When you search for the hashtag #healthyeating on Instagram, there are over 13 million images and I bet you all my Christmas presents that they won’t all depict the same definition.

In a world where we know so much, we can’t seem to agree. With over 60, 000 nutrition papers released each year, nutrition science is booming. It’s also fair to say everyone eats and everyone has an opinion; whether they can decipher a research paper or not, it doesn’t seem to matter.

I’m no mystic Meg, but with a recent conference under my belt and lots of seasonal cheer I share with you my thoughts for the year ahead! If any bits particularly interest you, do let me know as there’s plenty of blogging to come.

How trendy will you be in 2017?

Consumer researchers have grouped us by motivation! I find this classification quite fascinating as motivation is a very variable commodity. I have lots of it on some days and it seems to allude me on others! However, 47% of us are said to react to health problems when they arise whereas 42% of us are motivated to proactively seek products to improve our health, particularly if aged 25-45.

Real food, not pills

You’re especially trendy if you’re looking to food to enhance your health. Pills are out and back to nature is in. 64% of us feel food can give us the same or better health benefits than supplements. This is exciting news for the food industry!

We’re also tech savvy and socially responsible – gravitating towards fair trade and localism, trusting in brands with a story to tell. Lots of packaging and labelling raises suspicions whereas locally sought and minimal labelling seems to tell us it’s better for us. This may be so but the reality is too many of us do rely on processed foods which can up our intakes of unwanted fats and sugars. There seems a divide between what we ‘want’ and what we’re actually doing? Do we have all the gear but still no idea?!

Bacteria the future

The craziest thing is, what may be our habitual diet is not what is most desired by our most powerful allay – our bacteria! There are many things we have to look after in a day – ourselves, perhaps our children, our meeting schedule or even that pile of laundry – now folks you need to add 10 trillion bacteria to that list. We may not be able to see them beavering away but we sure should pay attention to them…

Through digesting all the food we can’t (namely fibre) bacteria release compounds called short chain fatty acids which do a lot of talking around the body; influencing our appetite regulation, nutrient utilisation and disease fighting capabilities. In some cases our modern diets starve these dudes and with no food they can’t thrive. Cells wise they outnumber us by 10:1 so it is surprising that we offer them such little respect. Deck the halls with lots of fibre and expect more fermented products and lots more probiotic joy in 2017.

Up close and personal

We also want to get personal. Customizing products and advice to our individual health is becoming more appealing.

Thankfully the science is keeping up with this interest as we are beginning to path the way for personalised nutrition now we know what our genes can reveal. We know we don’t all behave the same metabolically speaking. Different populations do respond differently to nutrients in food and the interaction between our genes and the diet we chose for ourselves is a complex one. And we’re not far off mapping our bacterial colonies too – and when this becomes mainstream we can take our 10 trillion little friends out to a dinner designed just for them!

Protein continues to reign (despite the health claim hoops!)

Protein will still be top dog in 2017. However, allowed legal health claims don’t quite meet the enthusiastic array of products on the shelves. Manufacturers would like to be able to say that as protein does appear to create feelings of fullness and keep people fuller for longer, that certain products can therefore support sustainable weight loss.

However, we still have a lack of robust studies to absolutely prove this. Secondly its ability to build lean muscle mass is complex due to other confounding factors. This leaves one simple allowed claim on packaging – that ‘it will contribute to the maintenance of muscle mass’. No doubt manufacturers will continue to push for more legal claims through research and product innovation. Protein remains a useful nutrient to have in your corner but remember some of the best protein foods don’t hang out in fancy packaging.

Dairy are excited…

Is fat still the bad guy? The problem with simple statements is they’re very one dimensional. People historically reduced the total fat content of their diets but what they replaced it with was largely ignored. Out went fat and along came sugar – either at the factory to make food still taste nice or as a selected substitute by the individual, craving palatability.

There are also added complexities which more recent science has uncovered.

Different populations do utilise fat in different ways – back to the genetics thing – this hasn’t happened overnight, but rather decades of reproduction. Remote Nordic populations for example thrive on a high fat diet. The closest I get to these communities is a trip to Ikea so for the vast majority, attention to types of fat and overall amounts remains key.

Dairy fat however, behaves differently – for example its calcium binds to fat, milk fat globules in milk affect fat absorption and dairy is a source of probiotics for bacteria. For lots of reasons, in sensible quantities, full fat dairy seems to have a protective effect on health.

And finally they’ll be Crickets for Christmas

Bugs are big business. Mealworms for example produce at least 14 times fewer greenhouse gas emissions than cattle. Insects don’t take up much space, they’re a source of protein and they’re gaining popularity!!

And on that note, Merry Christmas!

P.s. I can be seen discussing all things trendy in an episode of BBC2’s Further Back in Time for Dinner which will be shown on your screens in the New Year.