We recently discussed some food trends we saw in schools in 2017, and with a month of 2018 under our belts, we’re now going to tackle 2018 food trends. Some of 2017’s food trends in school will inform what we anticipate in 2018: bold, international flavors were big in 2017, with a growing emphasis on more customizable options, like taco bars, salad bars, etc.

As mentioned  in our blog post on 2017 food trends, “[a]ccording to the 2017 Trend Report, 56.3% of districts have been serving items with cleaner labels.”

Clean eating is a continuing trend in 2018, with healthy fats and protein-packed foods leading the way. In a recent Washington Post article, algae oil was touted for its omega-9s. While we may not see algae oil in school kitchens anytime soon, healthy fats continue to fuel 2018 food trends: “Healthy fats are in, and in 2018 we’ll home in on omega-9s (also known as monounsaturated fats) for their potential to regulate blood sugar levels and promote a healthy weight.” Within Health-e Meal Planner, districts can identify several attributes in their recipes to indicate features of a recipe.  Attributes range from GMO Free, Made from Scratch to Organic, to Gluten Free. This empowers districts–and by extension their students–to make choices specific to their needs or lifestyle.

At Health-e Pro, we see districts placing understandable emphasis on special diets, ensuring they’re able to accommodate gluten-free, nut-free, and other allergen-specific diets. Health-e Meal Planner allows for these attributes to be filtered: contains pork, gluten-free, GMO-free, kosher, locally grown, made from scratch, organic, Smart Snack-approved, vegan, and vegetarian. One customer and district in Ohio has found the gluten-free attribute and filter essential in avoiding gluten entirely. Another Health-e Pro customer utilizes the “Made from Scratch” attribute frequently so students–and parents–can know which meals are made from scratch using cleaner ingredients and fewer preservatives.

While accommodating special diets has become an area of importance, districts also work on limiting sugar intake. In order to offer a wide variety of foods and treats–without all the side effects of sugar–substitutes like stevia may show up in more schools:

“Stevia continues to rule as the sweetener of choice for people wanting to cut down on sugar or calories. As the demand for stevia grows, so do the product offerings. . . . Look for stevia as an ingredient in more beverages, baking mixes and condiments as consumers look for calorie- and sugar-reduced versions of their favorites.” Washington Post

Health-e Pro customers can use the Build-a-Meal feature so students and parents can see how much sugar–and other macro- and micronutrients–is in whatever meals they’ve created. That allows everyone to make a better-informed choice when all the data is available at one’s fingertips–or on a smartphone.

Another 2018 food trend that popped up on the Washington Post’s list was that of cottage cheese. Never high on this author’s list, “it’s becoming more popular because we’re all obsessed with finding more ways to pack protein into our meals and snacks. This cousin to Greek yogurt is slightly higher in protein and is mostly casein, a protein that can help you feel full longer.”

Here at Health-e Pro we see schools continually looking for ways to increase protein macros without causing calories to go out of whack, so we wouldn’t be surprised to see cottage cheese find its way into more school kitchens, especially for students looking to abstain from meat.

We may find a few other surprising things for 2018 food trends when we look back on the year, but a continued march towards healthier fats, clean protein and fewer sugars only bodes well for students’ nutrition.