There's no denying that nutrition is a hot topic for people of all ages, but lately it has been frustrating to see how much confusion and controversy exists regarding food-centric issues.
One group in particular that has a tremendous influence in setting food trends is millennials. Although they set the tone for so much of what flies or dies in the marketplace today, millennials gather information from a variety of sources, some of which might not always be the most trustworthy.
1. Millennials take nutrition advice from friends, family, and food bloggers.
According to the International Food Information Council (IFIC) Foundation’s 2015 Food & Health Survey, most millennials (68 percent) state that they trust their personal health care professionals (who are not the most knowledgable when it comes to nutrition) to provide accurate information about the foods they should be eating. But compared to other generations, more millennials trust their friends or family for food advice. Not surprisingly for this digitally driven demographic, more millennials also say they trust health, food, and nutrition bloggers.
2. Millennials still think saturated fat is bad for you.
A topic often written about in the media is dietary fat — yes, this big fat debate is still making news. Are these stories reaching millennials? Not so much. The IFIC Foundation 2015 Food & Health Survey found that in the past year, just one in three millennials’ viewpoints on saturated fat (a type of fat that might increase cholesterol) have shifted.
Of those who have changed their opinions, almost three-quarters believe that saturated fat is less healthful to eat than previously thought. This is despite the fact that recent headlines have highlighted research suggesting that saturated fats from butter, meat, and tropical oils (like coconut oil) shouldn’t be feared as much as in the past. Apparently, the current debate over saturated fat’s impact on health hasn’t affected millennial beliefs.
3. Millennials don't understand the nutritional benefits of fat in general.
Dietary fats are a complicated subject that Americans have struggled with for decades. Like just about every other age group, millennials do not fully understand the differences between types of fats. Millennials report trying to limit or avoid trans fats less than other generations and they also rate the healthfulness of trans fats and saturated fats equally. Science has proven that trans fats are worse for our health than saturated fats.
Speaking of trans fats, did you know that the main source of trans fats in the American diet is partially hydrogenated oils (PHO)? This past June, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration announced that PHO cannot be used in foods after June 18, 2018, at least not without being approved by the FDA first. While we wait for that change to happen, try to ditch foods that list partially hydrogenated oils on food labels.
4. Millennials give more credit to the term "natural" than it deserves.
According to the same IFIC survey, food purchasing decisions of millennials are more influenced by foods labeled as “natural” (which has no formal definition, by the way) or “organic.” At this point, foods labeled as “natural” can be high in sugar, fat, calories, and sodium. The word “natural” on the label says nothing about the food’s nutrient profile. Millennials also show preference for foods that are “local,” but this term is not synonymous with foods that are organic; some organic foods can come from across the globe … far from being local.
What does this all mean for millennials? Though your friends, family members, and those you follow on social media might be near and dear to you, that doesn’t necessarily make them qualified nutrition professionals or the best sources for credible information. It's best to seek out facts from credentialed experts (like registered dietitian nutritionists) and not be swayed by sensational headlines. Consider your source and keep this in mind: When it comes to fats, focus more on the types of fats you eat rather than the amount.
Photo courtesy of iStock