4 Delicious Food Trends for 2016 (That Happen to Be Healthy)

Take today's restaurant trends home with these easy tips
Lisa Waterman Gray

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Pork by Pork - Sage & onion stuffed pork loin, cider braised pork and apple fricassee, mashed potatoes, apple sauce at Raglan Road Irish Pub & Restaurant at Disney Springs/Lake Buena Vista — Photo courtesy of Aaron Van Swearingen

Whether you eat in or out good quality ingredients, good flavors and good health top the list of 2016 food trends.

Dozens of Pinterest recipes, for pickled jalapenos, homemade kimchee, and traditional pickles demonstrate our growing interest in sour and fermented flavors. But there’s more to this trend than taste; fermented foods appear to act in the body much as probiotics do – aiding in digestion while supporting the immune system, and much more.

Balsamic pickled grapes from Kansas City Canning Co. — Photo courtesy of Lisa Waterman Gray

Pickling is part of what Kansas City Canning Co. does too. Owners Laura and Tim Tuohy recently won a Good Food Award, in the Spirits category, for their Apple Caraway Shrub.

Laura says people are growing less scared of fermented. “The good bacteria help digestion, and fermented [food] is easier to digest,” she says.

Items such as Sriracha pickled green beans and balsamic pickled grapes reflect what produce is in season. 

Bitter flavors have gained traction lately too, whether in greater popularity of dark chocolate, increased demand for bitter vegetables such as kale, or found in alcoholic and non-alcoholic beverages. Infused with nitrogen and sometimes served from a tap, ‘nitro coffee’ has become increasing popular in bars too.

“Obviously "bitter" is not a favorable flavor profile in our world of high-quality coffee,” says Scott Schwebel, Director of Marketing at Colectivo Coffee, in Milwaukee. “But we do serve a matcha latte which has a loyal following, as well as customers asking for shots of matcha added to a range of our bar beverages.”

There’s also greater demand for savory herbs and spices in snack foods. With significantly less sugar and sodium and more than twice as much protein as traditional yogurt, tangy Greek yogurt has become a popular vehicle for savory flavors, as in Pinkberry’s Sunflower Cucumber and Tomato Basil varieties or Blue Hill Yogurts infused with butternut squash, beets, carrots or tomato. 

Veggie-centric plates

Kale and squash are increasingly popular vegetables — Photo courtesy of Lisa Waterman Gray

To minimize food waste – and capture all of the nutrients and enzymes in plants – Local Roots, in Roanoke, Va., "pickles everything," from carrots to beet stems. Their vegetable-rich winter dishes include butternut squash bisque - with lamb neck, raw broccoli, pink lady apple, and olive oil - and Carolina gold rice, featuring roasted carrots, shiitake mushroom, benne seed, cured egg, and pickled jalapeño.

“We’ve always had a lot of veggies [in the restaurant] and we have a garden,” says owner Diane Elliot. “Many more people are vegetarian and vegan, and we custom-make meals every day. Meats tend to cause inflammation and more and more people are becoming aware.”

As vegetables take center stage on more restaurants plates across the nation, choices have expanded to include unusual offerings such as kohlrabi, parsnips, seaweed and many different squashes. Twenty sixteen was also declared the International Year of the Pulses (including dried peas, edible beans, lentils and chick peas), which are high in fiber and protein, but low in fat.

A team chef for the St. Louis Cardinals and owner of Revel Kitchen (previously Athlete Eats), in St. Louis, Simon Lusky has noticed more demand for vegetables in the last 4-5 years. His café and food truck offer health-conscious breakfast and lunch items that include bibimbap bowls – pork tenderloin and “caulirice” (made from cauliflower), with bell peppers, shiitake mushrooms, pickled carrots and a local egg. 

“To be active you need to eat well,” Lusky says. “Inflammation is a huge thing we deal with in an active and healthy lifestyle and vegetables and fruits are full of antioxidants that fight inflammation. I think another huge thing we’re seeing is the push for local – everybody is very conscious of where their food comes from and there’s agriculture pretty much everywhere.”

Pork by Pork - Sage & onion stuffed pork loin, cider braised pork and apple fricassee, mashed potatoes, apple sauce at Raglan Road Irish Pub & Restaurant at Disney Springs/Lake Buena Vista — Photo courtesy of Aaron Van Swearingen

Tip-to-tail dining

Consumers are also more aware of where their meat comes from, as restaurants serve increasingly adventurous dishes. Located in Kansas City, Missouri, The Farmhouse has become known for tip-to-tail offerings. “We butcher cuts not commonly used in modern cooking; we make our own bacon and lardons in house; we make chicharrones, broths, stews in house… all from pastured animals grown for The Farmhouse,” says the website.

“We use local farmers and ranchers, and it’s in respect to the animal that we use every bit,” says Michael Foust, chef/owner. “Beef isn’t just a steak – each part has a different flavor profile. One of the things that I really love is we’re kind of going back to our roots – what our grandparents did. [Healthiness is] all in the technique and preparation of it.”

Chef Kevin Dundon agrees. At Raglan Road™ Irish Pub & Restaurant at Disney Springs/Lake Buena Vista, Fla., he has sourced pork for current seasonal dishes from the local Pasture Prime Family Farm. A new entree features pork loin stuffed with sausage made from off-cuts of pork, with a fricassee that incorporates pork shoulder, and pork cracklins on top. 

“I think that [tip-to-tail is] a great phenomenon because I think it’s important to use the whole animal,” Dundon says. “To me, it’s about good food karma, and getting people to talk about their food is a great thing. What animals eat is crucial too; in Ireland we fed them apples and nuts.” 

Avocado and nuts provide healthy fat — Photo courtesy of Lisa Waterman Gray

Healthy fats

Olive oil remains one of the most desirable dietary fat sources available, says Mitzi Dulan, registered dietitian, author of The Pinterest Diet: How to Pin Your Way Thin, and team nutritionist for the 2015 World Champion Kansas City Royals.

“Olive oil is a top healthy fat to use because it is high in monounsaturated fat,” she says. “Healthy fats need to be part of the diet for our bodies to function effectively. These nutrient- and calorie-dense foods are the foundation of a healthy diet and also good for the skin.”

Current unsaturated fat darling avocado also provides satiety. Think avocado in deviled eggs, as a butter replacement on toast, or folded into hummus. Nuts are another great source of healthy fats. For instance, one ounce of almonds is only 160 calories, but provides six grams of protein and four grams of fiber.

“With almonds, the crunch factor is very satisfying too,” Dulan says. She recommends adding walnuts to salads and recipes for more high-quality nutrition and omega-3s.

Salmon also provides omega-3s, which are anti-inflammatory and helpful for the joints, making it a good nutrition source for active people.










Lisa Waterman Gray

About Lisa Waterman Gray

Lisa has written about food and travel for, the Kansas City Star,, and She is also a board member for Slow Food Kansas City.

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