When it comes to what's for dinner, more Americans are picking something good for them, says an Oregon State University researcher.
"Consumers are making more of an effort to eat healthier," says Carolyn Raab, OSU Extension foods and nutrition specialist in Corvallis.
Baby boomers in particular are setting a better table these days, eating more foods with omega-3 fatty acids, such as salmon, and mixing up oatmeal to help reduce high cholesterol levels.
Consumers, Raab says, are shifting from dieting and weight-loss programs to managing weight with smaller portions, specific food restrictions and low-fat foods.
A. Elizabeth Sloan, who compiled a report on food trends that appeared in Food Technology magazine, says people are increasingly looking for foods that are as fresh and as close to the farm as time and budget allow.
"The interest in local has been growing," she says, which is fueling an increase in local growers markets."
Local growers also are looking more attractive to consumers because of the various food scares in recent months.
"Something like that leads consumers to change their behavior," Sloan says.
Another finding — one that might not be as good — is that people are consuming more energy drinks, such as Red Bull.
Raab says she's interested to see whether rising food prices will have an impact on the trend in future studies. "As food prices increase, people may tend to eat out a little less," she says. But it's difficult to predict, she adds, because some people may buy more fast-food meals as prices increase.
The information on trends is valuable to OSU, Raab says, because it helps educators arrange programming for workshops. For example, increasing food prices may lead more people to take up home gardening. The university's Extension, then, would want to offer more food-preservation workshops.
"There might be more interest in our workshops on things like canning," she says.
Sharon Johnson, an associate professor in health and human sciences at OSU and faculty member of the Southern Oregon Research and Extension Center, says one popular workshop teaches adults and children about healthful snacks, such as how to make a smoothie with spinach.
Johnson admits the suggestion usually gets some grimaces from audience members, until they taste it.
"I've never had anyone not like them," she says.
One young student gave Johnson a helpful tip: Cut into a glazed doughnut and look at the knife, then cut into an apple and look at the knife. It helps you understand what you're asking your body to digest, she says.
Johnson says the Extension Center offers a repertoire of a dozen classes, ranging from stretching the dollar to gourmet creations using items already in your pantry.
In addition to scheduled classes, the Extension will conduct presentations for groups.
For more information about local workshops taught through OSU Extension or to request a catalog, call 776-7371.