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Is social media affecting your relationship with food?

Like. Post. Comment. Share. Repeat. – a vicious cycle or a way to connect with folks across the globe? When is the last time YOU ate something without taking a picture of it? Few people dare to take a bite before getting that #Instaworthy food photo (69% of millennials, to be exact).

Source: Amatulli, J. (2017). An Obnoxious 69 Percent of Millennials Take Photos Of Food Before Eating

The phrase ‘pics or it didn’t happen’ is omnipresent in our society as diners place importance on ‘Instagram-worthy Meals’… but don’t let the donuts and #HappyHour pics fool you. According to Dauby, “consumers don’t want artificial ingredients, but they still expect food and beverage products to look good on social media.” This means bright, vibrant food that looks delicious AND follows a persons’ individual beliefs about food — natural, healthy, organic, vegan, plant-based, a #cheatmeal and everything in-between. Can all of these things REALLY coexist?

How healthy is that #healthy #breakfast? 
Avocado toast, poached eggs, protein-packed pancakes, and smoothie bowls. You’ve likely seen these social media staples with hashtags like #healthy, #nutrition, and #newme.

Source: Jamba Juice

Did you know an average smoothie bowl can contain over 70g of sugar and 100g carbohydrates? While there is nothing wrong with sugar or carbohydrates — especially those found in fruits, vegetables, and grains, it’s important to find a balance between protein, fat, fiber, and carbohydrate and blended ingredients add up quick. Balanced breakfast alternatives include:

  • Frozen Yogurt Bowl: Freeze individual yogurt cups or portion 8oz yogurt into a bowl. When ready to eat, run under warm water to loosen frozen yogurt. Transfer into bowl. Top with 1/2 cup fresh berries and honey drizzle.
  • Weekday Waffles: Top 2 frozen waffles (toasted) with natural peanut butter*. Add sliced bananas, pepitas, and/ or cinnamon for additional flavor. *ingredients: peanuts, salt.

The Impact of Images on OUR Image
Aside from digging into the makeup of some of these so-called ‘healthy meals’, it’s important to realize the impact of a curated plate or bowl. “Many people get very overwhelmed by what they need to do to be ‘healthy’ and often there is a lot of guilt or shame felt if they do not follow a certain way of eating, as displayed by their favourite blogger, for example,says Dietitian Caitlin Rabel. As humans, we tend to size ourselves up to our peers — a larger group when including ‘friends’ on social media platforms. Many Registered Dietitians suggest clients #MarieKondo their social media the same way they would their wardrobe — Ask yourself if this person/ post sparks joy and if it does not, give it away (un-follow).

The Evolution of The Cheat Meal
Cheat meals provide a health halo to all foods eaten throughout the week (on non-“cheat days”) and encourage a relationship with food that characterizes every meal as good or bad, influencing others’ evaluation of their own food choices

One study of 1,627,379 images with the #cheatmeal tag on Instagram showed that, “just over half of the images (54.5%) displayed volumes of food that were independently deemed, by both members of the coding team, to represent a volume of food consistent with an objective binge episode. Caloric estimations ranged from 214 (e.g., slice of camembert cheese and tablespoon of jam) to 9120 (e.g., two dozen donuts).

To a trained Dietitian, some of these meals could be categorized as disordered eating or binge eating episode, yet in today’s #fitspo society we overlook the oddity and view it as completely normal.

Wanting to stay connected while maintaining your sanity and your health? 

  1. Set boundaries — time limits, what type of posts you want to interact with, how you spend your energy
  2. #MarieKondo your social networks
  3. Look for expert nutrition advice from Registered Dietitians
  4. Say goodbye to #cheatmeals
  5. When in doubt, fact check

Looking for more? 6 Ways to Have a Healthier Relationship with Food


Amanda Kruse RD, CD, FAND is a Registered Dietitian in Indianapolis, IN. She currently works in food industry as the Associate Manager, Nutrition Science and Professional Affairs for Heartland Food Products Group. Learn more about Amanda here.

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