The theme for IYD this year is “Transforming Food Systems: Youth Innovation for Human and Planetary Health”
The theme for IYD this year is “Transforming Food Systems: Youth Innovation for Human and Planetary Health”
INTERNATIONAL YOUTH DAY

Gen Z And Food Choice: What Are Millennials Thinking When It Comes To Diet And Nutrition

A deep dive into how our Gen Z, and especially our 16 to 25 year olds, are dealing with food.

Team Poshan | Aug 12, 2021

On August 12, International Youth Day, 2021, we at POSHAN Outlook are focusing on young people and the food choices they are making today. In fact, the theme for IYD this year is “Transforming Food Systems: Youth Innovation for Human and Planetary Health” – making it appropriate to take a deep dive into how our Gen Z, and especially our 16 to 25 year olds, are dealing with food. How are they building their relationship with it, grappling with diet and nutrition, and more importantly, carving out new ways of being in a society where food cultures are deeply entrenched and a part of strong, daily behaviour and patterns? Here’s a quick look:

What do you think about the food you eat? And how often do you think about the food you eat as related to the nutrition your body receives?

MANY YOUNG PEOPLE ARE CAREFUL TODAY:

  • I believe that the food I eat is perfectly healthy for me. I eat out once a week, so the remaining time I’m consuming proper nutritious home cooked food.
  • Food is central to my existence; it is key to getting full performance from my body. Food is sustenance. It's also a mood uplifter. I am constantly thinking about this because food is a source of energy for me.
  • I think about what I eat with relation to the nutrient contents, constantly. I believe home cooked food is the best. I rarely eat out.
  • Ever since I moved back home because of the lockdown, it has given me the time to view different perspectives of the type of food I am consuming. With changing times and with new viruses emerging every day, we are looking after ourselves. Everyone has started eating healthy and clean food. A conscious choice that I have made is that I have replaced sugar with honey, these are small changes that I am adapting for a healthier version.
  • Thinking is centred on the calories I am consuming. Don't particularly think of nutrition as much as I think of calories but try to eat as much home-cooked food as possible and fruits every day to ensure adequate nutrition.
  • I think about this very often. I try to pre-plan all my meals for the week beforehand, good input of nutrition driving most of these decisions.

SOME ARE INDIFFERENT THOUGH

  • I don't really perceive food as relating to nutrition for my body, usually I consider it as something I enjoy exploring

OTHERS ADMIT THERE’S THE NOT-SO-HEALTHY STUFF TOO

  • I think I eat the right balance of nutritious stuff along with the not so healthy things that just savour the taste buds. I do put a conscious thought into the nutritional value gained through the food I'm eating.
  • Generally, I consume a large amount of Maida on a daily basis. But also, I love fruits so I think that makes a balance. I eat almost 2-3 times a day.

How do you define the sort of food choices you normally make?

YOUTH ARE CHOOSING HEALTH, EVEN THOUGH IT CAN BE A BALANCING ACT

  • I believe that the food choices I make are completely healthy for me.
  • My food choices have become 99% healthy. I flow a set pattern on a daily basis and I find comfort in that.
  • Choices are based on the calories I would be consuming
  • Food choices are a constant balancing act. Adapting to your circumstances, resources, cravings etc. Being resourceful and planning in advance plays a key factor in defining what you finally consume. On a high level: Knowing how many calories you need for an optimal functioning whilst keeping in mind your protein, carb, fat and fibre needs mainly drive the meals in plate.

MANY ARE MORE INDULGENT

  • Mostly indulgent and varied, but trying to keep a balance
  • Sometimes I indulge myself but mostly try to think that I make healthy, conscious food decisions
  • They're mostly nutritious only except a couple of times in a week where I crave junk food
  • I would define them as not so healthy yet my comfort food.

CIRCUMSTANCES CAN DEFINE CHOICE TOO

  • Food choices that I normally make largely depend on where I'm living. If I’m staying at home with my family, it is more on the healthier side as there is always someone who is concerned about what I'm eating. But if I'm living alone and don’t have the time, I would clearly choose the unhealthier version because it will be easier to make.

Do you feel that the food you eat can determine whether you will remain largely protected from chronic, lifestyle diseases? Or that the food you eat can actually make you prone to conditions like hypertension and heart trouble, diabetes etc?

YOUNG AND WISE

  • 100 Percent. Everything is influenced by our lifestyles. If you work hard on yourself at a gym or while playing a sport but don't eat well then you will never be healthy. Food is the key factor behind keeping chronic diseases at bay!
  • I’m sure the choices I make are going to protect me.
  • Lifestyle diseases are a reflection of what we consume, so yes, it’s obvious for me that checking the consumption of foods is very important. I try my best to regulate my intake.
  • Yes, I believe we are what we eat. I do feel eating hygienic, nutritious food can build a strong foundational base in my body that can help me stay protected from serious ailments at later stages. Excess indulgence in junk foods can make the body prone to these dangerous conditions.
  • It is rightly said that " what you eat is what you are ". If you eat healthy, you'll stay healthy because your body is your temple. Not that we can't go out and eat but there should be a balance between your choices. we can't just have junk food as our daily diet, because if we you do test positive for being hypertensive the first thing the doctor says is to improve the type of diet you take.
  • Yes, I believe the food normally I take will protect me from chronic diseases as besides junk, I also consume a good number of fruits on a regular basis with some nuts/dry fruits/milk as well.
  • The former. In the end, it does boil down to how well you take care of your body and food plays the biggest role in it.

THE NOT SO CONSCIOUS

  • When I would reflect on it, I would agree with the statement but it's not a conscious choice I make on a daily basis while choosing what to eat

Can you share any experience you have had with trying to stick to a healthy food behaviour or having transformed the way you consume food?

THE ONES WHO CHANGED

  • I have been largely careful with my diet, but have become more cautious about hygiene levels etc after I contracted typhoid six years ago. I think I have started listening to my mom more after that incident when it comes to being careful about the food I consume.
  • My key relationship with food changed completely once I started viewing it as a source of energy rather than as a way to fill my voids in life.
  • I have tried to abstain from soft drinks as much as possible given how detrimental they are to the human body. I also try to maintain the right balance between home and outside food as much as possible.
  • During my college days one of my friends decided to go on a keto diet for losing weight. To support her I ended up going on a fruit diet where I switched my unhealthy junk college canteen lunch to a bowl full of different fruits. I started out happy with my decisions then got a little cranky after a few days. Then later I felt happy with my decisions as I noticed I was more energetic and refreshed because of the fresh fruits
  • I have reduced the number of sugary substances and drinks in my diet, and that has really helped my body.
  • Started eating as much home-cooked as possible when the pandemic started as a response to lowered exercise levels.
  • Courtesy the 2020 pandemic, having no access to outside restaurant food suddenly put me through a rehab of sorts. After 2 weeks of major cravings and withdrawals, it did really put things into perspective. My outlook and habits towards food, nutrition and how I treat my body has developed and grown since. Still is every day.

AND THE ONES WHO HAVEN’T

  • I don't think I could answer that, I have relatively unhealthy food habits
  • No, I couldn’t say much about this as I have never really stuck to a regimen, however reducing the level of my intake over a long period of time has reduced my appetite

In this small cross-section of young, urban youth voices from Shimla, Delhi, Guwahati, Bengaluru and Jammu nestle intriguing relationships with food and nutrition, healthy lifestyles related to what we consume as our diet, and making the choice to eat better. It is critical for India to recognise the needs and aspirations of our young people (35% of our population) when it comes to nutritional requirements, food choices and dietary behaviour. This in turn is closely aligned with India’s own aspirations to become a healthier nation and meet the Sustainable Development Goals of 2030.