By: Maureen Bligh, MA, RDN
The recent pandemic has increased interest in how nutrition affects health, and it has changed Americans’ purchasing and eating patterns as people spend more time at home. According to the International Food Information Council (IFIC), 8 in 10 Americans report cooking at home more often, snacking more frequently and eating healthier overall. Consumers also report buying more food online and making fewer trips to the grocery store.
This shift in behavior presents an opportunity for people to improve diet quality through food preparation and meal planning by intentionally including more whole, minimally processed foods when making meals that are tasty and enjoyable. With some advance planning, small improvements toward healthier eating can be possible. Pick one tip to try out this week. Small changes over time can lead to big impacts!
Mealtime is not the only time to make healthy choices. The 2020 Food and Health Survey conducted by IFIC shows that frequent snacking remains a trend during the pandemic. The survey shows 1 in 4 Americans snack multiple times each day, and another 30% snack once a day. Snacking offers another opportunity to eat healthier by choosing minimally processed foods that have valuable nutrients.
By placing emphasis on minimally processed foods and making it the foundation for daily eating patterns, people are able to access optimal nutrition and reap additional health benefits through food synergy. Food synergy refers to the added health benefits whole, minimally processed foods offer beyond their individual nutrients when consumed together. Research is also shedding light on how whole, minimally processed foods may help treat and prevent illness and chronic diseases. Dairy foods, particularly cheese, yogurt and kefir, provide a matrix of nutrients, including probiotics, which support gut health and provide immune boosting properties.
As health concerns related to COVID-19 have increased during the pandemic, consumers have shown a growing interest in nutrition’s role in boosting immunity and staying healthy. Dairy and other minimally processed foods play a key role in supporting immunity and overall health for children and adults. Additionally, making small, healthy changes to meals and snacks over time can improve diet quality and overall health.
Nutrition and diet quality are key factors that impact all aspects of health. With increased interest in food purchasing and healthy eating, there are many free, Let’s Eat Healthy resources educators and families can use to help make healthy eating easier now and in the future.
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International Food Information Council. 2020 Food & Health Survey. 2020. https://foodinsight.org/2020-food-and-health-survey/. Accessed November 19, 2020.
The impact of COVID-19 on eating, restaurants and fast food chains. MiQ website. https://www.wearemiq.com/blog/the-impact-of-covid-19-on-eating-restaurants-and-fast-food-chains. Published 2020. Accessed February 1, 2021.
TRENDS Fall 2020. Dairy Council of California; 2020. https://www.healthyeating.org/our-cause/dairy-community/industrytrends2020. Accessed January 26, 2021.
Watson E. What is a snack and how are snack habits evolving? Hartman Group, Snack Nation weigh in. Food Navigator-USA website. https://www.foodnavigator-usa.com/Article/2018/06/27/What-is-a-snack-and-how-are-snacking-habits-evolving-Hartman-Group-SnackNation-weigh-in. Published June 26, 2018. Accessed December 7, 2020.
Maureen Bligh, MA, RDN
Maureen Bligh, MA, RDN
Maureen is the program director of marketing and communications and a practicing registered dietitian nutritionist with over 35 years of experience.
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Nutrition and access to high-quality foods are two factors that impact all aspects of health.