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A look back at food trends of the 2010s

A look back at food trends of the 2010s

Tara Dunker

Tara Dunker

Yesterday marked not only the start of a new year, but a new decade.

Before the 2010s are too far in our rearview mirror, I thought it’d be fun to look back at the decade’s memorable food trends—some you likely loved and others you maybe loved to hate.

Going gluten-free or low-carb: Staple grains in many American eating patterns—like pastas, breads and rice—had a rough go these past few years. While wheat-based grains were called into question for their gluten proteins, even rice had to prove its worth against the rise in popularity of ancient grains, like quinoa.

It’s nice to see these trends reversing, with people coming back around to the benefits of both wheat-based grains and good old brown rice. To quote a 2018 wellness blog: “Brown rice is surprisingly nutritious. Although brown rice is a simple food, its nutrition profile is anything but.”

Avocado anything: You’ve likely now seen everything from guacamole spread on your craft burger to slices of avocado on toast, but in the 1990s the average American ate only about a pound of the stuff each year.

Fast forward to 2012, and that same American was eating about five pounds. To give context, fresh apple consumption declined by half a pound in the same time period. Not too shabby for a fruit once called an “alligator pear”.

Kale as food, not garnish: While we’re on the subject of green foods, let’s talk about kale. This bitter green went from garnishing the salad bar to superfood status almost overnight.

While I’m glad to see it being used as more than a plate ornament, I do think the superfood label leads to confusion. Let’s be clear: while kale is packed with nutrients, so are all the other leafy green varieties—like spinach, Romaine, arugula and collard greens. So, if kale isn’t your thing, no worries.

Cauliflower craze: Resulting from the gluten-free and low-carb ways of the 2010s, cauliflower started popping up in unexpected places, from pizza crust to cauliflower “rice” and “mashed potatoes”.

No dietitian is opposed to sneaking in a few extra helpings of vegetables—but again, know that a whole-grain pizza crust, brown rice and mashed potatoes of any variety are also packed with nutrients. These foods can be enjoyed just as guilt-free as their cauliflower alternatives.

Dairy alternatives: Before the 2010s, soy and almond milks were mostly reserved for those who followed a vegan lifestyle or suffered a dairy allergy. Today, however, grocery stores stock these and many other varieties of milk alternatives for everyday consumers—like rice, coconut, flax and oat milks.

To be clear, milk is defined as “an opaque white fluid rich in fat and protein, secreted by female mammals.” So, if we’re splitting hairs, these alternative beverages are more juice than they are milk. And since cow’s milk and dairy alternatives each have a unique nutrient profile, price point and flavor, it’s entirely up to you to decide which fits your healthy eating pattern best.

As we enter a new decade sure to be full of its own fascinating food trends, remember it’s ok to love what’s shiny and new—but don’t be fooled into thinking the newness makes it superior to the foods that came before it.

If you have any further questions, please contact Tara Dunker at 402-223-1384,, or visit the Gage County Extension website at


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