New research reveals young people across Europe want an overhaul of how they access, discuss and learn about healthy food.
It found that young people (aged 18-24) turn to social media platforms, such as TikTok and Instagram, for advice on healthy eating to compensate for a lack of information from educators, industry and policy makers.
Food and wellbeing
The research, commissioned by EIT Food and supported by the European Institute of Innovation and Technology (EIT), surveyed over 2,000 18- to 24-year-olds from across the UK, France, Germany, Poland and Spain.
The findings point to a generation that is very interested, knowledgeable and entrepreneurial when it comes to their eating habits – and particularly how they link to their wellbeing and mental health.
Over half of 18- to 24-year-olds (52%) track their food in some way, though this figure differs across countries – rising to 65% of young people in Germany compared with just 38% in France.
This suggests that Gen Z is very interested and engaged with their eating habits. The majority of this tracking (36% of young people) is focused on counting calories, however a quarter of all young people (24%) also track the macronutrients (or ‘macros’) of the food they eat.
These savvy Gen-Zers prefer whole, organic and plant-based foods as some of their healthiest options, and 79% consider processed foods unhealthy.
Ongoing attention to health amidst the Covid-19 pandemic has heightened young people’s awareness of the importance of healthy eating.
Over half (58%) say the pandemic has made them more aware of eating healthily, while two-thirds (67%) say that healthy food is simply fashionable at the moment.
Support with healthy eating
Despite this keen interest and engagement with healthy eating, young people feel they aren’t getting the support they need from educators, industry and policy makers.
Three-quarters (75%) say they need clearer advice on how to eat a healthy, balanced diet, with two-thirds (65%) reporting they didn’t get enough education on how to eat healthily while at school.
Having a trusted, reliable source of information was identified as being vital by many respondents, with just under two-thirds (61%) reporting they feel it can be hard to know how to eat healthily as there is so much conflicting advice.
Young people are looking for more detailed information from brands, especially when it comes to how food is made.
Nearly eight in 10 young people (78%) would like food labels to have clearer information on the way food is processed, not just the ingredients, while three-quarters (75%) think food brands need to be more transparent with consumers about their ingredients and processes.
Food advice from TikTok
Young people are taking things into their own hands and attempting to fill this advice gap themselves, with two-thirds (67%) reporting they regularly look at social media content (such as TikTok or Instagram) about healthy food and healthy recipe ideas.
Over half (52%) say they rely on social media or their friends for advice on eating healthily.