Eating for wellness is about longevity, about living a quality life, making conscious and considered choices for a better life and overall it is about making life a little bit better.  Focusing on your health should not mean completely cutting out comfort and enjoyment from your lifestyle. You’ll notice that the food and nutrition trends we’re predicting for the new year combine wellness with joy—think fun drinks with a gut-healthy punch and satisfying snacks, among others. 

For me, as someone who designs and creates recipes for media, for brands, and for my consultancy projects these are the factors I have to be able to align with predicted trends and see where we can help.  Some of the top trends over the last few years have been things like flavour, healthy indulgence, experiential meals, unusual pairings, and creative recipes—people are looking to be surprised and delighted by their food. Our younger generation of consumers believe that wellness food is anything that makes them feel happy, relaxed, healthy and confident. Market research and insights will also indicate that consumers are increasingly looking for  “Me Moments” in their food. A chance to escape, breathe, relax and truly satisfy a guilt-free, wellness-positive food choice. They want to feel good about their choices.

Wellness has to become ordinary  –  Basic, simple, assimilated into every day routines

I think the first thing we need to do for 2024 is have curiosity, explore, and be open to trying and testing…. Wellness journeys with food can take months of trying something to see if it sits and fits. By that I mean –  does this serve you well? Is it benefitting your physical wellness, mental/emotional wellness, is it creating balance and positive impact, it must be legitimately functional and simple. 

Are you eating “well” but each choice you make has a negative impact on the environment  –  that will affect you in the long run and impact the longevity of your choices? Are you eating “well” but that means a very restricted and strict plan or intermittent schedule which means you can no longer meet your friends for breakfast or your colleagues at lunchtime or your nights out and you end up excluding yourself from social connections which is a vital part of overall wellness  Wellness looks different for everyone, and its ever-changing. Wellness can be anything that makes you feel good.”

All of these things can be tools to help us achieve a wellness goal but the first thing we have to do, and there is no better time to do it than the New Year is to ask ourselves what we value … What does wellness mean to us?

I know so many people over the years who have joined a slimming group at this time of year, made big lofty promises and goals of weight loss, dropping dress sizes, quitting smoking and running a marathon all in one year. These are ambitious to say the least, so this year let’s be considered, conscious and realistic in our wellness goals. 

  • Step One

Mindset  –  undertaking there are 5 pillars to wellness and all are interlinked and symbiotic.

  • Step Two

Identifying barriers, triggers, and curve balls and planning for them.

  • Step Three

Getting specific  –  figuring out the exact moments in your day when you will do each element of wellness  – at what time, where, with whom.

  • Step Four 

Allow at least 2 weeks with this schedule for it to become a new routine and embedded.

Easy Food Changes for 2024

Build your meals with plants first

Make sure youre eating at least one plant with every meal. Plants include whole grains, pulses, fruits, vegetables, nuts, seeds, herbs and spices.

Aim to eat 30 different plants a week

We need variety for our gut microbiome but also for that to eat the rainbow effect that we have spoken about so often. In order to get polyphenols, flavonoids, and the micronutrients we need for metabolism, for hormones, enzymes and antibody production.  We now know that your gut bacteria need a variety of fibre to thrive so you cant just rely on the same foods day in and day out.

Try to eat more fermented foods

With recent studies looking at how fermented foods can affect everything from our gut health and immune system to our cholesterol levels and risk of type 2 diabetes, fermented foods are back in vogue. Eating 3-5 portions of fermented foods regularly is linked to improved health outcomes.

Different fermented foods contain different types and strains of beneficial bacteria, which contribute to a more diverse and healthy microbiome. Some examples include live yoghurt (unsweetened), kefir, sauerkraut, kimchi, and kombucha.

Add seeds to everything

Incorporating seeds into your diet can significantly boost its nutritional value.

Snack on nuts once per day

Nuts contain micronutrients such as selenium, zinc and magnesium which are harder to find elsewhere in the diet. They are also full of fibre and protein so are great for keeping you full between meals. I recommend to my patients to set an alarm for a 3-4 pm snack, so they have something before they get too hungry and cant resist the biscuits in the office.

Eat Slowly 

Digestion begins with our senses and in our mouth, and when we miss this crucial stage of digestion – whether it is because we are shovelling in our food quickly between meetings, distracted by our phones, or eating whilst we work – we might be left with bloating and indigestion.

Hydration 

Water is fundamental for bodily functions such as digestion, absorption of nutrients, circulation, temperature regulation, and toxin removal. Adequate hydration supports these processes, keeping the body functioning efficiently.

Hack your Hormones 

In December, just a few weeks ago we spoke at length about hormone hacking for wellness. DOSE for mood-boosting effects from food. I believe this is going to be one of the biggest food and wellness trends in 2024 . 

We are learning so much more about perimenopause, nourishment during the phases of menstrual cycles, and menopause. Choosing foods to support us during these phases is so important for wellness. 

Then on any given day for males or females certain hormones in imbalance can create strong physical cravings for satiety from high sugar, fat and salt foods. 

Cortisol is linked to stress levels, it is suggested in research that higher levels of cortisol are linked to storing fat in the body. So you can do all the right things about diet and food intake however if your adrenal glands are producing too much cortisol because you are stressed it is all in vain. So before we even begin to talk about food it is vital we look at food and diet and nutrition in a very holistic way for wellness. What can we do to reduce our stress levels  – we are never going to eliminate stress, nor should we –  but we can look at coping tools  –  sleep, MBSR ( mindful based stress reduction techniques like meditation, breath work, yoga) to help us cope and stay calm. 

 It is those persistent high cortisol levels that can be linked to ghrelin and leptin, the hormones linked to turning on and off appetite cues, letting us know when we are full or hungry, satiated or not. Leptin is often known as the satiety hormone . It is produced by fat cells and it is what signals the brain that it is time to stop eating. Sleep is really important in regulating leptin which regulates appetite. There is a natural supplement called veld grape which is marketed as a product to curb cravings, burn calories and reduce belly fat. High cortisol levels may rev up your appetite and lead to overeating and weight gain.

I truly believe you should eat for immunity, eat for energy, eat for strength, eat for good mood, eat for joy and satiety.

For me, some of the biggest “trends” and positive key indicators for food and wellness will include fibre, protein, functional foods, and harnessing the power of AI and the use of personal data. Access to and use of personal data  – whoop, health app on phone. We are getting to a place where it is not one size fits all, awareness for personalised nutrition needs, body types, age, perimenopausal, and menstrual cycles. Avoid as many ultra-processed foods as possible, addiction to highly processed foods is considered a very real thing. How? Their high carbohydrate and fat content impacts the brain pathways that play a role in reward and motivation. And since these foods tend to be nutrient-poor, they’re less filling, leaving us wanting more without satisfying our body’s basic nutritional needs.

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