It’s that time of the year again … everywhere you look there are year-end lists and predictions galore. What will the completion of the earth’s rotation around the sun bring the food world this time? If you ask the food-trend prognostication experts, it ranges from seaweed to spices, but if you look closely at the wide spectrum of trends being proselytized by food oracles far and wide, there are some fascinating insights to be derived.

The big news is the way Americans interact with and think about food is changing. Driven by increased awareness around where our food comes from and what it does to our health and the environment, we’re in the early stages of a massive shift away from mass-produced and overly-processed, industrialized food. People are increasingly looking for healthier options, whether they are preparing homecooked meals, shopping for pre-packaged foods at their neighborhood grocery store, or trying out new restaurants. No matter what diet may be cool this year or next, there’s one food trend that refuses to go away: Americans are falling out of love with meat and embracing a whole new world of healthy plant-based options. One-third of Americans identify as “flexitarian” (choosing to leave meat off their plates more frequently), and annual per capita red meat consumption in the U.S. has dropped.

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Last year, global market research firm Mintel identified plant-based foods as one of the 12 key trends that would drive consumer choices in 2016. But what does 2017 hold? Here are three signs that the shift away from meat isn’t slowing down anytime soon. In fact, it is only going to accelerate.

Trend #1: Veggies Are Moving to the Center of the Plate

Spicy Lime Cauliflower Steaks 1

 

Veggies are finally ready for center stage! Don’t believe me? The New York Times, The Fiscal Times, and Condé Nast Traveler and other food trend-spotting journalists agree that main course vegetables will be the entrée of 2017! “Vegetables in 2017 will extend their domination of the dinner plate, shoving animal protein to the edges … or off the plate altogether…,” predicts Baum and Whitman consultancy. Today, we can find cauliflower steaks being served at New York City restaurants like Bowery Meat Company, Café Clover, and Park Avenue. According to Forbes, people are also looking for veggie-centric comfort food and The Fiscal Times points out that “comfort food searches including the word ‘veggies’ on Pinterest jumped 336 percent in the last year.”

Trend #2: Meat Eaters Embrace Meat Alternatives

burgerBeyond Meat

The days when meat alternatives were a sad, tasteless stand-in for the real thing, mostly consumed by people who identified themselves as vegan or vegetarian are over. 2016 was the year of the plant protein food tech revolution and this trend is only going to get bigger in 2017. Today’s food scientists at the leading food tech startups are focused on developing meat alternatives that are designed to appeal to meat eaters. The end result are products that taste, feel, smell, and even bleed, like the real thing with an identical (or most often, enhanced) nutritional profile. Beyond Meat‘s very realistic “Beyond Burger” hit Whole Foods and is the first meat alternative to be sold alongside meat and Impossible Foods introduced the much-hyped Impossible Burger. Both these products received rave reviews from meat-obsessed chefs and will be sneaking their way into restaurant menus and grocery stores across the country in 2017.

Trend #3: Where’s the Beef?

Indonesian Macro Bowl

 

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If you are looking to find red meat in any of the food trends for 2017, you’re going to be wasting your time. While The New York Times predicts that 2017 will be the year of the egg yolk and Food Business News predicts that people will be snacking on sardines, meat is conspicuously absent from any of the trendy foods. Instead, the trends from various sources point to healthy plant-based foods like veggie bowlspurple producefermented foods, wellness tonics, jackfruit, meat substitutes, coconut, and seeds.

The bottom line is veggies and healthy plant-centric foods are what more Americans want, and that’s pushing meat off their plates. This is not just a trend that has the potential to send ripples of change through the entire food industry, it’s also the only one that truly matters. If every American kept meat off our plates for a whole year we could cut our carbon footprint in half. In 2017, trendy foods might just help us save the world.

Lead image source: Chickpea Burger With Avocado Mayo

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