What do we make of millennials being the most overweight generation? And moreso how can we help to fix it?

By nutritionist and founder of The Food Boss, Kate Taylor.

It was the end of February this year when the headlines hit “millennials set to be the fattest generation” since records began. Cancer Research UK also emphasised the fact that carrying extra weight is linked to a around 13 types of cancer. The UK is already the most obese nation Western Europe and in the last 30 years this has increased to 27% of adults (that’s up by 12%). And when we break this down into the statistics for millennials The Health Survey for England report that 40% of those aged 16 to 24 are either overweight or obese and that increases to 52% of those aged 25 to 34. We’ve got a lot of work to do.

Kantar Media report that millennials see healthy eating as a lifestyle. Not so much a fad or short-term goal but something they do for their entire lives. Adopting a vegan diet is possibly the latest way of eating to have taken off. And whilst the vegan diet is safe, it does require supplementation of particular vitamins and minerals namely B12 and iron. Millennials, particularly in London, also tend to follow lots of health trends, they seem to be most attracted to the social media driven wellness industry. And this comes with its pro’s and con’s just like most things. It’s great for inspiration, to achieve your goals, learn about different foods and in general improve your health with the support of others. But it can also have such a negative impact on individuals mental wellbeing, given that the industry is plagued by over filtered, photoshopped selfies, the pressure to nail the perfect shot is intense.

It’s a lot more than this though, a whole lot more and multifactorial. The environment, genetics, price, social demographic and education levels all play a role. 

“The environment we live in (food wise) needs massive work”

Without a doubt it’s got better over recent years, but how can we expect people to eat well and fuel themselves with the most nutritious option when the cheaper less nutritious one has the front row seat. The sugar tax has been great step by the government. Some are referring to it like a drop in the ocean, but all these small things add up to make positive change. I’m all for it. These drinks have next to no nutritional value anyway, but that’s an entire article in itself. And whilst I am education all the way. It’s just not that simple and it’s going to take a serious amount of time. I still see clients who believe consuming dietary fat is bad for them, and that goes back to the 70’s.

“It might make massive GP, it might sell well but what about being responsible”

How can we make positive change in foodservice? I’ve had numerous conversations recently about the use of positive phrasing, promoting food and drink in a good light. Focus on what you can have rather than what you can’t. That healthy and terms associated with it can often reflect food in a bad light, because that’s what we’ve lived with for decades. Why not just call it what it is, the actual foods name?

We need to bring in some control around what we stock and why? It might make massive GP, it might sell well but what about being responsible? Does that go out the window when it comes to running a business. I hope not. Let’s remove energy drinks. And beverages high in sugar with little or no nutritional benefit. When it comes to cakes and biscuits, if they are bought in can the range be streamlined. Made onsite then let’s serve a responsible sized portion. Many high street retailers now have smaller bite sized sweets at their till points. And let’s not offer two for the price of one on confectionary. Ever. Make the environment supportive in making good choices. Make it easy.

There have been guidelines recently released by Public Health England on lunch and dinner being around 600 calories and 400 calories for breakfast. Snacks should be around 100 calories. If we could ensure that the majority of the food we serve sits within these guidelines we are doing well. It’s still the 80/20 rule. Always.