Important new concerns in health and food consciousness have been confirmed by a California-based Research group studying American attitudes and behavior. The Values Institute at DGWB, a social science research institute in Santa Ana, identified five top health and wellness trends for the new year. The study, released in late December, relied on observational studies to compile the list. The mission of the Values Institute is to explore the science of values and the influential role they play in attracting and binding relationships – both personal and corporate.
Number one on the 2013 list of health trends:
Food Waste Consciousness. More Americans, about 39 percent according to the statistics, feel guilty about wasting food than any other ecological issue. Recently, the staggering amount of food waste in this country, and worldwide, has been the target of increased attention from a number of entities, including municipalities and private enterprise. Numerous studies have confirmed that more than 40 percent of the food produced in the country finds its way to the dump, causing a drain on resources, costing billions of dollars, wasting time and energy, and contributing to environmental problems.
Many communities are introducing ways to address the problems of wasted food, seeking to keep organic materials out of the landfills. In addition, food banks, shelters and homeless agencies are attempting a massive educational effort which targets better methods of delivery and use of food resources, from producer to consumer.
Wellness in the Workplace. Concerned with rising health care costs, workers and companies alike are expected to be more focused this coming year on employee health concerns. The institute notes that there may be more plans introduced to target personal fitness and weight-loss accountability; and perhaps new design emphasis on active workplace design. According to one study, 48 percent of companies surveyed responded that they would plan to introduce employee incentives to promote wellness initiatives.
Mini-Meals and Snacking. It’s not so bad to eat between meals anymore. In fact, it’s good to do so. The latest research confirms that practitioners of this growing trend have healthier overall diets than those who eat the traditional three “squares” each day. The forecast is for an increase in snack options, particularly lower-calorie, healthy option snacks for those with busy schedules. In conjunction with this finding, individuals are more knowledgeable about what constitutes “good” snacking, and tend to forgo chips and sweets, opting for such foods as nuts, fruits and yogurt, or protein drinks and bars. It is also noted that what has previously been termed “snack food” is sometimes replacing a traditional meal, such as breakfast or lunch.
Meatless Mainstreaming. It’s not just on Mondays, anymore. When the Meatless Monday campaign was introduced in 2003, it was seen by some as a kind of gimmick; or a way to proclaim to the world one’s commitment to an alternative lifestyle without having to give up much. No more, however. The trend toward veganism is growing, and it’s mushrooming (no pun intended) in all areas of the nation, even the “meat and potatoes loving” Heartland. The institute advises that herbivore menus currently available on both the East and West Coasts will migrate to mid-America by mid-year 2013.
Gluten-free eating. A growing concern with gluten, the protein found in wheat, barley and rye, may be the biggest surprise, and the fastest-expanding trend of the year. It has joined carbohydrates and corn syrup, as the study notes, as one of the ingredients that Americans love to hate. There are mixed feelings concerning the burgeoning gluten-free emphasis, however, with some experts viewing it as “self-diagnosis” or an unnecessary and untested addition to the increased emphasis on health concerns.
The food industry has hopped aboard the bandwagon, though, and consumers will find a much greater variety of gluten-free labels appearing this year. If you’re one of the gluten-free proponents, look for many more products with the “GF” label as the year progresses.
In collaboration with DGWB's Balanced Healthy practice, serving clients in the health and wellness fields, the annual list is formulated in partnership with the international research firm Iconoculture of Minneapolis. The December announcement of this year's list noted, "At the beginning of 2012 we predicted health trends would include a rise in flexitarian eating habits, emphasis on sleep, digital accountability, DIY mobile health, and natural energy boosts. Since then flexitarian has been added to the dictionary, the Los Angeles Times has recognized sleep’s place in fitness, and the number of health and fitness apps available has passed 40,000."
The values-based research identified that 76 percent of the general public falls into BalancedHealthy categories while 24 percent, termed the "Health Disengaged," falls outside the parameters of the study. If you're interested in learning more about the study and the institute, you may take the "76 percent survey" to find out what group you fall into, what the characteristics are, and sign up to receive additional information