The concept of healthy eating is nothing new — bodies and brains need fuel, and that comes from food. What makes food “healthy,” however, is in a state of flux as consumer preferences change based on their knowledge of food — and what brands are trying to sell.
The first version of healthy eating focused primarily on weight management and an emphasis on “low”: low-fat food, low-calorie food, low-carb food. That emphasis has since shifted to wellness, with a focus on foods that are dense in nutrients, of high quality and grown/handled ethically.
Consumers have strong ideas about what they consider healthy. According to a report from The Hartman Group, more than half of consumers say they’re trying to add the following foods and ingredients to their diets: fiber, protein, Vitamin D, whole grains, nuts and seeds, calcium and olive oil1.
Protein ranks high on that list, and that equates to meat for most consumers; 71 percent of consumers describe themselves as meat eaters, according to a SmartBrief report from Datassential2. However, 39 percent of people want to reduce their meat, 66 percent citing intake for health reasons3. Many of these consumers aspire to be “flexitarian” with some meat consumption, but they’re not interested in becoming vegetarians, which in 2018 account for just 5 percent of consumers4.
Regardless of whether people eat meat, the current definition of healthy is much more about having a positive relationship with food and not seeing it as the enemy. “Diet culture” that focuses on food restriction is fading and being replaced by an emphasis on eating good food that offers balance and pleasure. The modern idea of healthy is about progress, not perfection.
1 The Hartman Group, “Rethinking Protein,” 2017
2 Renee Lee, “Meat & poultry trends: America runs on chicken, and beef really is what’s for dinner,” Smart Brief, 2018
3 NPR/Truven Health Analytics Health Poll, 2012
4 Gallup poll, 2018
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