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March 22, 2019


“Meatballs”, “cheese” and “empanada” looked like the usual, except that each savory delight came from plant sources. Yes, plant-based menus and ingredients are on the rise.

That is my big takeaway from the Natural Products Expo West event held last March 6-9, 2019 in Anaheim, California. Throughout the show, I experienced new innovations in food and almost all new products avoid meat like pork, beef and chicken.

What was most surprising is the participation of food giants or huge corporations that are now venturing to natural food, regenerative agriculture and healthy snacking. I guess it truly has gone mainstream. Healthy eating has become the order of the day in America, and I am sure the Philippines will soon follow by having manufacturers turn the other way—devoting research and development to plant-based food.


Many use other vegetables instead of just soy, because there is a question on where soybeans come from. Innovators use beets, cauliflower, and many kinds of green vegetables to come up with the great a product that is healthy and sustainable.

Powdered mixes
Dehydrated vegetables, fruits, herbs, and other healthful produce reduced to convenience form BUT without additives, preservatives, or anything not natural.

Free-from foods
Because there is a demand for products for those with allergies, there are a lot of gluten-free, sugar-free, soy-free, nut-free and fat-free foods.

Ketogenic or Keto diet food
These are prepared foods already compliant with the keto diet. They range from coconut oil to olive oil and even pork rinds or chicharon.

Uncured Meats
Hotdogs, kielbasa sausage, and preserved meats are now also “uncured” so as to avoid nitrates which affect many people negatively.

We see that the future of food is actually going back to basics—the way Nature intended it to be. Before processors added chemicals and artificial flavors, binders, stabilizers, food was just food. Whole foods is how some wish to describe the food that we get straight from Mother Nature like fresh fruit, fresh vegetables, root crops, whole grains, and everything you had to just eat fresh or boil, at the most. We did not fry, bake, or sauté. We grilled, boiled, and steamed.

I myself find that the more processed the food, the more work my digestive process does and it could be tiring listening to your tummy at work especially before sleeping. It really is a conundrum because processed food should have been already pre-digested. But, it is not so. Processing extends shelf life and is done to keep products fresh for a longer time, albeit unnaturally. The chemicals that “preserve” are hard to pronounce, hard to spell and I guess hard to digest literally too.

So, if you wish to be kind to your tummy, simplify. Choose simple whole foods that may have been cooked fresh and not refrigerated for long. I remember our staff in Shanghai some 14 years back. She never ate “left overs” or what we also call “reruns”. She always bought fresh from the market and cooked everyday. She found it unthinkable that we take home food to eat the next meal or the next day. She was not a rich lady trying to be snooty. She was a regular rank and file worker who knew what fresh food is and was not yet influenced by fast food.

I always have fresh bananas handy, boiled saba, and boiled camote (sweet potato). They satisfy hunger pangs at midnight or snacking needs during the day.

What is the future of food? It’s eating food that is fresh, natural, and going back to how we were before meat was grilled, boiled and fried. It may take a generation or two to completely change dietary habits but we see it coming soon.

Burger chains are offering “no bread” burgers. They also now offer “meatless” burgers like made from chickpea, mushrooms and in our case locally, we have “banana heart” burgers.

Chicken, though still a favorite everywhere, will see a decline in popularity as well unless it is free-range, eats grub and is certified hormone-free.

Fish is seeing a decline, too, as more people find plastic inside fish. Farmed fish is also not a preference of natural eaters.

Pork, of course, is also not popular unless it’s bacon or a sausage. But as the main culprit in rising rates of cholesterol and heart disease, pork is the one that many skip first and is dropped from the grocery list faster and sooner.

So what is left to eat? The idea is to be a flexitarian or a plant-based eater. This means a balance of all kinds of food but MOSTLY plant-based. You can still have your occasional steak and occasional roast pork, but not everyday anymore.

That’s what I saw at this trendsetting trade show of less meat and more plants.



Photos by Chit Juan


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