Biggest Food Fads of the 21st Century

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Quinoa (pronounced KEEN-wah) is often classified as a grain, but it isn’t one. The seed of the Chenopodium quinoa plant, native to the Andes, quinoa is called a “pseudograin” because it contains many of the same nutrients found in cereal grains. Grown in Colorado and the Pacific Northwest since the 1980s, it first became popular in the U.S. around 2006 as a good source of protein with the rise of veganism. The UN named 2013 the “International Year of Quinoa” due to its nutritional value and ability to thrive in a variety of conditions as well as its traditional importance to Andean peoples. Ironically, there have been concerns that its international popularity is making quinoa increasingly expensive for its original users in South America.

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Alternative chips (kale, nori, cassava, taro, parsnip, etc.)

Potato chips are so last century. Food scientists have discovered that almost any plant product can be turned into crisp snack food. Watching TV and just have to munch on something but don’t want the fat and salt of potato chips? Reach for one of these alternatives. They’re crunchy, healthy, and easy to find in markets but also easy to make. (If you want kale chips, just put a bunch of washed and thoroughly dried leaves in the air fryer for 15 minutes.).

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This hot sauce is named after the Thai city of Si Racha, where it was first concocted 80 years ago. A mixture of chiles, sugar, garlic, distilled vinegar, and salt, sriracha has gained a near cult-like following in recent years. How crazy are fans of the spicy blend? Lovers of the sauce went into a near panic in 2013 when manufacturing malfunctions that could have led to a possible shortage were reported at Huy Fong Foods’ factory in California, a leading maker of the sauce, and the firm responsible for introducing it to America.

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Plant-based meat and poultry

Plant-based meat and poultry alternatives have been eaten in Asia, and especially China, for centuries, and “meat analogue” products in the U.S. date at least from the 1930s – some of them produced for mostly vegetarian Seventh Day Adventist consumers. Fast-forward to the 1970s, when Frances Moore Lappé’s highly influential “Diet for a Small Planet” and other works began encouraging large numbers of Americans to limit their consumption of animal products. Fast forward again to 2009 and 2011, when Beyond Meat and Impossible Foods were founded, respectively, and major fast-food chains began offering plant-based burgers, breakfast sausage, pepperoni, fried chicken, and more. Today, such products are positively mainstream – though critics note their (usually) high sodium levels and ample use of extenders, emulsifiers, and other additives and suggest just eating fresh vegetables instead.

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Avocado toast

According to the Washington Post, avocado toast first appeared on a menu in 1993 at a Café in Sydney, Australia – though New York City’s Café Gitane also lays a claim. Wherever it originated, in this century this simple dish of mashed avocado on toasted bread has become pretty much ubiquitous.

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