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Top 10 Food Trends: Hip May Not Mean Healthy

Home Cooking and ‘Natural’ Foods Are Among the Top 10, but Experts Warn of Some Unhealthy Habits

Grading the Food Trends

Clemens sees good news and bad news in the report. While he appreciates the lure of "'Americana" foods, he says "none of those comfort foods -- fried chicken, mac and cheese -- are consistent with dietary guidelines unless significant changes are made to the recipes."

The attraction of people to ''natural" foods may be well-meaning, he says, but is misguided. The term natural, he says, has no legal definition when on a food label, so anything goes. "Organic," on the other hand, is clearly defined, says Clemens, who is also chief scientific officer for E.T. Horn Company, a distributor of food ingredients.

The FDA states that it has not developed a definition for use of the term “natural” on food labels. The agency says that is has not objected to the use of the term if the food does not contain added color, artificial flavors, or synthetic substances.

The most potentially healthy trends, Clemens says, are the home cooking, three squares, and home rituals.

While cooking at home could be a good, healthy trend, "we need to educate people how to cook more healthfully," he says. About two-thirds of Americans still do not understand proper portion size, he says.

Shelke agrees most Americans need a crash course in cooking. "Although enrollment in cooking classes has gone up, cookbook sales have skyrocketed, and the food shows have increased in interest, actual knowledge of cooking has not gone up," she tells WebMD.

As evidence she points to statistics showing prepared foods are selling well. "People might make a barbecue but still go out and buy basics like mashed potatoes and baked potatoes [already prepared]," she says.

Americans could benefit from learning how to cook simple, healthy meals, she says.

If she could ditch any of the trends, one would be ''eating by demographics," she says. "You don't need baby food or senior citizen food.”

She'd also forget the trend of ''specialty treats" and make it a habit -- in moderation. In her native India, she says, dessert is an expected part of the meal, eaten in moderation.

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