The dawn of every new year brings a host of trends predicted to influence almost every aspect of our lives, from travel to technology and beyond. It gives us at Totem insight into what our clients should be covering in their print and digital publications.

With a personal passion for food, my interest naturally gravitates toward what will be on our plates. So I asked Christy Brissette, a registered dietitian and president of 80 Twenty Nutrition, about her predictions for 2018.

Trend spotting: Clean labels

Clean eating has been gaining momentum for some time and is finally breaking through into the mainstream. “The people have spoken,” says Brissette. “We want our food to be convenient and healthy at the same time. That means no artificial colours, flavours or preservatives, and only ingredients we recognize in the ingredients list.” This movement includes non-GMO produce, and hormone- and antibiotic-free meat, poultry and dairy.

Trend spotting: Clean labels

Industry impact: With savvier consumers, food-manufacturing giants like Kellogg, Nestle and Campbell’s have started to pay attention. “[They] have reformulated products to make them appeal to the clean label movement,” adds Brissette. Popular grocery stores like Whole Foods and Trader Joe’s in the U.S. (a Totem favourite) are also working to define their own “clean labels” so they can be transparent with buyers.

One company that’s leading the charge with this trend is Brandless (based in San Francisco), whose simple, straightforward label design has struck a chord with consumers.

How to bring it home: It’s simple: start reading labels, eat fresh foods and buy fewer highly processed foods. “When you do buy packaged foods, look for ingredients you recognize on the ingredients list,” says Brissette. “For example, compare KIND Pressed bars to other common snack bars. The ingredients are mango, apple and chia seeds. That’s it. That’s all.”

Trend spotting: Gourmet convenience

This trend embraces both ends of the spectrum: those who love to cook (but hate the prep work and shopping) and those who hate to cook (but still want to eat well). And then there are those who are fighting against the clock. “We want to create healthy, Instagram-worthy meals, but at the same time, we want meal prep to be fast and easy,” says Brissette.

Gourmet convenience

Industry impact: It seems that everyone’s prayers have been answered. Meal-kit delivery services—providing ingredients portioned and prepped—have mushroomed over the past year across the country. With recipes provided, home cooks can look forward to dinners of Olive Crusted Haddock with Barley Risotto (Good Food) and One-Pot Peruvian Chili (Hello Fresh). Major grocery food chains and specialty food stores, like McEwan’s, are also creating higher-quality ready-to-eat meals to attract more discerning palates.

How to bring it home: Meal kits can be expensive, and takeout gets boring. If you still have the will to cook, Brissette suggests taking a few shortcuts in the kitchen, like using freeze-dried spices. “I love Litehouse Instantly Fresh Herbs,” she says. “Many of my clients can’t be bothered to peel and chop garlic or onions, or find that fresh herbs quickly wilt and go to waste. The Guacamole Herb Blend is my favourite!”

Trend spotting: Cardamom

Native to India, this spice is widely used in Indian and Middle Eastern cooking. Having grown up in Mumbai, India, I’ve eaten cardamom in dishes spanning breakfast to dinner. “You know it as one of the spices in chai,” says Brissette. Easily found in supermarkets and bulk stores, it’s available either whole in pod form or ground.

Industry impact: Home cooks hot on the Middle Eastern food trend have already been using the spice to perk up rice dishes and desserts. And restaurants have caught on to the cardamom craze, too. At Montreal’s Toqué! restaurant, the Parsnip Panna Cotta comes with a cardamom meringue. In Toronto, La Palma mixes up a spritz with cardamom-infused gin.

How to bring it home: “Cardamom provides a pungent, sweet flavour to foods,” says Brissette. A natural match for baked goods (kardemummabullar—Swedish cardamom rolls—and Indian mawa cakes are personal faves), it can also be added to oatmeal, pancakes, yogurt or drinks like mulled wine. Try adding the whole pods when cooking a rice pulao or slow cooking a beef or lamb curry.

Trend spotting: Kohlrabi

A favourite curry my mother makes is shrimp with tender pieces of kohlrabi; she would add extra pieces of the veggie in just for me. Also known as German turnip, with notes of tangy apple, this bulb can be eaten raw or cooked. Even the leaves are edible. “Low in calories [and] high in fibre, [it’s] a surprising source of vitamin C,” says Brissette.


Industry impact: It hasn’t spawned a massive following yet, but its presence on restaurant menus across the country might be indicative there’s potential for kohlrabi to be the next “it” vegetable, like cauliflower. To get a taste, stop by Vancouver’s L’Abbatoir for crispy Pacific octopus with kohlrabi or Toronto’s Canoe, where the Risoni Risotto features salt-roasted kohlrabi.

How to bring it home: It might take some searching at your local supermarket, but if you do find kohlrabi, the options are pretty wide-ranging. Grate it for a slaw, add it to stir-fries and curries, or mash it like you would potatoes. “[It] definitely lives up to the hype,” adds Brissette.

Image credit: Rebekah Westover, and Brandless