Happy New Year! We are just over a week into 2019 and in the energetic throes of healthy New Year’s Resolutions. So, whether you are donning your lycra for daily workouts, challenging yourself to a vegan January, or off the booze for the month, you might find some inspiration in the hot new food trends predicted for the year ahead by analysts, statisticians and those in the know.

I have chosen four of this year’s food predictions and given my view on what’s hot, and what’s not.

:: Food prediction 1: Flexitarian diets

2018 saw the popularity of plant-based menus and vegan diets explode, especially among the Instagram generation, but not everyone is keen to totally exclude meat, fish and dairy products from their diet in the quest for good health. Could the Flexitarian diet be an easier, yet still healthy, compromise?

This style of eating is predominantly plant based – replacing meat and fish protein with plant proteins from vegetables, beans, lentils, nuts and seeds – but allows the occasional consumption of meat, dairy and fish.

My nutritional analysis: With good evidence pointing to the health benefits of plant-based diets, such as reducing cardiovascular risk, a flexitarian diet could be an achievable way to improve our long-term health.

:: Food prediction 2: Gluten Free sets to continue as a trend into 2019

The market for gluten-free foods – free from wheat, oats, rye and barley – has exploded in recent years, as people seek a natural solution for symptoms from IBS to skin problems.

My nutritional analysis: Although some people can benefit from reducing, or even avoiding gluten in their diet, my concern is what we are eating instead. Gluten-free foods tend to be heavily processed and can be higher in salt, sugar and hydrogenated fats than the ‘original’ versions.

Gluten-free foods are not necessarily the healthy choice, or the solution to health issues. If you choose to follow a gluten-free diet, there are plenty of nutritious (and less processed) alternative grains such as rice, quinoa and buckwheat to choose from.

:: Food prediction 3: Prebiotics and probiotics

Kefir, kombucha and krauts – you may have noticed these slightly unusual foods in the yoghurt aisle of your usual supermarket in the last few months. 2019 is set to see more and more of these probiotic foods being added to our diet, as research into probiotics unveils more and more benefits of these fermented foodstuffs.

My nutritional analysis: We used to simply associate the probiotic bacteria found in yoghurts with gut health but recent research has shown that the billions of bugs in our digestive tract have a much bigger role to play in our health.

The lactic acid bacteria like Lactobacillus acidophilus and friends have been linked with brain health, hormone balance, immune support, insulin resistance, with more benefits being uncovered and researched. I think incorporating some fermented, or cultured, foods like live yoghurt, kimchi, sauerkraut, kefir, etc, into our daily diet is a good move towards better health.

:: Food trend 4: Environmentally aware food choices

With Blue Planet II changing the way we think about single-use plastics and packaging, most of us are looking for a better alternative. From paper straws to biodegradable packaging, research into biodegradable alternatives includes using seaweed, crab and shrimp shells and agricultural waste to produce alternative packaging.

My nutritional analysis: Although plastic may not affect the nutritional content of the food we eat, it has a profound effect on the world we live in, affecting the delicate ecosystem of our planet.

Health and wellbeing should not just be a focus for us as individuals, but for us as a species. If we want to live together and thrive on this planet of ours, it is time to take drastic action and change the way we shop, eat and live for the good of our health and that of our environment.

This blog post first appeared as an article in The Irish News on Saturday 5th January 2019.