What We Learned About Nutrition This Year, According to Our Dietitians

These are the six major takeaways from 2020 in terms of our health.

December 28, 2020

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Photo by: GMVozd/Getty Images

GMVozd/Getty Images

The year 2020 was certainly a year to remember. With a pandemic hitting and many changes to eating habits and the food supply, there are lots of new things we learned about food and nutrition. Below are six things that really stood out to us as nutritionists.

How to Properly Wash Produce

Although the Internet highlighted folks washing fresh produce with bleach, soap, essential oils or detergent, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) doesn’t recommend it. Residues from these substances can stay on produce which means you eat them. The Food and Drug Administration (FDA) hasn’t evaluated the safety of residues left from these products if ingested.

To properly wash your fruits and vegetables, the Partnership for Food Safety Education recommends gently running them under cold water. If the fruit or veggie has a tough exterior, like potatoes or melon, use a stiff bristled brush under running water.

Americans Should Be Eating More Plants

The term plant-based is splashed everywhere. With the CDC stating that only one in 10 Americans meet their recommended daily amount fruits and vegetables, eating more plants daily should certainly be a priority. But it’s not just produce that we are lacking. Most Americans also don’t meet their daily recommendations for fiber, which is found in plant foods like whole grains, beans, peas, lentils, nuts and seeds.

Canned Foods Are Healthy

Canned beans, tomatoes, pineapple, tuna, chicken and more are not only healthy, but their shelf-life comes in handy when you don’t want to go food shopping often, like during a pandemic. There are many misconceptions surrounding canned foods, but I have firsthand witnessed how foods, like canned tomatoes, are picked during their peak of ripeness and canned within several hours of harvesting. In addition, canned food like fruits, vegetables, and beans are just as nutritious as fresh and in some instances may even contain even more nutrients compared to its fresh counterpart. Lastly, there is a misconception the usage of BPA in canned food. These days food companies rarely, if ever, used BPA to line metal cans.

Baking Bread Can Be Good for Us

Dietitians rejoice to see the carb phobia take a break. A silver lining to limited grocery store stock and social isolation led to a boom in baking. Searches for homemade bread recipes hit an all-time high at sourdough starters were brought back to life. The beauty of baking bread is it can take many forms – quick breads, muffins, sourdough and yeast-leavened pan loafs and pizza doughs continue to grace social media, proving that everyone can try their hand at a form of bread making. Plus, we noticed for many, baking out their stresses served as a fun way of making it through this year.

Americans Want Flexibility

Plant-based eating continues to be a strong trend but Americans want it all. Sustainalystics dubbed 2020 the “Year of the Flexiatrian.” They suggest the pandemic’s effect on meat supply has fueled this trend even further. The NPD Group, Inc. also reports that consumers want “substitution without sacrifice” – meaning, they expect plant-based foods to taste like meat and other alternatives should mimic their traditional counterparts. They also want them to stack up in the nutrition department which is why you will continue to see more “hybrid” items in grocery stores that combine animal and plant based foods such as Applegate Well Carved Meatballs and Live Real Farms plant and dairy milk blends.

We Can Exercise (and Refuel) At Home

Peloton and Hydrow were already having their moments, but more time at home has also lead to the rise of home workouts via apps, FaceTime and Instagram Live. When quarantine is behind us, folks will still be taking advantage of these platforms to get in a sweat sesh while at home. At home workouts can offer an ideal opportunity to recovery effectively since the kitchen is only steps away. Need recovery ideas? Here are some easy meals.

Toby Amidor, MS, RD, CDN, is a registered dietitian and consultant who specializes in food safety and culinary nutrition. She is the author of The Greek Yogurt Kitchen: More Than 130 Delicious, Healthy Recipes for Every Meal of the Day.

Dana Angelo White, MS, RD, ATC, is a registered dietitian, certified athletic trainer and owner of Dana White Nutrition, Inc., which specializes in culinary and sports nutrition. She is the author of four cookbooks First Bites: Superfoods for Babies and Toddlers, The Healthy Air Fryer Cookbook, The Healthy Instant Pot Cookbook and Healthy Quick and Easy Smoothies.

*This article was written and/or reviewed by an independent registered dietitian nutritionist.

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