Millennials and generation Z put more trust in technology-based sources of information, such as blogs, lifestyle apps and social media influencers. Those sources are more likely to advocate newer, tailored approaches vs more traditional, one-size-fits ...
Does it seem like suddenly everyone you know is identifying as Paleo, giving keto a whirl, or suffering through Whole30? Well, it’s not your imagination.
Compared with this time last year, the percentage of American adults following a specific diet protocol more than doubled, from 14 per cent to 36 per cent. In other words: food tribes are on the rise.
That’s one of the most surprising findings of the annual Food and Health Survey released earlier this month by the International Food Information Council Foundation.
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The most popular dozen diets were, in descending order: intermittent fasting, Paleo, gluten-free, low-carb, Mediterranean, Whole30, high-protein, vegetarian/vegan, weight-loss plan, cleanse, DASH and ketogenic/high-fat.
Taken alone, each of these diet dogmas snatches up only 3 to 10 per cent of the population. (Respondents – of which there were more than 1,000, in a weighted national sample polled online in March – could choose more than one.)
But altogether, about 16 per cent were eating low-carb in some way. And the reason seems to stem from evolving perceptions of what causes weight gain.
Of those following a certain creed over the past year, weight-related motivators were at the top of the list. Those surveyed considered sugar the top calorie-related culprit of weight gain, followed by carbohydrates, cited by 25 per cent of respondents – up 5 percentage points compared with 2017, and a record for the 13-year survey.
Admittedly, a methodological asterisk is at play: last year, participants were given an open text box rather than specific diets to choose from. But according to the foundation, the spike was probably caused by more substantive undercurrents. In the quest for optimal health and weight, what is driving more Americans to follow specific diet regimens?
Around 16 per cent of all respondents in the survey were on some form of low-carb diet (Alamy)I certainly had my hunches. Rising rates of food allergies. Celebrity diet evangelism (think: Tom Brady and TB12, Kourtney Kardashian and keto). Or perhaps the political polarisation of the times trickling over into gastronomic groupings. But rather than speculate, I turned to the experts.
Most people have “got wise to” the reality that most “quick-fix fad diets” might work in the short term but not in the long term, says Louise Foxcroft, author of Calories and Corsets: A History of Dieting Over 2,000 Years.
Instead, consensus has been coalescing around the idea that the best diet is the one you can stick to.
Whether for weight management or feeling your best, it’s intuitive to pick a protocol that fits your distinct needs and preferences: if you have type 2 diabetes, going gluten-free may not help manage your blood sugar, but low-carb could do the trick; or if the thought of forgoing fries is an unbearable threat to your quality of life, low-carb might be off the table, but veganism could be a cinch.
“People feel that their own bodies are unique, and they look to find approaches that allow them to customise their eating habits to align with their personal food values and attitudes on health,” says Liz O’Hara, consumer insights manager for General Mills’ Natural and Organic Brands. “These various approaches give people a way to feel accountable and often times provide a sense of community with other like-minded individuals.”
The keto diet is a low-carb diet that focuses on getting energy from high fat sources, such as bacon (Alamy)Younger people may be accelerating the personalised nutrition trend, according to Alexandra Lewin-Zwerdling, IFIC Foundation’s vice president of research and partnerships. Those aged 18 to 34 were significantly more likely (45 per cent) to adopt a certain diet than the number across all age groups (again, 36 per cent), and adults 65 and older were significantly less likely (28 per cent).
Millennials and generation Z put more trust in technology-based sources of information, such as blogs, lifestyle apps and social media influencers. Those sources are more likely to advocate newer, tailored approaches vs more traditional, one-size-fits-all approaches such as MyPlate, which one might read about in a doctor’s office.
Perhaps the greatest irony from the survey is that friends and family were ranked low on the list of information sources people trust for what to eat or avoid (third from the bottom out of 14), yet tied with healthcare professionals as the top pick for whom people rely on.
“Regardless of whether we think my brother is credible, he’s on Whole30 so I’m gonna try it,” Lewin-Zwerdling says. She notes a ripple effect, meaning the more a certain diet gets covered in the news, the more friends and family are talking about that diet, and the more likely individuals in that network become to adopt the diet.
The same trust/reliance discrepancy appeared for news articles, headlines and TV news, which was tied with registered dietitian nutritionists and health-focused websites as the second most-relied-upon sources, yet news sources ranked second-to-last for trust.
(Which means you probably don’t believe a word I write, and yet, you may very well decide what to have for lunch because of it.)
Friends and family are both more convenient and more emotionally appealing because we have an interpersonal connection with them, says Jason Riis, marketing lecturer at the Wharton School at the University of Pennsylvania. Most of us don’t take the time to read scientific papers or bother booking an appointment with a dietitian; instead, news and commentary from friends and family come to us automatically, especially through social media feeds.
Food and drink news
1/33 Britain consumes more chocolate than any other country
Most people love chocolate but it turns out no one does more than the Brits – with the average Brit found to have consumed 8.4 kg of chocolate in 2017, according to new data. Chocolate consumption around the world is on the rise, according to Mintel Global New Products Database (GNPD), which found that in the past year alone, Easter chocolate production has risen by 23 per cent
2/33 'Easter eggs should be banned for children under four'
Dr Becky Spelman, chief psychologist at Harley Street’s Private Therapy Clinic, is calling for Easter eggs to be banned for consumption for children under the age of four, claiming that giving them the opportunity to binge on chocolate so young will give them an unhealthy relationship with food later on. "This is a nightmare situation for parents of this generation as they have no idea how to teach their children to delay their response to cravings,” she said, explaining that too many young kids binge on these chocolates because their parents don’t know how to stop them. "Once a child starts overeating behaviour at a young age it’s very hard to turn things around for them in terms of food and their eating habits moving forward, leading to obesity from at very young age," she added
3/33 Pineapple overtakes avocado as the UK's fastest-selling fruit
According to Tesco, pineapple has overtaken avocado as the UK’s fastest-selling fruit, with sales increasing by 15 per cent in 2017. In comparison, avocado sales rose by just under 10 per cent last year. The popular supermarket says the surge in popularity comes as shoppers buying the versatile fruit are beginning to use it as a main ingredient in everything from curries and barbecues, to juices and cocktails
4/33 Healthy living makes us more inclined to binge, research suggests
Gluten-free breads, dairy-free milks and other plant-based products have been some of the most favoured foods in British supermarkets this year. However, while we’re busy filling our shopping trolleys with gluten-free goodness, we’re also jamming it with junk food and alcohol, new research suggests
5/33 Marks & Spencers launches stoneless avocados
Rather than the result of genetic modification, the avocados are formed by an unpollinated avocado blossom. The fruit develops without a seed which in turns stops the growth, creating a small, seedless fruit. What’s more, the skin is actually edible, unlike a regular avocado. The flesh is much like that of a normal avocado - smooth and creamy, pale in colour and rich in flavour
6/33 Office teabags contain 17 times more germs than a toilet seat, reveals study
The average bacterial reading of an office teabag was 3,785, in comparison to only 220 for a toilet seat. Other pieces of kitchen equipment also stacked up highly in their findings, with the bacterial readings averaging at 2,483 on kettle handles, 1,746 on the rim of a used mug and 1,592 on a fridge door handle
7/33 New study shows drinking more coffee leads to a longer life
There is good news and a final hope for coffee addicts and lovers. You will now be able to drink coffee for longer as new study shows its can lead to a prolonged life. Scientists showed that those who drank between two and four cups of coffee a day had 18% lower risk of death compared to non-coffee drinkers.
8/33 Coke Zero is replaced with Coke Zero Sugar
Coca-Cola is pulling the plug on its Coke Zero. The much loved drink will be replaced with a ‘new improved taste’. The move, backed with a £10 million campaign, is said to come from Coca-Cola supporting people to reduce their sugar intake. Coca-Cola want people make this move while not sacrificing sugary taste of Coca-Cola.
9/33 Starbucks introduce new avocado spread
The avocado craze has grown from hipster brunch restaurants to Starbucks. Starbucks have introduced their new avocado spread earlier this year and it has the internet in debate. Some argue that it not a spread but guacamole while others question if there is any avocado in there at all. When buying the new spread you can also buy an optional toasted bagel. It is a must try for all avocado connoisseurs.
10/33 New Mars chocolate bar
The iconic British chocolate bar is about to get its partner in crime. The new bar, named Goodness Knows, will replace the gooey caramel goodness of the mars bar with oats. It is said to be more like a Florentine biscuit with a thin dark chocolate bottom. While being moderately healthy Mars says that is has ‘good intentions’. One pack has 154 calories and will sell for about 90p.
11/33 Wine prices could increase because of Brexit
Wine lovers across the UK might soon have to shell out close to a quarter more for their favourite tipple after Brexit, as a weaker pound and sluggish economy takes its toll, a new study shows
12/33 Chocolate may be good for the heart
A new study, published in the British Medical Journal: Heart, found that moderate chocolate intake can be positively associated with lessening the risk of the heart arrhythmia condition Atrial Fibrillation
13/33 Brits throw away 1.4 million bananas each year
British families are throwing away 1.4 million bananas that are perfectly good to eat every day at cost of £80m a year, new figures have shown
14/33 Rosemary sales spike over exam time
There has been a surge a surge in sales of the herb rosemary after a recent study found it helps improve memory. According to high street health food chain Holland & Barrett, sales of the herb have increased by 187 per cent compared to the same time last year
15/33 Gluten-free diets 'not recommended' for people without coeliac disease
Avoiding wheat, barley and rye in the belief that a gluten-free diet brings health benefits may do more harm than good, according to a team of US nutrition and medicine experts
16/33 Starbucks launches two new coffee-based drinks
Starbucks is launching two new coffee-based drinks in the UK, as it strives to tap into consumers’ growing appetite for healthy beverages. The Cold Brew Vanilla sweet cream and the Cappuccino Freddo, will both be available in stores throughout the UK from the start of May
17/33 Cadbury’s Dairy Milk Tiffin is making a permanent comeback after 80 years
The Cadbury Dairy Milk Tiffin, first produced in 1937, is making a permanent comeback to the UK. The raisin and biscuit-filled chocolate bar is being launched after a successful trial last summer saw 3 million chocolate treats – at the cost of £1.49 for each 95g bar- purchased by nostalgic customers
18/33 Pizza restaurant makes ‘world’s cheesiest’
'Scottie's Pizza Parlor' in Portland Oregon has created the world’s cheesiest pizza using a total of 101 different cheese varieties.
Facebook/Scottie's Pizza Parlor
19/33 A pizza joint in Portland Oregon has created the world’s cheesiest pizza using a total of 101 different cheese varieties. Why not eating before a workout could be better for your health
A study published in the American Journal of Physiology by researchers at the University of Bath found you might be likely to burn more fat if you have not eaten first
20/33 New York restaurant named best in the world
A New York restaurant where an average meal for two will cost $700 has been named the best in the world. Eleven Madison Park won the accolade for the first time after debuting on the list at number 50 in 2010. The restaurant was praised for a fun sense of fine-dining, “blurring the line between the kitchen and the dining room”
21/33 Why you crave bad food when you’re tired
Researchers at Feinberg School of Medicine, Northwestern University in Chicago recently presented their results of a study looking into the effects of sleep deprivation upon high-calorific food consumption. Researchers found that those who were sleep-deprived had “specifically enhanced” brain activity to the food smells compared to when they had a good night’s sleep
22/33 Drinking wine engages more of your brain than solving maths problems
Drinking wine is the ideal workout for your brain, engaging more parts of our grey matter than any other human behaviour, according to a leading neuroscientist. Dr Gordon Shepherd, from the Yale School of Medicine, said sniffing and analysing a wine before drinking it requires “exquisite control of one of the biggest muscles in the body”
23/33 British dessert eating surges after people ditch healthy eating in February
: In heartening news for anyone feeling guilty about quitting their New Year diet, it seems lots of us have given in to our sweet tooths once again. New data from nationwide food-delivery service Deliveroo reveals there was a surge in Brits ordering desserts in February compared to the first month of 2017
24/33 US congress debates definition of milk alternatives
A new bill has been created that seeks to ban dairy alternatives from using the term ‘milk’. Titled the DAIRY PRIDE Act, the name is a tenuous acronym for ‘defending against imitations and replacements of yogurt, milk, and cheese to promote regular intake of dairy every day’. It argues that the dairy industry is struggling as a result of all the dairy-free alternatives on the market and the public are being duped too
25/33 Cadbury’s launches two new chocolate bars
UK confectionary giant Cadbury has launched two new chocolate bars, hoping to lure those with a sweet tooth and perhaps help combat some of the challenges it faces from rising commodity prices and a post-Brexit slump in the value of the pound.The company’s new products will be peanut butter and mint flavoured. They will be available in most major super markets as 120g bars, priced at £1.49, according to the company
26/33 You can now get a job as a professional chocolate eater
The company responsible for some of your favourite chocolate brands – think Cadbury, Milks, Prince and Oreo – have officially announced an opening to join their team as a professional chocolate taster. The successful candidate will help them to test, perfect and launch new products all over the world.
27/33 MSG additive used in Chinese food is actually good for you, scientist claims
For years, we’ve been told MSG (the sodium salt of glutamic acid) - often associated with cheap Chinese takeaways - is awful for our health and to be avoided at all costs. But one scientist argues it should be used as a “supersalt” and encourages adding it to food.
28/33 Lettuce prices are rising
Not only are lettuces becoming an increasingly rare commodity in supermarkets, but prices for the leafy vegetables seem to be rising too. According to the weekly report from the Government’s Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs, a pair of Little Gem lettuces had an average market price of £0.86 in the week that ended on Friday, up from an average of £0.56 in the previous week – that’s an almost 54 per cent increase.
29/33 Food School
Kids celebrate Food School graduation with James Martin – a campaign launched by Asda to educate young people on where food comes from. New research has revealed that children across the UK just aren’t stepping up to the plate when it comes to simple facts about the food they eat – with almost half of children under eight not knowing that eggs come from chickens
30/33 ‘Do-It-Yourself’ restaurant
To encourage more people to cook and eat together, IKEA has launched The Dining Club in Shoreditch – a fully immersive ‘Do-It-Yourself’ restaurant . Members of the public can book to host a brunch, lunch or dinner party for up to 20 friends and family. Supported by their very own sous chef and maître de, the host and their guests will orchestrate an intimate dining experience where cooking together is celebrated and eating together is inspirational
Mikael Buck / IKEA
31/33 Ping Pong menu with a twist
Gatwick Airport has teamed up with London dim sum restaurant Ping Pong to create a limited edition menu with a distinctly British twist; including a Full English Bao and Beef Wellington Puff, to celebrate the launch of the airport’s new route to Hong Kong
32/33 Zizzi unveil the Ma’amgharita
Unique pizza art has been created by Zizzi in celebration of the Queen’s 90th birthday. The pizza features the queen in an iconic pose illustrated with fresh and tasty Italian ingredients on a backdrop of the Union Jack
33/33 Blue potatoes make a comeback
Blue potatoes, once a staple part of British potato crops, are back on the menu thanks to a Cambridge scientist turned-organic farmer and Farmdrop, an online marketplace that lets people buy direct from local farms. Cambridge PhD graduate-turned farmer, Adrian Izzard has used traditional growing techniques at Wild Country Organics to produce the colourful spuds, packed with healthy cell-protecting anthocyanin, which had previously disappeared from UK plates when post-war farmers were pushed towards higher-yielding varieties
“In fact, exposure to these passive sources is increasing,” he says. “And we have evidence that falseness tends to travel faster and further through those passive networks.”
Certainly not all information about all food formulas is false, but many of the claims (for Paleo, gluten-free and Whole30 diets, to name a few) are unsubstantiated. The survey also found that consumers are eating more protein and fewer fruits and vegetables than the recommended amounts – possible byproducts of the focus on low-carb.
“Things that are false are more likely to be interesting because they’re counterintuitive,” Riis says. “So, we tend to want to share things that are counterintuitive and not obvious… That may be one of the things that is creeping up and advantaging fad diets, because many claims about fad diets that get shared get shared quickly and influence people.”
It has become significantly easier to follow a specific diet because of more diet-specific options in the marketplace, from Paleo protein bars to restaurants catering to Whole30. The “free-from” packaged foods industry is booming, and there are more choices now for diet-compliant meal delivery kits.
Diet programmes themselves have also been adapted to an enlightened public. “The backlash against ridiculous crazy fad diets is on the move, but the diet industry has realised that people are wise to it,” Foxcroft says.
Programmes offering recipes and products are now more focused on long-term mindful eating and fresh, whole foods. In her words, “the diet industry has found a way to make money out of common sense”.
Part of the expanding marketplace of these products, says Riis, is to whom they get marketed: mums, who still make most of the family food decisions. In fact, the survey found that those with children under 18 in the house were more likely to adhere to a specific eating pattern (44 per cent vs 32 per cent) than those who have never had kids or with older kids who might be out of the house.
The survey’s respondents rated sugar as the top culprit behind weight gain (Alamy)
What is it about housing children that makes you a prime target for, say, vegan cupcakes? Fear. Food companies and activist groups spend marketing dollars to make mums “afraid of GMOs, meat, processed foods – anything in traditional diets”, Riis says.
As Lewin-Zwerdling puts it: “Your own mortality comes front and centre once you have kids.”
Eight in 10 respondents agreed with the statement, “There is a lot of conflicting information about what foods I should eat or avoid”, which 59 per cent said made them doubt their choices.
This may lead consumers towards a desire for simplified nutrition messaging, says Lewin- Zwerdling. Instead of the stress and decision fatigue that plagues many shoppers, your grocery list becomes laser-focused. As in: skip the bakery section, or just find all the Paleo stuff.
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Widespread confusion may also help explain why intermittent fasting was the most popular code of consumption, at 10 per cent. It offers the ultimate simplicity.
People appear to be drawn to the control and structure it provides, in addition to its straightforward tenets: eat. Then don’t eat. Like a tap, you just turn it on and off. Everything else gets to stay the same.
So while an array of newish dietary doctrines may draw some of us into distinct food tribes, what’s capturing the greatest attention is old-fashioned abstinence – surely a familiar diet from American history.
You know what else the survey revealed about our food choices? Almost nothing beats the familiar.
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