FOOD TRENDS: To be taken with a pinch of salt or a spoonful of sugar?
Starting out as a celebrity booker for MTV, before a long stint in fashion at the House of Holland, her debut book “Eat the Week” was published in 2015.
An accomplished journalist, Anna is the food writer for Grazia, she constantly travels abroad to review the hottest foodie destinations and is the author of Anna BarnettCooks.com, full of tantalisingly beautiful photographs and recipes you genuinely want to cook. Dying of career envy yet?!
When it comes to nutrition, we are continuously exposed to information backed up by little evidence, conflicting claims and confusing advice.
From Vogue House to King’s College London, cook, blogger, writer, nutritionist, entrepreneur, mum and coeliac, Rosie Saunt is well-equipped to guide her clients’ about the fallacies and truths surrounding a gluten-free diet.
We could have talked for hours, but here are some of the things we discussed on the panel ..
Like it or loathe it, food inevitably follows fashions. Cultural shifts, scientific discoveries, politics, people and the basic availability of ingredients (new and old) all play a part in influencing what we eat. Cronuts, unicorns, rainbows... some trends are just a flash in the pan where others, like ceviche, poke or quinoa that emigrate here from abroad have more staying power.
But with the boom of wellness and healthy eating, a lot of ingredient based food trends promise a host of benefits: charcoal, turmeric lattes, almond milk, chia pudding, matcha ... Rosie is there a fine line between fun and harmful?
"Food trends are mostly fun. But there can be a fine line in certain circumstances."
- Food trends are often sold on the basis of making people fearful of other foods or certain food groups. These can lead people to unnecessarily cut certain foods out of their diet which could lead to deficiencies.
- Some foods may potentially harmful side-effects e.g. charcoal lattes (activated charcoal can stop medicines like contraceptives being absorbed from your gut).
- Some foods can have harmful effects on the environment from a sustainability point of view such as avocados and almonds.
- Healthy food trends may lead someone to experience the health halo effect whereby they presume they have done everything they need to be healthy (e.g. by drinking a turmeric latte) and might miss out the fundamental basics such as getting at least 5 fruits and veg into the diet.
I sell food for a living, Anna’s writes about it and Rosie & Helen are educating people about it. I’m always on the look out for new and unusual ingredients and trends as innovation keeps you interesting.
Anna how much do you keep the latest food fashions in mind when you’re writing your recipes? Are we sometimes too drawn in by the “hype” around something?
I think we’re all drawn into trends, even if we don’t intend to be. With social media playing such a big part of day to day you can’t help but be influenced. For me it’s important to be across those trends especially for Grazia as that’s such a big part of what the magazine is about. I try to focus on interpreting trend ingredients into interesting, accessible and doable dishes. We can often absolutely be drawn into the hype around something new or on trend but in general I’d consider that to be a good thing. Progression, experimenting with new products and cooking methods and widening our knowledge around what we consume can only be positive. There’s always extremes but I think that can happen with anything.
There’s no doubt that Instagram is amazing tool to inspire and entertain us, and of course advertise.
But Anna, as a mega instagram foodie influencer, what would you say the negative impact can be?
I think Instagram can be a great tool for so many of us, I do however think that the odd digital detox here and there is no bad thing. It’s easy to get caught up in a permanent world of comparison when sometimes it’s more productive to take a step back and take some time out for ourselves, to be present and enjoy where we’re at and those around us. I think for restaurants it’s a risky business if your focus is just on style, you’ll soon be found out. In many ways I think that instagram pushes us all to be a little more creative, more mindful of our environment or the one we create.
The birth of “wellness” over the last few years has brought with it a backlash against diets. We are constantly told we should be eating a balanced diet and learning to love our bodies.
Rosie, is there anything wrong with wanting to look a little leaner if we’re doing it in a healthy way?
A focus on aesthetics is really personal. We need to be aware that aesthetics are not good a marker of health. There is nothing wrong to wanting to look leaner but there may be a slim person with T2DM, high blood pressure, doesn’t get their 5-A-DAY and drinks like a fish.
Are there any particular diets we should be sticking to or avoiding? Or anything that we’re buying into currently that are actually complete cons?
Any diets which are unsustainable. This is obviously really individual. It’s also important to remember that most people who go on a restrictive diet will regain over a number of years (80%).
- Alkaline diet - You can’t meaningfully change the pH of your body via food. Your body has a different pH in different parts (e.g. urine vs blood). If you do change your blood pH significantly, you would be in A&E in a life threatening scenario. We’ve also noticed some medical diets are being hyjacked as health trends. The FODMAP diet for example is a therapeutic diet for IBS. But it’s being promoted as a diet for bloating. Interestingly the diet should not be followed in full life-long as it contains many gut healthy foods and may harm gut health if followed incorrectly. Support from a dietitian is recommended if following this diet.
Rosie & Helen what are your thoughts on choosing a more holistic approach to healing oneself, over a pharmaceutical one?
Choice of treatment with cancer is personal. We don’t object to choosing complimentary therapies but we do object to a lot of the misinformation which is circulated in alternative therapy circles which can be quite extreme. Nobody is empowered or can make good decisions for themselves based on bad information, which is why we do what we do. We would always remind people you don’t need to choose sides, you can support conventional medical treatment with diet/complementary therapies. We have seen high profile people in the industry promoting the harmful end of the specrtum. The Australian blogger the Wellness Warrior used her platform to imply diet of juices and coffee enemas was curing her cancer.
What impact do you think investigative documentaries like “What the Health” and “Cowspiracy” have on our culture?
These documentaries tend to make people question normal, conventional dietary practices. They have a very specific agenda and tend to frame messages in a particularly way - what’s important is balancing messages. WTH has made people think about what they’re eating, but the doc was cherry picking evidence and making people change what they eat possibly based on scaremongering bad-science.
Rosie & Helen's 5 quick tips that might actually benefit our health:
1. Vitamin D: A large amount of us in the UK are deficient in vitamin D due to not getting enough sunlight. Taking daily tablets (or a spray) is an easy solution.
2. Eat good fats eg: olive oil & rapeseed oil
3. Eat oily fish once a week - mackerel, sardines or herring.
4. Eat whole grains where possible
5. Enjoy and take pleasure in your food
And some reading recommendations:
Diana Henry's A Change in Appetite