We’re known as the generation that photographs our food. There’s #instayum, there’s #foodspotting, and there’s the overly clever #yummmm. Thanks to us, brunch is chic, and if you want rosé all day, no one will stop you.
What do millennials eat? Do we live out these hashtags in real life or is this a social media fairytale we tell? The numbers show that when it comes to meals, millennials are consistently inconsistent.
A few weeks back, a really interesting infographic (posted below) floated into my inbox. It took me some time to wrap my thoughts around it and even longer to put together a post, because well, it makes us look more than a little contradictory. In short, figuring out what millennials eat is complicated. Our eating habits are tied to technology, fitness, and of course, money. And while it makes us look more than just a little mixed up at first, the numbers tell an interesting story.
Millennials Eat In and Out
The infographic points out that the majority of millennials enjoy cooking, and nearly half of us also enjoy dining out, especially in more casual settings. And if you started salivating at the allusion to the best
burger milkshake chain n this subtitle, you probably agree. And while I think many millennials have turned to dining in as an opportunity to save money, I also can’t help but wonder if the surge of subscription boxes isn’t also partially to blame.
If you haven’t waded into subscription box waters, you’ve still undoubtedly heard of Blue Apron, a company that is now nearly as ubiquitous as Birchbox and Stitch Fix. Blue Apron is estimated to clock in at $1 billion dollars in revenue in the next year. And they’re far from the only food box in the game. Hello Fresh, Plated, Purple Carrot. There’s even Carnivore Club, a smoked meat subscription service that I first learned of whilst listening to a true crime podcast about a string of grisly unsolved murders. Mmmm. So while some of us may be eating in to save, many others are also testing out new recipes and building our culinary chops.
If a latte is served in a coffee shop and no one snaps a picture, does it still get sipped? Many millennials see themselves as foodies. Ditto for photographers. So it’s no wonder that photographing food is now a thing.
“We have this taste for arugula and prosciutto, even though we’re making $30,000 a year and five years out of college.”
And it’s not just any food. OK. It is any food. Literally any food. But a good chunk of it is fancy-pants food. A 2015 interview in The Atlantic that is sourced in this infographic features food writer Eve Turow saying, “We have this taste for arugula and prosciutto, even though we’re making $30,000 a year and five years out of college.” Now before all the Gen Xers and Boomers in the room start to smile, let me be the first to acknowledge that this is a problem. Maybe people would stop saying latte factor isn’t a thing if we renamed it the arugula effect. It’s true that we can and should critique this spending.
But when we’re done criticizing, we should also try to explore it in another way. For a generation that is crushed under colossal debt and is entering unchartered territory in a lot of ways when it comes to work, obsessing over food makes sense. Meals have become a currency of sorts. For better or worse, this is the generation of self-branding entrepreneurs. Social media is a pivotal tool in this. And we showcase what’s right in front of us. Whether it’s a mug or a meal, an outfit or an outdoor adventure, it becomes part of that brand. Call it showing off. Call it making the best of a less-than-ideal situation. But let’s also call it what it has become: an invaluable type of currency.
Penny Smart, Calorie Foolish
The most shocking part of the infographic was the claim that my generation is the most overweight generation. Impossible. What about barre before brunch? And don’t even get me started on Crossfit. All I know about the Crossfit club is that step one is to tell everyone you’ve joined. But seriously, how could a generation that coined the phrase Gym Tan Laundry* be the most obese?
*Full disclosure: I have seen approximately one episode of The Jersey Shore. If that means I need to turn in my millennial card, let me light it on fire for you.
And it’s true that there are conflicting reports about this. Some actually say that millennials eat like garbage, drink too much, and have managed to stay thin in spite of that. While others argue that not only are we more obese, it’s probably tied to the fact that when people try to save money, they tend to choose less healthy meal options. It’s quite possible that both are actually true.
The Final Course
Regardless of how you look at it, millennial meal habits are interesting. As with any generation, there are certain trends that stand out. That doesn’t necessarily they define us by any stretch. Really, I imagine that there are as many different takes on eating as there are opinions on why anyone ever thought The Jersey Shore was a good idea.
So Tell Me…What do you make of millennials and meals? Do you see food in the same way as any of these statistics?