Fermented Foods have retained number one spot in the annual US dieticians Top 10 Superfood Trends, Ancient Grains and Exotic Fruits have moved up, while the 'keto' diet and plant proteins were some of the hottest food and nutrition trends to look for in 2019, according to dietitians surveyed in the 7th annual Pollock Communications and Today's Dietitian 'What's Trending in Nutrition' survey, released late December.

With 1,342 RDs responding, the survey divulges what leading US RDs predict consumers are thinking and eating.

"And in a shocking switch, RDs predict that a 'healthy label' will begin to surpass cost and taste when it comes to consumer purchase drivers. A not-so-surprising trend dietitians report is the rise of keto as the most popular consumer diet, ousting clean eating from last year's top spot, with intermittent fasting making its debut as No. 2. It's clear from these predictions that consumers are on the hunt for a flat belly and will take extreme diet measures in their pursuit," according to the What's Trending in Nutrition survey.

"It's not that 'clean eating' has declined in popularity," says Jenna A. Bell, Ph.D., RDN, senior vice president of Pollock Communications. "We are still seeing the consumer push for cleaner labels, and the industry continues their work to deliver it. But what's different here is that millennial consumers are going beyond eliminating a food group, like cutting gluten, to making more drastic changes that require real lifestyle adjustments."

Dr. Bell explains that this movement reflects a greater recognition of the importance of what we eat. She says, "it's beyond food is medicine; now food is the core of wellness."

 Top 10 Superfoods for 2019

RDs predict fermented foods—such as yogurt, kefir, kombucha, sauerkraut, tempeh, kimchi, and miso—will continue to be highly sought after by consumers in 2019, likely for their powerful benefits from boosting gut health to blunting inflammation.

Kale has fallen off the top 10 list, with non-dairy kinds of milk nabbing the No. 10 spot. This underscores the rise in the popularity of plant proteins and finding plant-based swaps. Other superfood list newcomers, beets and blueberries join the superfood predictions for 2019:

1. Fermented foods, like yogurt
2. Avocado
3. Seeds
4. Ancient Grains
5. Exotic fruit, like acai, golden berries
6. Blueberries
7. Beets
8. Nuts
9. Coconut products
10. Non-dairy milk

"Plant-based eating has been a major focus in the dietetic community," Dr. Bell says. "Now, consumers are hearing this message and it's what they want." This is apparent in the growth of seeds, nuts, and non-dairy alternatives. The supermarket milk case has gone from cow to soy, rice, almond, coconut, walnut, and oats. Consumers are fulfilling their health and protein needs with a diverse number of dairy and non-dairy products.    

To eat or not to eat — that is the trend

Consumers realize that what they eat affects how they feel, and based on the trends reported, RDs think that consumers are looking for diets that primarily drive weight loss. As RDs predicted, keto was a diet trend to watch in 2018, and it has soared in popularity. RDs agree the keto craze will continue in 2019, with consumers significantly reducing carbohydrates, grains, and sugar in favor of vegetables, animal fat, and meat. According to the survey, RDs believe the next big diet—or lack thereof—will be intermittent fasting, with clean eating coming in as third most popular.

"We have witnessed a progression in consumer demand for 'health' and 'clean' throughout the seven years of our survey and as millennials have been moving into their 30s," says Louise Pollock, president of Pollock Communications. "We have seen the food industry respond by changing their strategy from a taste, cost-driven approach to one that appeals to these powerful health and wellness-seeking consumers."

Choose wisely — 'healthy' holds the halo

One of the most interesting findings for 2019 is RDs predict that consumers will be more concerned about the healthfulness of food products than the cost and taste when making purchasing decisions. Healthfulness has hovered near the top three purchase drivers in recent years, but it's notable that for the first time it has moved up to the No. 2 spot, reinforcing the demand for 'better-for-you' food choices.

Convenience remains a steady stronghold at No. 1, with cost and taste at the No. 3 and No. 4 spots, followed by natural, organic, and gluten-free.

Advice from the experts — RDs know best

According to RDs, Facebook is still the No. 1 source of where consumers receive nutrition misinformation, followed by blogs and Instagram. And celebrities and friends/family remain the top sources of who consumers get nutrition misinformation from. But when in doubt, RDs feel that it's always best to ask the experts—RDs—who agree that consumers should eat more servings of vegetables per day and increase fiber intake, which helps promote a healthy gut and improve overall well-being.

"RDs are experts at predicting trends because they consistently know what to expect from consumers," says Mara Honicker, publisher of Today's Dietitian. "Their trustworthy nutrition knowledge educates and improves consumer wellness, and their insights drive the future of food in the industry and public policy."