By Janet Helm, MS, RD
Born between 1946 and 1964, Baby Boomers are part of the largest, best-educated, and most influential generation our country has ever seen. Boomers have driven some of the most powerful cultural shifts in our nation’s history, and that includes food.
This huge demographic is behind many of today’s food trends – everything from nutritionally enhanced foods and functional beverages to fresh local produce and artisanal foods. Nearly 80 million strong, this generation may have grown up on meatloaf, mashed potatoes, and tuna casserole, but now they’re seeking foods that can help them stay young – or at least feel young.
Even though Boomers may have traded in their Tang for orange juice fortified with ingredients that can lower their cholesterol, and ditched their beloved Pop-Tarts for high-fiber flaxseed cereal, they may be still holding on to old-fashioned diet beliefs. Just like hairstyles and wardrobes that can look like they’re frozen in time, diet mindsets may also need an update.
- Carbs are not the enemy
Boomers lived through the Atkins era and many still suffer from carb phobia, which often makes it tough to get adequate amounts of whole grains. Rather than low carb, today’s modern-day mantra is good carb – whole grains, vegetables, fruits, and legumes.
- Not all fat is bad
After years of stocking their kitchen with “fat-free” foods, many Boomers have a hard time embracing the notion that some fats are actually good for you. Nuts, avocados, and olives were once eschewed for their fat content, but these plant sources of monounsaturated fat have impressive cholesterol-lowering powers. Many of these good fats also provide vitamin E, an antioxidant that is good for your heart and your brain.
- A hamburger patty with a scoop of cottage cheese is not a “diet plate.”
Still lingering on some restaurant menus, this retro meal likely provides 600 calories and almost a day’s worth of saturated fat. A better diet-friendly meal is a plate of grilled fish or skinless chicken with a small scoop of brown rice and large pile of colorful steamed vegetables. Vegetables and fruits are a dieter’s best friend because they provide fiber and water – a dynamic duo for feeling full on few calories.
- An egg a day may be OK.
Boomers grew up fearful of eggs, but that paranoia is based on outdated science. Years ago, the advice was to avoid foods high in cholesterol if your blood cholesterol was high. But now scientists know saturated fat and trans fat have a greater impact on the cholesterol in our blood. Eggs are high in cholesterol, but they’re low in saturated fat. They also supply valuable nutrients, including lutein and zeaxanthin, that may protect against age-related eye diseases like macular degeneration and cataracts.
Share Your Thoughts: Did or do you believe any of these claims? How has your approach to food and eating changed over the years? Share your opinions in the comments section below: