Happy New Year! And not just that, it's a new decade which means people are going all-out on their new year predictions, looking more toward what's on tap for the decade ahead as well. While most professional predictors like to focus on politics, the economy, and celebrities, this writer prefers to focus on the things we've all probably had a little too much of lately—food and drink. But now that the holidays are over and the new year (decade) is upon us, let's look to the future, shall we?

In past years, niche food and drink trends have been all the rage—think -paleo and bacon and "alternative" water—but this year it seems the experts are all on a similar page: healthy eating for us and for our planet. Forbes says to be a foodie in 2020 "consumers have more of an -obligation than ever before to make responsible decisions about what they eat and how they eat it," noting that issues such as food insecurity and climate change have become as personal as they are global. Food & Wine also jumped into the fray, asking chefs their thoughts on the biggest food trends of 2020, and many noted responsible eating and regenerative agriculture. To that point, a holiday survey by Statista notes that 50% of people made a New Year's resolution to eat healthier, with 7% of those aiming to go vegan or vegetarian.

It seems that for the new year, and the decade ahead, food trends indicate eating will become its own form of activism.

Plant-based meats

Veggie burgers were big news in 2019 and plant-based meats will continue to show up more in mainstream food circles. The fact that the Impossible Burger was out of stock for a few months because Impossible Foods couldn't keep up with demand is proof that people are looking for alternatives to meat. Fast food chains, from Burger King to Carl's Jr. to Del Taco, are seeing such a demand for meat alternatives that they all now offer at least one veggie option. The Specialty Food Association, which works with a "trendspotter" panel to determine its food trends, looks at the other side of the coin for 2020, predicting "a consumer return to real fruits and vegetables. Consumers will begin to think critically about meat replacements, looking more closely at the ingredient lists, supply chains, water usage and food safety, prompting renewed interest in plants as plants." Beet burger, anyone?

Dairy alternatives

Factory farming, including dairy, is environmentally devastating and a major contributor to climate change. Add to this the number of people who are lactose intolerant, or struggling with high cholesterol, and it becomes pretty obvious why dairy alternatives continue to flourish. Food producers will continue to get creative with nut-based cheeses, almond-based yogurts, and even cashew-based butter (not nut butter, but actually, like, "butter" butter.) Relative newcomers such as Miyoko's Creamery, the pioneer of artisan vegan cheese, are redefining choices in alternative dairy products and can be found locally in most grocery store cold cases.

Meat-plant blends

Whole Foods, which releases a highly–anticipated yearly food trends report, notes "butchers and meat brands won't be left out of the 'plant-based' craze in 2020, but they're not going vegetarian." What the heck does this even mean? While natural food brands such as Applegate, Lika Plus, and Misfit foods already offer options such as "blended burgers" and chicken sausages bulked up with kale, squash, and sweet potato, mega meat producers will also respond to demand. For example, Perdue and Tyson Foods (two of the world's largest processors of chicken, beef and pork) are feeling the squeeze from consumers looking for healthier products with less of an impact on the -environment. Both are releasing meat/veggie hybrid foods—Perdue's "Chicken Plus" line combines chicken with cauliflower, chickpeas and textured wheat protein, while Tyson Foods is jumping into the fray with "Raised and Rooted" patties combining beef with pea protein. Locally, we're ahead of the curve with many chefs already regularly -serving such blends.

"I love mixing stuff into different types of burgers," says Peter O'Brien, executive chef at the Rosewood Inn of the Anasazi restaurant (113 Washington Ave.,
988-3236)
. "When we add veggies, we usually jazz things up with roasted -chiles, mushrooms and onions. The other day we served a roasted eggplant-bison burger. Of course, it had green chile and pork belly as well. We just couldn't help ourselves."

Zero-proof drinks

As for drinks, mocktails have been growing in popularity for years. These alcohol-free concoctions have all the flavor of skillfully-crafted boozy drinks but without the side effects. Think botanical-based gin and tonics and faux spirits created with traditional distilling methods. Locally, watering hole Tonic
(103 E Water St., 982-1189)
, known for its craft cocktails, has always offered a non-alcoholic option on its -featured cocktail menu, which notes, "just because you can't imbibe doesn't mean you can't enjoy a good drink." Outside of bars, stores will be stocking straight from the can (or bottle) options such as hopped tea, non-alcoholic IPAs and ales, and sparkling waters that taste just like the hard stuff.