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The new year always brings new trends in eating, and we thought we’d tip you off on what the table spread is about to look like. The continuing emphasis on locally grown, sustainable food merges with the suppressed economy (which curtails restaurant-going), and the result is fresh and creative fare that is more diverse than ever before. Expect to see the following items coming soon to a menu near you – and maybe even your own kitchen table!

Global Cuisine

As many people are cutting back on foreign travel, their taste buds are taking the trip instead, and we will see an increase in exotic cuisines. Try Vietnamese street food (fresh sandwiches with pickled vegetables anyone?), other fermented foods such as Korean kimchee, Asian dumplings of all sorts, North African food (especially Moroccan), and a newcomer: Peruvian food. If you can’t take a vacation, trying a new cuisine will (temporarily) sate your hunger with a flavor adventure.

Comfort Food

Heavy, savory dishes such as mashed potatoes, macaroni and cheese and meatloaf continue to “hit the spot” with the American public, soothing troubles away with their high calorie counts and ooey-gooey goodness. Also a factor of the recession, the comfort foods trend has also encompassed meatballs, doughnuts, popcorn, oatmeal, pie, grilled cheese sandwiches and a return of classic menu items such as casseroles and beef stroganoff.

Gluten-free Foods

A big new trend that has everyone wondering if they have wheat allergies, gluten-free food isn’t necessarily healthier or better for you than regular food. Only 1 out of 130 people actually have celiac disease, but for them, this new trend is a godsend. Shoppers can now buy gluten-free bread, muffins, baking mixes, cookies, cakes and much more. If you suspect you might be allergic to gluten, a quick trip to your doctor and a blood test will tell you for sure.

Specialty Meats

As consumers learn more about the impact that their eating habits have on the earth and the massive amount of resources that beef takes to produce, they will continue to demand more sustainable practices from the meat industry. Expect to see more “alternative meats” on your menu, including goat, elk, bison, rabbit and more.

Jewish Food

Bagels have already reached world-domination level, but Jewish and Jewish-inspired food like matzo balls, challah bread and beef brisket will pop up in restaurants around the country. Rye bread will be everywhere – and watch for the return of the Rueben, quite possibly the best sandwich on earth, made with rye bread, corned beef, sauerkraut, Swiss cheese and Russian or Thousand Island dressing.

Greek Yogurt

Hopefully you have already discovered Greek yogurt, the rich, thick, protein-filled cousin of regular yogurt. Packed with calcium and containing twice as much protein as regular yogurt, Greek yogurt is a delicious breakfast, snack or dessert. Don’t fall for the presweetened, preflavored varieties (which are packed with unnecessary sugars and artificial flavorings); instead, buy plain Greek yogurt and make your own parfait with fresh or frozen fruit, a spoonful of honey and small handful of granola or cereal to round out the texture.

image: apwong