Many of us learned how to cook—either again or for the first time—shared meals with family, and gained a new understanding of how what we eat and drink can support physical and mental health. These positive impacts of COVID-19 (yes, there were a few), will shape food trends for the year ahead.
In a recent Globe and Mail article, I shared four food and wellness trends to watch in 2021.
With health at the forefront, people will continue to seek out functional foods that deliver a
specific health benefit beyond their basic nutrition.
Expect to see more foods and beverages with functional ingredients – mushrooms, vitamin C,
herbal extracts, probiotics, postbiotics – that support the immune system, soothe stress and
calm the mind.
One example: PepsiCo’s Driftwell, an enhanced water beverage “designed to help you relax
and unwind.” Launching in U.S. stores, the functional drink contains L-theanine, an amino
acid that research indicates reduces anxiety and promotes relaxation.
In 2020, sales of plant-based “meats” boomed in Canada and worldwide. With consumer
concerns over health, the environment and animal welfare, there’s no reason to expect the
demand will slow.
According to the International Food Information Council’s 2020 year-end survey, “plant-based”
topped the list of diets consumers had heard most about in the past year, ranking
ahead of ketogenic and Mediterranean diets.
Plant-based eating means choosing proportionately more of your foods from fruits,
vegetables, beans and lentils, soy, whole grains and nuts and seeds; it doesn’t have to mean
never eating meat or dairy.
Expect to see a greater selection of plant-based foods including chicken, fish and egg
alternatives, as well as new kinds of nut “milks.” Chickpeas are anticipated to trend this year,
turning up in foods such as flours, cereals and tofu.
Food production is among the leading sources of greenhouse gas emissions that cause global
warming. It also contributes to biodiversity loss, land degradation, water use and chemical
According to 2020 research from the Yale Program on Climate Change Communication, one-half
of consumers are willing to choose more sustainable foods if they have access to
information about their diet’s environmental impact.
Such actionable information is now appearing on foodservice menus. This past fall, in
collaboration with the World Resources Institute, Panera Bread launched labelling of “Cool
Food Meals” on its menus across the United States. The badge identifies items with a lower
carbon footprint, calculated by the WRI.
In October, Chipotle Mexican Grill introduced “Real Footprint” to its U.S. menus, a
sustainability-impact tracker. The company is working on expanding the offering into
The Cool Food Pledge, a program developed by the WRI, is a movement of restaurants, hotels,
hospitals, universities and city governments that have committed to reduce the climate impact
of foods they serve. So far, 40 organizations from around the world are members; the City of
Toronto is currently the only Canada-based member.
The pandemic has resulted in sharing more family meals, often three a day, a habit that’s
associated with emotional and nutritional benefits.
A 2020 survey from the U.S. based Food Marketing Institute found that among people who
had been eating more in-person meals, 71 per cent reported feeling more connected to their
family than before the pandemic.
Four out of 10 also said the meals they eat as a family are healthier than the ones eaten when
alone. Previous studies have found that children who regularly eat family dinners consume
more fruits and vegetables and fewer unhealthy foods.
FMI research suggests that a majority of consumers plan to continue eating family meals often
when the pandemic ends. As pointed out in the 2021 trend report from Canada’s Nourish Food
Marketing, in order to continue this family custom, it will be important to keep meal prep easy
and meals interesting and fun.
The Nourish report predicts that grocery stores and foodservices will have a role to play,
perhaps by offering customizable meals to accommodate for different food preferences among
family members, in addition to meal options that families can prepare together.
If you’re looking to improve your health, change your eating habits or talk to someone about nutrition, our Nutrition team can help. We offer counselling virtually, by phone or, when possible, in person. To learn more about Medcan’s Nutrition programs, click here, email firstname.lastname@example.org or contact us at 416.350.5900.