The best and worst food trends (so far) of 2020

From dessert-style breakfasts to plant-based meats, Jaymie Hooper separates the food fads to try from those past their use-by dates. 

The hospitality industry was hit hard when the coronavirus pandemic forced restaurants and cafés to close their doors, but that didn’t stop food trends from continuing to evolve. Instead of obsessing over dishes by rock-star chefs, more and more of us fell for the creations of amateur home cooks. Still, not every trend is worth the kilojoules. Body+Soul asked nutritionist Stephanie Malouf, founder of Stephanie Malouf Nutrition, to take the ultimate taste test and provide her final verdict.

Bay leaf tea

The Mediterranean herb is traditionally used to flavour curries and casseroles, but in 2020 it’s gaining popularity as the star of a health-boosting tea. An alternative to your coffee, bay leaf tea is made by boiling the leaves for three to five minutes and then steeping for a further five.

The expert’s take: “Rich in vitamin C, potassium, iron and antioxidants, bay leaves support your cardiac rhythm and immune system, and lower your blood pressure and cholesterol,” explains Malouf. “Their bitter flavour also stimulates digestion, and reduces gas and bloating.”

Hit or miss? Hit.

Pancake cereal

Boasting a whopping 1.4 billion views on TikTok, pancake cereal is exactly what the name suggests – a bowl of tiny pancakes drizzled in maple syrup, butter and milk.

The expert’s take: “Just like regular pancakes, there’s nothing healthy about this meal. It’s merely a bowl of refined flour and sugar, which makes it an indulgent dessert at breakfast,” warns Malouf.

Hit or miss? Miss.

Focaccia gardens

Using a mix of herbs and vegetables to create flower designs on homemade focaccia, this trend is one of the most Instagram-friendly foods to come out of lockdown.

The expert’s take: “While adding herbs and veg does boost the nutrient and antioxidant content of the bread, it’s still comprised mostly of refined flour and should be limited to small amounts,” Malouf tells Body+Soul.

Hit or miss? Hit (in moderation).

Dalgona coffee

This Korean brew – made by whipping coffee, sugar, water and milk together – reached peak popularity during isolation. But just because restrictions are lifting doesn’t mean its appeal is going into lockdown soon.

The expert’s take: “It might be easy to whip up, but Dalgona coffee doesn’t pass my health test,” Malouf says. “Small amounts of sugar in the diet is fine, but this drink contains two tablespoons, and that much will cause you to crash before you reach lunch.”

Hit or miss? Miss.

Vegan bacon

When actress and author Tabitha Brown shared a video in which she fried up vegan bacon – by marinating carrot strips and whacking them in an air fryer – vegetarians couldn’t get enough. But does it taste like real bacon?

The expert’s take: “This vegan alternative has a smoky flavour thanks to the marinade of maple syrup, smoked paprika, onion and garlic powders and black pepper,” explains Malouf. “I’m not sure it’ll fool meat-lovers, but if it means you’re getting more vegies in, I say go for it.”

Hit or miss? Hit.

Not-so-naughty food swaps

Use these simple tweaks to give your favourite treats a healthy makeover:

Dalgona coffee: Trade in the refined sugar for some stevia or monk fruit sweetener, and if you don’t really like coffee, use matcha, turmeric or raw cacao instead.

Pancake cereal: Create a healthier pancake mix by using almond meal, coconut or oat flour, and use mashed banana as a natural sweetener.

Vegan bacon: Maple syrup is high in sugar, so try to use it sparingly or use a dash of tamari to highlight natural sugars in the carrot.