Q: What are some trends you're seeing when it comes to back-to-school foods for 2015? Are there any healthy items that are going to be big this school year?
A: Gluten-free continues to be a huge and growing trend, with all kinds of frozen and refrigerated options such as pizzas, pasta, waffles and ethnic-inspired cuisine conveniently available. The frozen food aisles gets more and more international all the time, with global flavors being seen in many of the convenient products available, such as Asian stir-fries, Indian flavored chicken dishes and Mediterranean pizza options. The availability of organic frozen foods are growing as well, with the options of steam-able bagged vegetables constantly growing and becoming perfect meal additions for busy mornings or hectic work weeks. The options for shortcut cooking have grown as well— things that help you assemble a meal without making everything from scratch, from different varieties of prepared chicken that are recipe-ready to new dough options like frozen puff pastry that offer lots of interesting, dinnertime and/or dessert inspiration, such as a potpie topping or tart base. And, there are so many great packaged, healthy snacks available these days, with more coming out every day. There are chips made from everything from lentils to quinoa, with all kinds of interesting seasonings. Some pretty great packaging by the way!
Lots of fridge and freezer staples make great midday snacks, such as frozen edamame pods with a sprinkling of salt and lemon juices, cheese sticks with flavorings like jalapeno (which my older son really likes), mini pizzas found already-made in the freezer aisle which you can add a couple of extra toppings to, if you like. You can also pair bite-sized snacks such as frozen taquitos with an easy homemade dipping sauce. In general, the different flavorings of snacks are getting more and more out there, which is the industry trying to keep up with the “restless palate syndrome" of kids and millennials who are always craving something new and different.