As the year comes to a close, many consumers look ahead and make "resolutions" for the new year. As 2008 ends, with its economic devastation, consumers can be expected to make even more dramatic changes in the months ahead, and people who haven't been serious about health and weight control may be more serious now.

"With the continued rise in obesity, weight gain prevention has become just as important as weight loss," said Beth Hubrich, MS, RD, of the Calorie Control Council. "This, coupled with a decline in the economy, has many consumers searching for quality nutrition on a budget."

As the economy continues to slow, consumers will be looking for more nutrition for their buck, which means they will be expecting foods providing added benefits. There will also be a greater reliance on tools already at their fingertips, such as online dieting and nutrition sites.

With increased workplace tensions, greater workloads and perhaps the need for an additional job, people will look for fitness activities that can be done in the workplace.

The Calorie Control Council, an international association representing the low-calorie and reduced-fat food and beverage industry, predicts the following five trends when it comes to dieting, weight loss and physical activity in 2009:

1. Consumers will "budget" calories in the strapped economy. Although times are tough, consumers seem to understand that "calories still count." In a nationally projectable Calorie Control Council survey, respondents stated some of the primary reasons for using low and reduced calorie products are, "to stay in better overall health," "to eat and drink healthier foods and beverages" and "to reduce calories." By incorporating low-calorie foods such as diet sodas, light juices, and light yogurts, consumers can control calories while still enjoying their favorite foods on a reasonable budget. According to the Council's survey, 194 million Americans reported consuming low and reduced calorie products in 2007, an increase from 180 million in 2004.

2. Increased consumption of foods and beverages with added benefits. Heightened consumer awareness of the relationship between diet and health has increased the demand for "functional" foods. Leading health organizations have defined functional foods as foods or dietary components that can provide health benefits beyond basic nutrition. Sales of foods and beverages with added benefits and health claims that also fit into a reasonable budget are becoming more popular as consumers spend more time "weighing" food and beverage options for both price and nutrition. As consumers have driven the food and beverage market toward preventive health and wellness, there will likely be an increased demand for these "functional" foods and beverages in the coming year.

3. Greater reliance on personalized online dieting tools for weight management. A recent study by Kaiser Permanente found that recording food and beverage intake can double a person's weight loss, so having access to online options that allow people to record their calories is important. With the trend away from fad diets and toward science based nutrition, consumers will find solace in recording food and beverage intake in their laptop, PDA, or blackberry, or traditional excel file.

4. Emergence of "functional fitness" programs that simulate real life activities. Traditional weight lifting has taken a back seat to these, "fitness that functions like you do," programs. The focus of these programs is building a body capable of doing real-life activities in real-life positions. Functional fitness is designed to ease activities of daily living using workouts tailored to actual activities, such as a new mom repeatedly lifting a stroller instead of a weight set or a flight attendant bench pressing their luggage. Coupled with the aging population and the flailing economy, functional fitness will also serve as a means to maintain daily activities such as stair climbing and carrying grocery bags for aging baby boomers who may have limited funds for a traditional exercise program.

5. Natural nutrition. Although there is no clear definition of "natural," some consumers prefer foods and beverages they perceive as natural. New products with natural claims such as stevia sweeteners have been hitting the marketplace fast and furiously. For consumers looking for natural options, there are more choices now than ever to choose from.

The trends for 2009 will focus on foods with "added value" while consumers look for ways to budget calories and dollars, the group says.