work against us.
Abby Langer, RD is the owner of Abby Langer Nutrition, a Toronto-based nutrition consulting and communications company.