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Fitness professionals need at least a basic knowledge of food and nutrition. Generally, this involves understanding how different macro and micronutrients impact the body. It also requires knowing which food sources offer high nutritional value (fruits, veggies, lean meats, etc.) and which items may be void of any nutrition at all (such as many processed and ultra-processed foods).
But it’s just as important that personal trainers and fitness coaches stay up to date on the latest nutrition trends. Let’s talk about why. Then we’ll get into what those trends are for this year.
Nutrition trends can tell you a lot about the issues your clients may be struggling with. In the 90s, for instance, the trend was low-fat or fat-free snack cakes and cookies. If someone was on a diet, they likely ate a lot of these types of foods. The thought behind this trend was that if you removed the fat from typically high-fat treats, you didn’t have to deprive yourself when trying to lose weight.
As a fitness trainer, knowing this helps you better understand your clients. You recognize that they may feel as if they must deprive themselves to see the number on the scale go down. It might also shed some light on why they may feel fatigued during their workouts. They might not be taking in enough calories to give their body the energy it needs. Or they may be choosing foods that don’t adequately replenish their energy stores. (Many of these snacks were low in nutrition.)
Nutrition trends also provide insight into why clients aren’t achieving their fitness goals. Back to the 1990s, because diet snack cakes were lower in fat, many thought they were okay to eat in excess. This contributed to a higher total calorie intake. And it kept people from reaching their weight loss goals.
A third reason fitness pros should know the latest nutrition trends is to be able to talk about them with their clients. Clients may have questions about whether a trend works or if it is safe. If you don’t know what the nutrition trend entails, it’s difficult to give proper guidance.
What nutrition areas are consumers starting to focus in 2023? Here are 10 nutrition trends to consider.
With the rise of food prices, many people are reevaluating their food budgets and how they can put together a healthy meal without breaking their bank account (1). This is especially true for clients already operating on a smaller budget and those new to eating healthy to support their fitness goals.
Talk with your clients about their eating habits. Share budget friendly meal planning tips and ways they save money and still eat healthy meals.
Now that working from home is less new, many remote workers are working to clean up their snack choices. This enables them to curb their hunger without increasing their waistline.
Also, many people are still working on losing the weight the put on during the pandemic (or in general). Research indicates that almost 40% of people gained weight during the COVID-19 lockdown (2). If your clients are one of them, they are likely in search of the best diet to lose the excess weight. (Some will try one diet after another until they find one that works.) Even if they didn’t gain weight, they might still have made less-than-healthy food choices.
You can help clients clean up their diet by encouraging them to eat more whole foods. If they are emotional eaters, finding other ways to manage their stress can help as well. This is especially important since we’re still dealing with the impacts of the pandemic. And we will likely continue to do so for years to come.
One factor brought to light during the pandemic is the importance of a strong immune system. The better your immunity, the greater your ability to fight off the latest illness or virus.
This has caused many to consider the health benefit of their food choices in 2022, especially as they relate to the immune system. Some have even turned to a supplement to boost their immunity more. A few of the nutrients known to benefit the immune system include vitamin D, vitamin C, vitamin A, and vitamin E.
The number of people following a vegan diet has increased by 600% in recent years (3). This is no surprise as plant based food offers many benefits.
In addition to making it easier to control weight, it helps promote heart health. It also reduces the risk of other major diseases such as cancer and diabetes. Plants support the immune system and reduce inflammation. They’re also a good source of fiber, providing gastrointestinal benefits.
Another trend this year is choosing food that supports optimal gut health. Many studies show the connection between the gut and overall health and wellness. One piece of research published in 2018 shares that diet is the “pivotal determinant” in gut health and function (4).
Fermented food is known for its ability to promote gut health. This includes yogurt, kefir, sauerkraut, and kimchi. This is because these foods are also considered probiotics. Probiotics work by promoting the growth of healthy gut bacteria.
We’ve long known that nutrition has a huge impact on physical health. It’s often said that the food we eat either contributes to or detracts from disease development. Now we are starting to realize that diet also affects mental health.
In an article published by Todays Dietitian, Mindy Hermann, a registered dietitian nutritionist (RDN), shares that functional foods help support better mental health (5). Some do this by aiding in mood regulation, others by decreasing anxiety or depression. Mushrooms are an example of a functional ingredient. They promote mental health by balancing stress and boosting brain health.
A food trend that falls in this category is superfood lattes. This is a hot drink made with milk (or a milk alternative) and a variety of superfoods. These drinks claim to help improve focus, reduce stress, and more.
Consumer trends suggest that sustainability is a major focus. Sustainability refers to food sources that are able to meet our nutrition needs long-term. They have a low environmental impact, providing some level of food security for years to come.
A plant based diet is considered high in sustainability. This includes vegetables, fruits, nuts, seeds, and legumes.
Most of the waste in landfills is food according to the National Conference of State Legislatures (6). In addition to becoming a space issue, food that is thrown out also releases a greenhouse gas called methane. Methane contributes to global warming and can be harmful to humans.
Several states have now passed laws restricting how much food can be sent to these huge mounds of trash. Others have passed legislation that makes it easier to donate excess food.
Reports show an increase in the production of non-alcoholic beverages (7). As movements like Dry January become more popular, its easy to understand this trend (8). Add in that alcohol may impact fitness gains for some people and it’s makes even more sense.
While non-alcoholic versions of these drink may be a healthier alternative, they’re not always the healthiest option available. Be sure to check for added sugars and other less healthy ingredients. Talk with clients about food labels and the effects of too much sugar. Moderation is key!
Gone are the days when you have to sit down with a registered dietitian or nutritionist in person. Just as you can meet with your doctor online, you can do the same with these professionals.
This makes nutrition guidance more accessible. It also makes it more convenient. As long as you have access to the internet, you have access to a nutritional counselor.
Providing specialized nutrition advice is outside the scope of practice for personal trainers. If you want to offer in-depth or personalized guidance on diet as it relates to health and wellness, you can do so by becoming a nutritionist.
This certification course teaches the ins and out of food and nutrition. It covers how diet contributes to health. It also discusses how different eating strategies can impact wellness.
If this interests you, ISSA offers nutrition certification. In this course, you will learn how to assess a client’s nutrition needs. You’ll also discover how to create a personalized eating plan—a plan based on the client’s health and fitness goals.
By becoming an ISSA Nutritionist, you'll learn the foundations of how food fuels the body, plus step by step methods for implementing a healthy eating plan into clients' lifestyles.
Kalaitzandonakes, M., Coppess, J., & Ellison, B. (2023). How Us Consumers Say They’re Coping With Rising Food Prices: Results From the Gardner Food and Agricultural Policy Survey.
Bhutani, S., vanDellen, M. R., & Cooper, J. A. (2021). Longitudinal Weight Gain and Related Risk Behaviors during the COVID-19 Pandemic in Adults in the US. Nutrients, 13(2), 671. MDPI AG. Retrieved from http://dx.doi.org/10.3390/nu13020671
Clem, J., & Barthel, B. (2021). A Look at Plant-Based Diets. Missouri medicine, 118(3), 233–238.
Zmora, N., Suez, J. & Elinav, E. You are what you eat: diet, health and the gut microbiota. Nat Rev Gastroenterol Hepatol 16, 35–56 (2019). https://doi.org/10.1038/s41575-018-0061-2
Hermann, MBA, RDN, M. (2020). Functional Foods & Cognitive Health - Today's Dietitian Magazine. Todaysdietitian.com. Retrieved 16 May 2022, from https://www.todaysdietitian.com/newarchives/JJ20p40.shtml.
Schultz, J. (2017). Fighting Food Waste. Ncsl.org. Retrieved 16 May 2022, from https://www.ncsl.org/research/agriculture-and-rural-development/fighting-food-waste.aspx.
Dinarichter. (2022, October 28). Non-alcoholic beverage trends in the US. NielsenIQ. Retrieved February 2, 2023, from https://nielseniq.com/global/en/insights/education/2022/non-alcoholic-beverage-trends-in-the-us/
Robert, Y. (2023, February 1). Dry January is becoming a lifestyle. Forbes. Retrieved February 2, 2023, from https://www.forbes.com/sites/yolarobert1/2023/01/31/dry-january-is-becoming-a-lifestyle/?sh=33a586344db9
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