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Tired of being oppressed by the recession, hungry Americans are looking to please their palate with food that feeds the soul as well as their desires to eat healthier. Food industry experts have identified the following top 10 food trends for 2010.

Woman shopping for organic food

Industry experts predict the near future of food

With food being such an emotional-charged daily physical need, food industry experts set their sights on determining what will meet the demands of hungry Americans. Their spotlighted trends direct restaurant menus, supermarket products, food content in print and on the Web, and even cell phone apps. We looked at the 2010 trends predicted by Technomic, a food research company, the National Restaurant Assocation, and our favorite food industry expert Phil Lempert, best known as the Supermarket Guru, to give you a taste of what's to come. Based on their foodie forecasts, here are the top 10 culinary trends for 2010.

1. Ethnic foods and flavors

Going well beyond bland foods, Americans are seeking ethnic dishes with strong and distinctive flavors. Not only are ethnic products becoming more readily available in supermarkets, ethnic cookbooks are taking up bookshelf real estate and ethnic restaurants are differentiating their menus from their competitors by serving cuisines that are more regionally focused. Even restaurants that serve a variety of foods are offering ethnic-specific dishes. If you're craving a particular cuisine, you won't have to look far for mouthwatering recipes or dining establishments to meet your appetite.

2. Organic foods

Americans are becoming ever more concerned with the use of pesticides, growth hormones and chemicals in the growing or processing of their foods. They are opting for farmers market produce, joining CSAs, and buying organic meat, dairy and grain products at the grocery store. Restaurants are also responding to the organic demand by offering dishes made with organic ingredients.

3. Locally-sourced foods

Along with the desire for organic foods, Americans are reaching for locally-sourced foods to support local farmers as well as reduce their carbon footprint. Farmers markets and CSAs are convenient venues for locally grown food as are co-ops and grocers who support the local farming community. According to a survey by the National Restaurant Association, the popularity of locally produced wine and beers is also on the rise.

4. Comfort foods

Comfort foods are always popular, but become more so when Americans are facing economic downturns or social crises. For many, comfort foods offer solace for personal hardships; for others, comfort foods are a way to reconnect to their favorite foods of childhood. A National Restaurant Association survey indicates that chefs also see comfort food and getting back to basics as an upcoming trend in out of home dining. Whether it's homemade chocolate pudding or gooey mac and cheese, comfort foods will continue to be a culinary favorite.

5. Lighter, healthier meals

According to Technomic, despite the craving for comfort foods, Americans are looking for ways to lighten up their diet. More food manufacturer's are modifying their products as well as rolling out new products that have healthier profiles. Restaurants are also following suit. Lower sodium, lower fat, lower carbohydrate, and lower calorie fare is readily available at supermarkets, on-the-go delis, fast food establishments and sit-down restaurants. Eating healthier has never been easier.

6. Upscale burgers and sandwiches

Technomic predicts continued popularity in "better burgers" and hand-crafted sandwiches. The "better" in burgers can mean anything from specialty meats to inventive toppings. Upscale sandwiches will feature premium cuts of meat, artisan breads, and innovative toppings and condiments that give a familiar food a delicious level of intrigue. Expect to see gourmet burgers and sandwiches across the foodservice industry, from fast food establishments to fine dining.

7. Breakfast

Perhaps 2010 will be the year the most important meal of the day actually gets the attention it deserves. Technomic survey results indicate that Americans want breakfast and they wish restaurants would serve it all day. Breakfast sandwiches top the list of breakfast food cravings; however, the National Restaurant Association poll indicates that fresh fruit will also remain a popular part of the morning meal.

8. Using prepared foods and convenience foods at home

Technomic survey results suggest that Americans are responding to the recession by eating more meals at home, and reaching for restaurant-brand products sold on supermarket shelves. A recent article in Prepared Foods magazine predicts – based on Technomic food forecasts – that Americans will likely turn to packaged foods to satisfy their cravings for foods that duplicate restaurant trends and fulfill cravings they acquire when dining out.

9. Kid's menus get a makeover

Boring kids menus that offer the same five or six "kid-friendly" items are becoming a thing of the past. According to Technomic, when it comes to the kiddie crowd, restaurants are catering to more sophisticated and health-conscious palates. Expect to see salads as popular items on kids menus as well as smaller portions of adult offerings. New smoothies and specialty drinks will also give kids menus a delicious, healthy makeover.

10. Food apps

A recent article by Supermarket Guru Phil Lempert extols the virtues of the growing number of food apps. He writes, "Applications can assist, inspire and inform customers, consumers and businesses on many levels; whether it's shopping for the weekly groceries, deciding what to prepare for dinner, where to eat, how to avoid allergens, how to save money, make environmentally friendly decisions and get insiders opinions, apps are informing many of our everyday decisions at point of sale." He refers to Grocery IQ, iEatOut Gluten and Allergen Free, and the iFood Assistant from Kraft. Along the same line, the January 2010 issue of Bon Appetit lists the staff's favorite healthy food apps: Eatright, True Nutrition, Shelf Life, Drinkfit, and Locavore.

Following the food trends for 2010 will certainly promote eco-friendly food practices, keep you well-fed in body and soul, and fit into your technologically driven lifestyle. Eat up! 

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