Special Report

16 Ways American Diet Has Changed Over the Last Year

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The slow food movement

The slow food movement — as opposed to fast food — has been growing for the last 30 years. It started as a protest against the opening of a McDonald’s in Rome, Italy. Supporting local farmers, the initiative promotes clean, fresh, and local food. Today, the slow food movement is present in more than 160 countries. In the United States alone, it has 150 local chapters.

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Food label awareness

People have become more interested in recent years in what they are actually eating and are paying more attention to food labels. A 2018 survey by Michigan State University found that at least 60% of respondents read the ingredients label before making a decision on whether to buy a food product. But people don’t necessarily know what to look for in the labels, Nadler said. “Most people are still in a calorie state of mind.” They see the calorie number and disregard other useful information such as sugar, sodium, and fat content, she explained. Labels are tricky. “A product may be whole grain, but the majority of grain may be refined.” Refined grains are processed and stripped of many nutrients, including fiber.

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Organic and natural foods

Organic and natural foods, which producers claim have no GMOs, growth hormones, or antibiotics, have been gaining popularity for several years. The organic foods market hit a record in 2018, with sales of $52.5 billion. However, “organic” is not a synonym of “healthy,” Nadler explained. A food may be organic and still contain a lot of sugar and salt, which is unhealthy. Always read the foods label and lists of ingredients from highest to lowest amount, she noted. There are 61 words for “sugar” that most people are not familiar with. Stay away from sucrose, high-fructose, corn syrup, to name a few.

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Whole30

The Whole30 is another restrictive diet that has been making the rounds in 2019, Counihan-Childs said. People are encouraged to eat whole foods and avoid sugar, grains, alcohol, and dairy. The program lasts 30 days and does not allow for any “cheat” days. There is no counting calories or weighing yourself on a scale. “The diet is beneficial as far as resetting nutrition goes as it cuts common sense things,” Counihan-Childs said. But it’s too restrictive and probably not a good idea in the long term, she noted.

Cauliflower in everything

For most of its existence, cauliflower — a relative of broccoli, Brussels sprouts, kale, and other members of the genus Brassica — was typically boiled and separated into florets. Today, it’s a star on restaurant menus everywhere, in a myriad of forms. There’s whole roasted cauliflower, popularized by Israeli chef Eyal Shani about 15 years ago and introduced to American menus in 2015; there’s “rice” and “tabbouleh” made from finely shredded florets; thick slabs of cauliflower are roasted into “steaks;” there’s even pizza crust made from puréed cooked cauliflower, cheese, and eggs.

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