As we're literally just days away from 2021, I figured that this would be as good a time as any to share with you some of the food trends that are gonna be pretty big next year. The thing that I really like about each of these is they are thoughtful, healthy and something that you can easily incorporate into your diet and lifestyle, regardless of what your budget may be.
So, are you ready to discover what you should be spending more of your time on, along with what should be going on your grocery shopping list for the next 12 months?
1. Black-Owned Restaurants
Something that I found myself saying a lot in 2020 is, a company couldn't care less how much we don't like its practices so long as we keep giving it our money. That's why, when I found out which companies that supported Trump's campaign, I stopped shopping there (I also don't give money to billionaires who refuse to give their employees sick pay; just saying).
On top of that, I am more intentional about supporting Black businesses than ever. That's why I smiled when I saw that a big 2021 food trend is backing up Black-owned restaurants. You can find the ones in your own city by either going to your favorite search engine and putting "Black-owned restaurants" along with your city and state in the search field. Or, you can support another Black-owned company and download EatOkra; it's an app that specifically helps you to locate Black-owned restaurants. Dope.
2. Virtual Cooking Classes
Even with the COVID-19 vaccine, folks are still gonna have to wear masks and a lot of companies are still going to require their employees to telecommute. You know what this means, right? Zoom is gonna be here to stay for quite some time. If one of the things that you promised yourself was you were going to be more health-conscious and that you were going to save more money in 2021, why not sign up for some virtual cooking classes? If you get a friend to join in with you, they can actually be a lot of fun and make you quite the at-home chef by the time 2022 rolls around. For a list of some of the best online cooking classes, click here, here and here.
3. “Other Oils”
If you're someone who cooks with olive oil, good for you. Not only is it rich in oleic acid (which helps to keep bodily inflammation down) and antioxidants, it's the kind of oil that helps to reduce your chances of having a stroke. Plus, olive oil contains antibacterial and anti-cancer properties, and it has the ability to keep your blood pressure low and keep your blood vessels healthy and strong.
If you want to add a few other oils to your cooking collection, 2021 would be the year to do it because different kinds of oils are another thing that's going to be pretty popular. For instance, pumpkin seed oil can help to put you into a good mood while also providing your hair with natural sheen. Walnut oil works to improve both your blood sugar as well as your cholesterol levels. Sunflower seed oil promotes heart health, improves digestion and strengthens your immune system. Avocado oil contains the antioxidant lutein which is great for your eyes and contains properties that are good for your skin. Sesame oil is also loaded with antioxidants, has nutrients that can protect your skin from harmful UV rays, it helps to reduce your stress levels and, if you use it for oil pulling, it can work to maintain oral health too.
4. Sugar Alternatives
Personally, I don't know too many people who don't have some sort of a sweet tooth, even if it's just every once in a while. Problem is, between the high caloric count and the fact that consuming too much sugar can lead to things like bodily inflammation, high blood pressure and diabetes, refined sugar is something that you should keep to a bare minimum. That's the bad news. The good news is another popular food trend for 2021 is sugar alternatives. What are those? They're ways to make your food sweet without all of the drama that comes with white sugar. Some that top the list include honey, coconut sugar, monk fruit extracts (sweeteners that are made from fruit), maple syrup and molasses. The cool thing about alternatives like these is they contain more nutrients while still being able to appease your desire for something sweet. Try some in your recipes. Let us know how they go.
5. Fruit Jerky
What the heck is fruit jerky? Think of it as being similar to the Fruit Roll-Ups that a lot of us used to snack on as kids, only it doesn't come with all of the extra preservatives. While I never really thought of it as being a "jerky" before, when I did a little research on this, I realized that it's basically dried fruit that is stretched out. For instance, I really like mango jerky. Anyway, it's a huge food trend in the upcoming year and it is something that you can make from the comfort and convenience of your own home. By the way, some people call them "fruit leathers". Anyway, you can get tips on how to make your own here or you can find some at your local health food store.
6. Spiked Kombucha
I'm gonna be honest, I can take or leave kombucha. If you've never had it before, the long-short of it is, that it's fermented tea. The reason why a lot of people like it is because it has some pretty impressive health benefits including the fact that it's high in antioxidants and probiotics, and the acetic acid in it is able to kill bad bacteria that may be residing in your gut (your gut is where 80 percent of your immune system is, so that's a good thing), and consuming it can help to lower your type 2 diabetes and heart disease risk.
While kombucha has been all the rage for health enthusiasts for a few years now, for the next several months, it's gonna be all about spiked kombucha. In many ways, it's similar to hard seltzer because it's a drink that has a low amount of alcohol content. Anyway, if this is something that you'd like to try, some spiked kombucha brands to consider trying to include June Shine Hard Kombucha, Loona Bay Booch, and Jiant Kombucha.
7. Super Spicy Stuff
If you're someone who has a taste for spicy foods, 2021 is definitely gonna be your year because something that you're gonna see pop up more on restaurant menus and food blogs are meals that have more than a little bit of a kick. The great thing about this particular trend is there are several benefits that come with adding ingredients like chili peppers, turmeric, cumin, ginger, and garlic to your recipes. Spices like these are able to increase your metabolism, help to kill bacteria, reduce inflammation, fight off cancer cells and they can even help to ease depression-related symptoms (thanks to the component capsaicin which can help to give your endorphin levels a boost). So, if spicy is your thing, have at it (in complete moderation, of course).
8. Coffee-Flavored Eats
If you're looking for something that will give you more energy, make you more attentive, help to burn body fat, provide you with a good amount of magnesium, potassium and phosphorus (even a little bit of calcium), and even help to decrease your mortality rate, coffee is able to do that. Keeping all of this in mind, something else that will be a big trend for a while is not just having a cup of java but eating foods that taste like coffee too. So, if you adore the taste of coffee, the next time that you're in the store, be on the look out for items like coffee milk, coffee yogurt, espresso vinegar, coffee shortbread and even coffee spreads. Now, more than ever, stuff like this will be so much easier to find.
9. Comfort Food Breakfasts
Since 2021 will still have a lot of us working from home and our kids doing school online, it actually makes a lot of sense that breakfast would be a big food trend. Not only is breakfast still considered to be the most important meal of the day, but now that you're not rushing to get to the office or to school, you have more time to make some pancakes, French toast or a loaded omelet. While it's important to not indulge in these kinds of foods every single day (certain foods can really pile up when it comes to calories), setting aside a weekday to have a comfort food breakfast can give you one more thing to look forward to every week.
10. Fermenting and Canning
Pickles. Miso. Sauerkraut. Yogurt. Sourdough bread. These are just a handful examples of fermented foods. The reason why they are so good for you is because they're rich in probiotic bacteria (good bacteria). Also, since 80 percent of your immune system is in your gut, they are foods that can keep your immune system and overall health in great shape. So, definitely make sure to put more of these on your grocery list.
Also, since canning (a method that helps you to preserve foods for a longer period of time) is also a huge 2021 trend, how about learning how to pickle some of your own veggies from the comfort and convenience of your own home?
You can read how to do it here. Or, if you'd prefer to watch a video, I've got one for you right here.
11. Farmers Markets
Growing up, it was fairly common for my family to go to our local farmers market, at least a couple of times a month. All these years later, it's still something that I enjoy doing. Not only can you find some pretty amazing-looking produce at a super cost-effective price, there are other benefits that come from going the local route too. The food is organic (which means it tastes better and is more nutritional). And, it's one of the best ways to support your community; more specifically, your local farmers. If you'd like a bit more of a breakdown on why going to a Farmers Market on a consistent basis in 2021 is one of the best decisions that you could make for the sake of your overall health and well-being, Mohammad Modarres's right-at-six-minutes TED Talk will be sure to convince you. Check it out here.
Like I said earlier, taking the precautions that we did in 2020 to keep ourselves safe aren't going to be letting up any time soon. So, whether your city still hasn't opened up its restaurants or you're just not ready to eat inside of any of 'em yet, remember that there is always takeout. Before you order, 1) try and go with one of the Black-owned restaurants that we touched on; 2) read "10 Safety Practices For Ordering Takeout (During A Pandemic)" and 3) definitely invest in an air fryer. Nothing warms up day-old fries quite like it will, plus air frying is another food trend for 2021. Eat up and enjoy, y'all!
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After being a regular contributor for about four years and being (eh hem) MIA in 2022, Shellie is back penning for the platform (did you miss her? LOL).
In some ways, nothing has changed and in others, everything has. For now, she'll just say that she's working on the 20th anniversary edition of her first book, she's in school to take life coaching to another level and she's putting together a platform that supports and encourages Black men because she loves them from head to toe.
Other than that, she still works with couples, she's still a doula, she's still not on social media and her email contact (email@example.com) still hasn't changed (neither has her request to contact her ONLY for personal reasons; pitch to the platform if you have story ideas).
Life is a funny thing but if you stay calm, moments can come full circle and this is one of them. No doubt about it.
Amber Riley Is In Her Element
Amber Riley has the type of laugh that sticks with you long after the raspy, rhythmic sounds have ceased. It punctuates her sentences sometimes, whether she’s giving a chuckle to denote the serious nature of something she just said or throwing her head back in rip-roarious laughter after a joke. She laughs as if she understands the fragility of each minute. She chooses laughter often with the understanding that future joy is not guaranteed.
Credit: Ally Green
The sound of her laughter is rivaled only by her singing voice, an emblem of the past and the future resilience of Black women stretched over a few octaves. On Fox’s Glee, her character Mercedes Jones was portrayed, perhaps unfairly, as the vocal duel to Rachel Berry (Lea Michele), offering rough, full-throated belts behind her co-star’s smooth, pristine vocals. Riley’s always been more than the singer who could deliver a finishing note, though.
Portraying Effie White, she displayed the dynamic emotions of a song such as “And I'm Telling You I'm Not Going” in Dreamgirls on London’s West End without buckling under the historic weight of her predecessors. With her instrument, John Mayer’s “Gravity” became a religious experience, a belted hymnal full of growls and churchy riffs. In her voice, Nicole Scherzinger once said she heard “the power of God.”
Credit: Ally Green
Riley’s voice has been a staple throughout pop culture for nearly 15 years now. Her tone has become so distinguishable that most viewers of Fox’s The Masked Singer recognized the multihyphenate even before it was revealed that she was Harp, the competition-winning, gold-masked figure with an actual harp strapped to her back.
Still, it wasn’t until recently that Riley began to feel like she’d found her voice. This sounds unbelievable. But she’s not referring to the one she uses on stage. She’s referencing the voice that speaks to who she is at her core. “Therapy kind of gave me the training to speak my mind,” the 37-year-old says. “It’s not something we’re taught, especially as Black women. I got so comfortable in [doing so], and I really want other people, especially Black women, to get more comfortable in that space.”
“Therapy kind of gave me the training to speak my mind. It’s not something we’re taught, especially as Black women."
If you ask Riley’s manager, Myisha Brooks, she’ll tell you the foundation of who the multihyphenate is hasn’t changed much since she was a kid growing up in Compton. “She is who she is from when I met her back when she was singing in the front of the church to back when she landed major roles in film and TV,” Brooks says. Time has allowed Riley to grow more comfortable, giving fans a more intimate glimpse into her life, including her mental health journey and the ins and outs of show business.
The actress/singer has been in therapy since 2019, although she suffered from depression and anxiety way before that. In a recent interview with Jason Lee, she recalls having suicidal ideation as a kid. By the time she started seeing a psychologist and taking antidepressants in her thirties, her body had become jittery, a physical reminder of the trauma stacked high inside her. “I was shaking in [my therapist’s] office,” she tells xoNecole. “My fight or flight was on such a high level. I was constantly in survival mode. My heart was beating fast all the time. All I did was sweat.”
There wasn’t just childhood trauma to account for. After auditioning for American Idol and being turned away by producers, Riley began working for Ikea and nearly missed her Glee audition because her car broke down on the highway while en route. Thankfully, Riley had been cast to play Mercedes Jones. American Idol had temporarily convinced her she wasn’t cut out for the entertainment industry, but this was validation that she was right where she belonged. Glee launched in 2009 with the promise of becoming Riley’s big break.
In some ways, it was. The show introduced Riley to millions of fans and catapulted her into major Hollywood circles. But in other ways, it became a reminder of the types of roles Black women, especially those who are plus-sized, are relegated to. Behind the scenes, Riley says she fought for her character "to have a voice" but eventually realized her efforts were useless. "It finally got to a point where I was like, this is not my moment. I'm not who they're choosing, and this is just going to have to be a job for me for now," she says. "And, that's okay because it pays my bills, I still get to be on television, I'm doing more than any other Black plus-sized women that I'm seeing right now on screen."
The actress can recognize now that she was navigating issues associated with trauma and low self-esteem at the time. She now knows that she's long had anxiety and depression and can recognize the ways in which she was triggered by how the cult-like following of the show conflicted with her individual, isolated experiences behind the scenes. But she was in her early '20s back then. She didn't yet have the language or the tools to process how she was feeling.
Riley says she eventually sought out medical intervention. "When you're in Hollywood, and you go to a doctor, they give you pills," she says, sharing a part of her story that she'd never revealed publicly before now. "[I was] on medication and developing a habit of medicating to numb, not understanding I was developing an addiction to something that's not fixing my problem. If anything, it's making it worse."
“[I was] on medication and developing a habit of medicating to numb, not understanding I was developing an addiction to something that’s not fixing my problem. If anything it’s making it worse.”
Credit: Ally Green
At one point, while in her dressing room on set, she rested her arm on a curling iron without realizing it. It wasn't until her makeup artist alerted her that she even realized her skin was burning. Once she noticed, she says she was "so zonked out on pills" that she barely reacted. Speaking today, she holds up her arm and motions towards a scar that remains from the incident. She sought help for her reliance on the pills, but it would still be years before she finally attended therapy.
This stress was only compounded by the trauma of growing up in poverty and the realities of being a "contract worker." "Imagine going from literally one week having to borrow a car to get to set to the next week being on a private jet to New York City," she says. After Glee ended, so did the rides on private planes. The fury of opportunities she expected to follow her appearance on the show failed to materialize. She wasn't even 30 yet, and she was already forced to consider if she'd hit her career peak.
. . .
We’re only four minutes into our Zoom call before Riley delivers her new adage to me. “My new mantra is ‘humility does not serve me.’ Humility does not serve Black women. The world works so hard to humble us anyway,” she says.
On this Thursday afternoon in April, the LA-based entertainer is seated inside her closet/dressing room wearing a cerulean blue tank top with matching shorts and eating hot wings. This current phase of healing hinges on balance. It’s about having discipline and consistency, but not at the risk of inflexibility. She was planning to head to the gym, for instance, but she’s still tired from the “exhausting” day before. Instead, she’s spent her day receiving a massage, eating some chicken wings, and planning to spend quality time with friends. “I’m not going to beat myself up for it. I’m not going to talk down to myself. I’m going to eat my chicken wings, and then tomorrow I’m [back] in the gym,” she says.
“My new mantra is ‘humility does not serve me.’ Humility does not serve Black women. The world works so hard to humble us anyway."
This is the balance with which she's been approaching much of her life these days. It's why she's worried less about whether or not people see her as someone who is humble. She'd rather be respected. "I think you should be a person that's easy to work with, but in the moments where I have to ruffle feathers and make waves, I'm not shying away from that anymore. You can do it in love, you don't have to be nasty about it, but I had to finally be comfortable with the fact that setting boundaries around my life – in whatever aspect, whether that's personal or business – people are not going to like it. Some people are not going to have nice things to say about you, and you gotta be okay with it," she says.
When Amber talks about the constant humbling of Black women in Hollywood, I think of the entertainers before her who have suffered from this. The brilliant, consistent, overqualified Black women who have spoken of having to fight for opportunities and fair pay. Aretha Franklin. Viola Davis. Tracee Ellis Ross. There's a long list of stars whose success hasn't mirrored their experiences behind the scenes.
Credit: Ally Green
If Black women outside of Hollywood are struggling to decrease the pay gap, so, too, are their wealthier, more famous peers.
Riley says there’s been progress in recent years, but only in small ways and for a limited group of people. “This business is exhausting. The goalpost is constantly moving, and sometimes it’s unfair,” she says. But, I have to say it’s the love that keeps you going.”
“There’s no way you can continue to be in this business and not love it, especially being a plus-sized Black woman,” she continues. “We’re still niche. We’re still not main characters.”
"There’s no way you can continue to be in this business and not love it, especially being a plus-sized Black woman. We’re still niche. We’re still not main characters.”
Last year, Riley starred alongside Raven Goodwin in the Lifetime thriller Single Black Female (a modern, diversified take on 1992’s Single White Female). It was more than a leading role for the actress, it also served as proof that someone who looks like her can front a successful project without it hinging on her identity. It showcased that the characters she portrays don’t “have to be about being a big girl. It can just be a regular story.”
Riley sees her work in music as an extension of her efforts to push past the rigid stereotypes in entertainment. Take her appearance on The Masked Singer, for instance. Riley said she decided to perform Mayer’s “Gravity” after being told she couldn’t sing it years earlier. “I wanted to do ‘Gravity’ on Glee. [I] was told no, because that’s not a song that Mercedes would do,” she says. “That was a full circle moment for me, doing that on that show and to hear what it is they had to say.”
As Scherzinger praised the “anointed” performance, a masked Riley began to cry, her chest heaving as she stood on stage, her eyes shielded from view. “You have to understand, I have really big names – casting directors, producers, show creators – that constantly tell me ‘I’m such a big fan. Your talent is unmatched.’ Hire me, then,” she says, reflecting on the moment.
Recently, she’s been in the studio working on original music, the follow-up to her independently-released debut EP, 2020’s Riley. The sequel to songs such as the anthemic “Big Girl Energy” and the reflective ballad “A Moment” on Riley, this new project hones in on the singer’s R&B roots with sensual grooves such as the tentatively titled “All Night.” “You said I wasn’t shit, turns out that I’m the shit. Then you called me a bitch, turns out that I’m that bitch. You said no one would want me, well you should call your homies,” she sings on the tentatively titled “Lately,” a cut about reflecting on a past relationship. From the forthcoming project, xoNecole received five potential tracks. Fans likely already know the strengths and contours of Riley’s vocals, but these new songs are her strongest, most confident offerings as an artist.
“I am so much more comfortable as a writer, and I know who I am as an artist now. I’m evolving as a human being, in general, so I’m way more vulnerable in my music. I’m way more willing to talk about whatever is on my mind. I don’t stop myself from saying what it is I want to say,” she says.
Credit: Ally Green
“Every era and alliteration of Amber, the baseline is ‘Big Girl Energy.’ That’s the name of her company,” her manager Brooks says, referencing the imprint through which Riley releases her music after getting out of a label deal several years ago. “It’s just what she stands for. She’s not just talking about size, it’s in all things. Whether it’s putting your big girl pants on and having to face a boardroom full of executives or sell yourself in front of a casting agent. It’s her trying to achieve the things she wants to do in life.”
Riley says she has big dreams beyond releasing this new music, too. She’d love to star in a rom-com with Winston Duke. She hasn't starred in a biopic yet, but she’d revel in the opportunity to portray Rosetta Tharpe on screen. She’s determined that her previous setbacks won’t stop her from dreaming big.
“I think one of my superpowers is resilience because, at the end of the day, I’m going to kick, scream, cry, cuss, be mad and disappointed, but I’m going to get up and risk having to deal with it all again. It’s worth it for the happy moments,” she says.
If Riley seems more comfortable and confident professionally, it’s because of the work she’s been doing in her personal life.
She’d previously spoken to xoNecole about becoming engaged to a man she discovered in a post on the site, but she called things off last year. For Valentine’s Day, she revealed her new boyfriend publicly. “I decided to post him on Valentine’s Day, partially because I was in the dog house. I got in trouble with him,” she says, half-joking before turning serious. “The breakup was never going to stop me from finding love. Or at least trying. I don’t owe anybody a happily ever after. People break up. It happens. When it was good, it was good. When it was bad, it was terrible, hunny. I had to get the fuck up out of there. You find happiness, and you enjoy it and work through it.”
Credit: Ally Green
"I don’t owe anybody a happily ever after. People break up. It happens. When it was good, it was good. When it was bad, it was terrible, hunny. I had to get the fuck up out of there. You find happiness and you enjoy it and work through it.”
With her ex, Riley was pretty outspoken about her relationship, even appearing in content for Netflix with him. This time around is different. She’s not hiding her boyfriend of eight months, but she’s more protective of him, especially because he’s a father and isn’t interested in becoming a public figure.
She’s traveling more, too. It’s a deliberate effort on her part to enjoy her money and reject the trauma she’s developed after experiencing poverty in her childhood. “I live in constant fear of being broke. I don’t think you ever don’t remember that trauma or move past that. Now I travel and I’m like, listen, if it goes, it goes. I’m not saying [to] be reckless, but I deserve to enjoy my hard work.”
After everything she’s been through, she certainly deserves to finally let loose a bit. “I have to have a life to live,” she says. “I’ve got to have a life worth fighting for.”
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xoNecole's New Visual Hair Story "The Root Of It" Is Here
For Black women, hair isn't just hair. It's our mouthpiece and our magic.
xoNecole is proud to introduce "The Root Of It," a visual hair story in partnership with SheaMoisture. For this cozy and no-frills experience, we tasked world-renowned hairstylist Ursula Stephen with creating hair transformations on three of our favorite influencers: Jasmine Moses (@slimreshae), Mel Mitchell (@itsmelmitch) and Tiffany Renee (@iam.tiffany.renee). Hosted by former beauty editor turned content creator Blake Newby, "The Root Of It" takes us on a journey of hair as the ultimate expression. We pay homage to the innovators in Black hair that have birthed a generation of styles. Most importantly, we get a little scalp education, learning the basics of how to care for our crowns by focusing first on the scalp.
Watch episode one of "The Root Of It" now, and stay tuned for episodes two and three!