Insights from the Editor

2011 Restaurant Trends: Nutrition, Grits and Farming Chefs

posted by Carolyn O'Neil, MS, RD on December 28, 2010 12:07 AM


If you like finding local farm food at your favorite eatery, rejoice: Locally sourced produce, meats, seafood and dairy products are expected to fill more restaurant menus in the new year. That's one of several trends food experts are predicting for 2011.

Restaurants are taking eating local trend further by creating their own gardens and apiaries. Chefs are making their own cheeses and doing their own butchering, according to a survey of chefs by the National Restaurant Association

In Atlanta honey bees occupy the 5th floor roof terrace at the Four Seasons Hotel and in the garden at Canoe Restaurant. Executive chef Robert Gerstenecker of the Four Season's Park 75 restaurant has been so successful with his honey production that there's more than enough to use on the menu. The facility is packaging honey for guests to take home in 16-ounce jars.

Nutrition in the New Year
As a dietitian, I'm thrilled to peek into the crystal ball and see that many emerging trends are focused on eating healthier foods. The same survey found that chefs are:

• Including more menu items that are lower in sodium, calories or fat,
• Adding more fresh produce options, and
• Advocating getting involved in school nutrition and children's education efforts.

Meanwhile, expect to see the word "organic" less next year. Independent Restaurateur says growers are realizing organic produce is too costly thanks in part to government regulations.

Other trends for 2011:
Less becomes more.
Restaurants are beginning to see more requests for smaller portions. What makes this trend particularly viable is that it allows the consumer both to eat less and to save money.

Better nutrition on kids' menus.
Chicken fingers aren't going away but they're being paired with more fruit and vegetables and less fries. It seems that if parents know their kids are eating well, they don't mind paying for it.

Pies are the new cupcakes.
Expect to see more pie shops, including sweet, savory and bite-sized pies according to Nation's Restaurant News. Pies made with seasonal fresh fruit such as peaches in summer and apples in the fall can offer significant nutritional benefits including vitamins, minerals and fiber. Avoid syrupy fruit fillings.

Think outside the ice-box with flavors such as sugar-snap pea and pear-ginger. Dining trends identified by international restaurant consultants Joseph Baum & Michael Whiteman include upscale popsicles with exotic flavors. These dairy free, usually not over sweetened, frozen treats are a great way to satisfy your sweet tooth and appetite for taste adventure with relatively few calories.

Southern exposure.
It's interesting to note that Brooklyn based Baum & Whiteman list grits as the new hot grain for 2011. They say "Expect grits to leap from morning food to an all-purpose starch. It's part of another trendlet: Down-home southern cooking." They go on to predict that shrimp and grits could be the dish of the year. I thought it was always dish of the year.

And the recipe web site predicts sweet potatoes will hit it big next year and be crowned "Vegetable of 2011" because of a bumper crop of the orange tuber, more prominence on restaurant menus beyond fried and it's impressive nutritional profile. If we get the word out on their great taste and good nutrition, braised collards may win in 2012.

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About the Author

Carolyn O'Neil, MS, RD

Noted nutrition expert and television personality Carolyn O'Neil, MS, RD has a refreshing food philosophy: “The more you know, the more you can eat!” A registered dietitian and award-winning author and journalist, O'Neil reported on food and health at CNN for nearly 20 years. Carolyn is the co-author of The Dish on Eating Healthy and Being Fabulous!.

Carolyn is an AOL Diet & Fitness Coach with online weight control workshops, writes a weekly column for the Atlanta Journal-Constitution, “Healthy Eating Out” and appears on the Food Network as “The Lady of the Refrigerator,” a recurring nutrition expert on Alton Brown’s hit program Good Eats.

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