3. Mini-meals and Snacking. As the snacking trend continues, new research shows that those who eat between meals tend to have healthier diets. FastCasual.com reports that snacks make up one out of every five eating occasions in the U.S. Especially prevalent is the advent of multiple "mini-meals" in place of the standard three squares a day. Quick Lean Cuisine salad options, probiotic nuts, and the ubiquitous cup of frozen yogurt with fruit are slowly replacing breakfast, lunch and dinner. Expect to see this trend continue and usher in a new standard for convenient, healthy snack foods beyond the 100-calorie Oreo pack.
4. Meatless Mainstreaming: Veganism is OK. Last year's rise of the flexitarians is foreshadowing a trend toward meatless eating and outright veganism, vegetarianism's older brother. No longer reserved for the hip in Hollywood, going vegan is being embraced as a viable health alternative. Even professional athletes like Venus Williams and Arian Foster, whose bodies are their livelihood, have made the switch. Merit-badge consumers seeking exotic natural ingredients like jackfruit and quinoa have helped turn the tide, especially as increasingly popular Asian and Indian flavor profiles eschew animal products. Look for herbivore-accommodating menus at restaurants on both coasts to start migrating to mid-America in 2013.
5. Going Against the Grain. The past year saw an influx of gluten-free products as everyone and their brother is shunning their Wheaties. Gluten has joined carbohydrates and corn syrup as the newest ingredient Americans love to leave out. While some experts see this as self-diagnosis gone awry, consumers increasingly see the "GF" logo as a guide to healthier eating. From grocery stores to gastro-pubs to brands like Betty Crocker to Domino's, the food industry is taking advantage of this new, not-so-niche need.
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