Healthy Eating: What It Means to Millennials Versus Baby Boomers

What makes food “healthy?” Is it the caloric value? Or the way it makes us feel? Through the decades, the definition of healthy eating has drastically changed, so much so that those questions would draw out vastly different answers from a Baby Boomer and a Millennial. But that’s not all that has changed. Let’s dive deeper into healthy eating patterns through the years, and how our modern-day lives have shaped everything from the way we snack to restaurant menus.

How Our Food Has Changed Over the Decades

Not long ago, the milkman would deliver fresh milk to your door, and you would visit the local butcher to get your meats. If you did not live close to these options, you would raise your own livestock. For most of us, that’s no longer the case.

The bread you eat today is definitely not the same that our parents and grandparents consumed years ago. That’s because most of the food we have access to is genetically and hormonally altered to keep up with mass production. Back in the 70s, people ate more red meat than chicken, drank more whole milk and only used refined sugars. However, growth hormones, antibiotics and genetically modified feed were never given to animals. So, while it may seem that our recent ancestors ate too much of these “bad” foods, they were typically consuming the healthiest kinds of animal products — those fed with grass, kept outdoors and raised humanely.

What It Means to Be Healthy

Just like the foods we eat, how we define healthy eating has shifted over the years. The vast majority of Baby Boomers view healthy eating as counting calories, eating certain foods and lowering sugar content in their diets. Most Millennials, however, are more focused on organic, farm-to-table and fresh foods, and how those foods make them feel. By these findings, Boomers are more likely than Millennials to be interested in health benefits associated with foods such as weight management, cardiovascular health, and digestive health, while Millennials are more likely to be interested in benefits such as mental health, muscle health and immunity associated with foods.

Fast Foods for Busy Lives

These days, “busy” is the word on every person’s lips when asked how they’re doing. Our fast-paced lives demand fast-paced foods, and it’s much more common for people to eat alone, playing catch-up on our hand-held devices.

This busier lifestyle also leads to more snacking throughout the day, and while some opt for healthier snacks, including fruit and vegetables, many do not. According to consumer insights firm, The Hartman Group, only 1 in 10 consumers avoid snacking multiple times throughout the day. Food marketers have also aided and abetted the constant grazing by offering an array of portable foods which allow consumers to continue tackling their ever-expanding to do lists.

How Restaurants Are Adapting

To be successful, most restaurants need to market to both Millennials and Baby Boomers. This means offering a mix of traditionally healthy options, as well as focusing on fresh, organic foods for their menus. But, through their pointed differences, both Millennials and Boomers like to be loyal to a brand and want to support restaurants that offer great service. Both of these populations prefer restaurants that offer options so they can customize their food and get it the way they want it, and, although health is a main focus, comfort and luxury foods are also important when celebrating or enjoying a night out.

Let’s not forget about the power of social media. Both Millennials and Boomers use social and mobile devices to collect advice, including where they should dine through apps like Yelp.

At the end of the day, every person simply wants to feel their best. From Baby Boomers to Millennials, healthy eating means having the energy to enjoy life and all of its flavors.