2020 was quite the year! The coronavirus pandemic changed many aspects of life as we knew it, including how we eat, and it also helped shine a light on the health risks associated with a poor diet, among other things. Here are the most significant food and nutrition trends that emerged in 2020, what we learned from them and the wisdom we should take into the new year to maintain good health.
1. We cooked more
It stands to reason that with restaurant dining down this year, we cooked a lot more. Indeed, 40% of Americans say they’re cooking more often than they did before the pandemic, according to the FMI Foundation, a food safety and nutrition organization based in Arlington, Virginia. Cooking meals at home is generally linked with a more nutritious diet. In one study based on more than 11,000 participants, cooking more than five meals a week (compared to less than three) was associated with higher fruit and vegetable intake and better adherence to healthier dietary patterns, like the Mediterranean and DASH diets. On top of that, participants who frequently cooked meals at home were 28% less likely to be overweight and 24% less likely to have excess body fat.
In the past, Americans consumed about 20% of their total calories from restaurant meals. These meals tend to be higher in unhealthy substances, like sodium, added sugars and saturated fat, and lower in nutritious ingredients, like whole grains, seafood and produce. Granted, we’re all looking forward to re-emerging from our homes and dining out with friends and family soon, but if there’s one healthy food trend to take into 2021, consider keeping up your new cooking habit, at least for the most part.
2. We took comfort in food
Given the stress of a global pandemic and the merging of work and home life, it’s not surprising that comfort food made a comeback this year. One poll found an uptick in favorites like pizza, hamburgers, French fries and mac and cheese. Nostalgic brands like Fig Newton, Oreo and Ritz saw a spike in sales. Cereal purchases also skyrocketed in 2020, after years of sluggish sales.
But findings from a new study revealed that comfort eating during the pandemic resulted in weight gain for some people. In a survey of more than 50,000 people worldwide, 44% of participants noted an increase in unhealthy snacking since the lockdowns went into effect. People also reported a rise in the consumption of sweets and sugary drinks. So despite the boost in cooking, about 27% of people reported weight gain after stay-at-home orders were mandated. Among those who were already classified as obese, weight gain was even more common.
Comfort eating doesn’t need to be avoided at all costs. Enjoying a favorite family recipe at a holiday meal and baking a cherished dessert with your kids are meaningful ways to connect over food. However, if comfort eating (or overdoing it with alcohol) is used as a tool to handle anxiety and stress, it can lead to unwanted weight gain, and it…