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How hip are your foods? Check out the trends

Are you hip?

Are you keeping up with the latest trends? We all like to keep abreast of the latest fashions and technology. Are you keeping up on the latest in foods?

Because I like being hip, I checked in with the Institute of Food Technology and reviewed the Top 10 Food Trends in American culture. Let me share what I discovered:

No. 1: Americans are eating dinner at home more often. Three-quarters of those polled said they ate 'in' at least five nights a week and they believed the food they ate at home was healthier.

Three out of 10 eat frozen entrees at least once a week and 20 percent are eating prepared or ready to cook supermarket foods. Restaurant take out is at an all time high.

Though dinner is being served at home, we are turning to restaurants more frequently for other meals. McDonald's conducts 30 percent of its business between 5 and 11 a.m.

No. 2: Food is entertainment. The Food Channel is rivaling the popularity of soap operas! Chefs have stars on Hollywood's Walk of Fame. I bet you consider yourself, and your friends, either gourmet cooks or gourmands, those who appreciate good food.

Chefs are incorporating exotic mushrooms, pomegranates, figs, mangos, passion fruits and papaya in their list menus.

No. 3: We like the work to be done for us. We like the convenience of fresh, ready-to-eat salads, precut veggies, pouches of tuna, skillet meals, single servings and 100-calorie packets.

No. 4: We like to 'sense' our food. After fresh, 'crunch' is the most frequent new marketing claim. We like foods crisp.

Aroma also stimulates our appetites. Fresh herbs, lemongrass, fennel were noted as having the greatest appeal. Light floral scents like lavender, elderberry, jasmine add a new excitement for diners.

No. 5: We are concerned about our children's diets. Providing healthy foods for expectant mothers, infants and children is big business now and will only get bigger. It is estimated that 50 percent of children, ages 5 through 17, will be overweight by 2010! Warnings have been made that children born after 2000 may have a potentially reduced lifespan. This is serious, friends.

No. 6: 'Avoidance Behavior' is accelerating. Trans free, gluten free, caffeine free, no added sugar, no artificial sweeteners, reduced sodium, the list goes on.

Weight loss/management is now the No. 1 health factor affecting food-buying behaviors. In January 2007, 28 percent of Americans were on a diet.

The gluten free market is expected to jump to $1.7 billion in 2010.

No. 7: My favorite: Eating Local! Eating fresh, eating seasonal, eating artisan and organic. People are watching the number of 'food miles' their food travels from field to table. That puts a smile on my face.

No. 8: We are starting to heed medical advice. More than one-third of us are basing our food purchasing decisions on our concern to reduce the risk of developing health conditions.

We're aiming to get 5 to 12 servings of fruits and vegetables every day, buying omega-3 products and more.

No. 9: We love unique beverages. Energy drinks, hybrid energy sodas, milk-based organic energy drinks, innovative teas - beverages represented six of the top ten overal gainers in the U.S. food market last year.

No. 10: We love to snack … snacks and mini-meals are the hottest opportunity in the restaurant world today. In fact, Taco Bell launched an advertising campaign promoting the 'Fourth Meal' between dinner and breakfast.

Traditional snacks are changing also. Upscale flavors like Kettle Chips' Buffalo Bleu and Tuscan Three Cheese and authentic ethnic chips are popular items.

So how hip are you? Can you see yourself in the trend profile?

It concerns me that we rely so heavily on prefabricated foods, whether they are restaurant meals or frozen foods. Hip or not, we are what we eat; if what we are eating isn't serving us or our children well, its time to pay more attention to Trend No. 8, and heed the medical warnings.

Today's recipe is a healthful salad made of trendy ingredients: arugula, spinach, fresh herbs and mango. Perfect for lunch or a light dinner, all you need to add is an interesting beverage!

Bon Appetit - Eat Locally!

Arugula and Spinach Salad with Proscuitto and Creamy Mango Dressing

Makes 4 servings

Dressing:

1 large ripe mango, peeled and pitted, and roughly chopped

4 teaspoons nonfat plain yogurt

3 tablespoons rice wine vinegar

¼ teaspoon kosher salt

1/8 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper

Salad:

12 medium asparagus spears, trimmed and lower half peeled

3 cups (3 ounces) baby spinach leaves

8 arugula leaves

¼ fresh mango, finely diced, from dressing mango

2 teaspoons fresh chives, sliced into ½ inch lengths

½ teaspoon olive oil

3 ounces prosciutto, sliced into thin ribbons

In blender, puree ¾ of the mango, yogurt and vinegar until silky smooth, about one to two minutes. Stir in salt and pepper and set aside.

Have ready a large bowl of ice and cold water. In a medium saucepan over high heat, bring salted water to a boil. Add asparagus and boil, uncovered until crisp tender, about three minutes. Drain, then immediately plunge spears into ice water to stop cooking. Drain again and pat dry.

In a medium bowl, toss together spinach and arugula. In a small bowl, toss mango and chives

To plate pour ¼ cup mango dressing into center of each of four plates. Lay three asparagus spears side by side over each pool of dressing, then top with ¼ of the salad greens. Sprinkle with mango chive mixture, then top with proscuitto.

Adapted from Miraval Life in Balance Spa