The year gone by witnessed a marked shift in the nation’s attitude towards food. While we went for the healthier options, we also showed a willingness to try new things, and explored alternatives to traditional staples like meat and dairy. Among the many buzzwords on our social media feeds was ‘clean eating’, which simply means eating fresh produce rather than processed food. Film personalities like Gwyneth Paltrow, Katy Perry and Heidi Klum hopped on the health bandwagon. All in all, mindful eating really caught on. Here’s a roundup of the most popular food trends of 2014.

1. The Return Of The Ancients
Most American diets lack fiber, which is why ancient grains were high on the popularity index. With their high fiber content and unique nutrient attributes, grains like quinoa made their way into everything, from salad to dessert. Apart from amaranth (containing the amino acid lysine) and the fiber-loaded freekeh, grains like barley, farro and polenta shared the limelight.

2. Savoring Superfoods
Several superheroes of the food world emerged this year with claims of being protein-rich, high in omega-3 fatty acids, or high in antioxidants. From kale, chia and flax, all of which appeared last year, we graduated to hemp seeds (50 percent more protein than chia and flax) and buffaloberries (high levels of the antioxidant lycopene). Several products boasted the inclusion of matcha green tea powder whose catechins, or antioxidants, can be up to 100 times more bio-available than those in regular green tea.

3. Eating Local & Seasonal
Eating with a conscience was another emerging trend. This involved eating locally sourced food, which meant it hadn’t traveled far. Thus, it had experienced less handling and was less likely to be contaminated. Aside from benefiting the diner’s health, eating local is instrumental in reducing their carbon footprint and supporting the local economy.

4. Going Meatless
While almost one-third (34 percent) of consumers bought organic meat and poultry last year in a bid to avoid hormones, steroids or antibiotics, 2014 saw almost 80 percent of the households eating meatless meals for dinner. Eggs were the most popular alternative, followed by beans, lentils, legumes, veggie burgers, seeds, nuts, whole grains and tofu or tempeh.

5. Packing In Some Protein
Among those who continued having meat for their protein intake, many consumers consciously avoided industrially farmed products for more sustainable alternatives, such as free-range poultry and grass-fed pastured buffalo. Exotic meats like wild boar, elk, bison and ostrich were more easily available. But what really became mainstream were vegan protein options, such as those made from soy and pea protein.

6. Healthy Snacking
Given our busy schedules and irregular eating times, mid-meal nibbles received a lot of attention. The usual, sugar-loaded ones were swapped for the unusual, healthy ones such as coconut chips and seaweed chips in a variety of flavors. Condiments such as the Middle Eastern za’atar and sumac, and the Japanese shichimi togarashi became very popular.

Here’s hoping that the New Year continues to emphasize on healthy eating.

Read More:
15 Protein Powerhouse Vegan Foods
High Protein Diet: Pros And Cons

Simona is a journalist who has worked with several leading publications in India over the last 17 years, writing on lifestyle topics and the arts, besides interviewing celebrities. She made the switch to public relations and headed the division as PR Manager at ITC Hotels’ flagship property, the ITC Grand Chola, but has since returned to her first love, journalism. Now she writes on food, which she is sincerely passionate about and wellness, which she finds fascinating and full of surprises. When she isn’t writing, she is busy playing the role of co-founder and communications director of The Bicycle Project, a six-year-old charity initiative that empowers tribal children in rural areas, while addressing the issue of urban waste.