How 11 Hidden Food Influencers are
Deciding What You Eat to be Great
What are food influencers and why are they so important?
When you think about food influencers does Instagram come to mind? Beautiful pictures of avocado? Or does your mom come to mind? Haha, I bet not! But when you were a child, your caretakers were likely your main influence.
My young daughter was once in the care of a woman who promised me the very best for her. When I asked why cream cheese was on the daycare menu, she sternly told me that “nutrition is like religion and politics, everyone has an opinion”. She was missing a point. Nutrition is not just an opinion, it’s a science too! I am a Food Scientist and know a thing or two about how to use science to create incredible results. For some reason, she wanted to silence me from having an opinion on her food offering. She was not open to other people’s opinions on food since they were a nuisance to how she ran her childcare facility. Her opinion on foods (in this case, cream cheese) directly impacted what my daughter was eating. It was too bad as it hurt my opinion of her ability to care my child. Eventually we moved our child from her care, not because of cream cheese, but because we found a more open-minded food influencer for our daughter.
Food influencers determine what you think AND what the people around you think about food and this DIRECTLY affects the food that ends up in your cupboards and on your plate!
There are so many ways that people’s opinions about food get formed. Here’s a partial list of these influencers, do you recognize any in your life?
The 11 most powerful food influencers in your life
People often listen to their friends, sometimes without really knowing where their friends got their opinions on foods. Peer influence is very strong. If you are in a group setting, you will be more likely to eat what those around you are eating, rather than being the odd man out.
Parents are the first major influence on their kids. The kids will copy their parents at the beginning, more or less, and often form opinions on what their parents have told them. Parents buy the food for the household, so their opinions about food directly affect what is in the cupboards. As kids get older, they get influenced by many other things (see #1 lol) and as they get money in their own pockets, they start to be able to buy foods and you better believe that food companies become influencers (think about ANY fast-food brand to know that’s true).
#3 Food Providers (some known as food companies).
The foods that are available to people in restaurants, daycares, camps and schools help people form opinions about food. As an example, if a hockey camp provides a certain food, the assumption may be that this food is good for performance. Unfortunately, many hockey camp menus are planned by someone with the opinion that the food has to be inexpensive and simply kid friendly, not necessarily performance food.
Your coach (or trainer or fitness expert) will be a huge influence. They might be planning your next pre-game meal! Here are a few quotes that I have heard from athletes about what their coaches have told them: “drink this green juice every day”, “stop eating cheese and drinking milk” and “I should have BCAAs”. As much as everyone has an opinion based on their experience, their singular experience is not always reflected in the science. Science takes EVERYONE’s experiences and checks important trends so you can see if it's a trend that will lead to a positive result, no result at all, or a negative result. It takes a well trained person to read science trends. Science trends are not always simple to see at first glance.
For example, a recent study finds that BCAAs can have a positive effect of building muscle. If you read the study quickly and read only the punch line, you would rush out to get a BCAA supplement. However, the author himself will be the first to say that this study proves the opposite, that BCAAs alone would be a worse solution than eating the right types of food proteins after a workout. Your coach might not dig in that far, but someone else will… enter the health professional…
#5 on my list (but #1 in my opinion!): Health Professionals.
Dietitians, physiologists, doctors, nurses, physiotherapists, acupuncturists, osteopaths, and naturopathic doctors are just a few health professionals that can influence food opinions. This is a great group to base a food opinion on. Most health professionals have at least a little nutrition training and are able to give general nutrition advice.
But if you are looking for advanced sports nutrition advice, sports dietitians and human physiologists who specialize in sports nutrition, are the top experts here as sports nutrition is all they study and explain all day, every day.
Every culture has their “go to” foods and special food habits. In Indonesia, they use a lot of spices and sauces in food preparation, in France, there is usually a bottle of wine on the dinner table etc. That is not to say that everyone follows their culture (one of my Italian friends dislikes pasta, much to her family’s chagrin!)
If a member of the family is allergic to a food, there will be an effort to keep that food out of the house. A food allergy is a real and dangerous condition, not to be taken lightly. Some people think they are allergic to a food, but the only way to know for sure is to be medically tested. Do you know the top food allergies? If you want to know, here's a reliable place to read up on their prevalence. We are talking gluten, eggs, milk, mustard, peanuts, seafood, fish, sesame seeds, soy, sulphites, tree nuts, and wheat. Notice that this list does not include almonds or all nuts, so no need to be afraid of serving them at a kids party right!
If someone is intolerant to a certain food, that food can still be present in the house in most cases. If someone is lactose intolerant, they may still be able to digest some dairy products (like yogurt or cheese). If not, there are plenty of lactose-free options available or lactase tablets to help with the digestion of lactose.
It doesn’t matter how good a food is for you, if you really don’t like it, chances are that you won’t eat it. Maybe you don’t like the taste, sight or smell of the food. Or maybe a certain food brings back bad memories. Sometimes all you need is to change the way the food is cooked. Mothers are usually great at hiding foods that their little ones don’t like in foods that they do (I’ve put all sorts of “extras” in pancakes and spaghetti sauces lol). Or, if the time is right, I do a 21 day exposure challenge! See my guide to picky eaters for more info on evolving taste-buds.
#10 The Internet.
Helloooo, am I influencing you yet! I hope so!! A lot of people get influenced by what they read on the internet (bloggers, fitness gurus etc). They all have an opinion! But who to trust?? That is why science is so helpful. Science can clarify a lot about WHY we eat what we eat and WHY we get the results we get. It's why I am so confident in what I share with you… my goal is to make the Internet a great place to find top sports nutrition info!
Everyone has a food philosophy whether you realize it or not! Philosophies exist when science cannot explain everything or when other factors such as the environment are more important than human health. If you are not sure what yours is here are some questions to get your thinking about your food philosophy:
- Do you believe that we should eat animals?
- Do you believe that we can eat chips, candy, and sugar 5 times per week and still be healthy?
- Do you believe that humans were not meant to consume cow’s milk?
The campers get to continue their journey in the nutrition challenge a few weeks after camp. In my experience kids love challenges, however, we need the help of the parents when it comes to food. An 8 year old is not grocery shopping yet (usually!) so the challenge allows for the whole hockey family to continue the fun learning experience together. And, the continuity of the nutrition challenge allows the family to connect to each other which is a beautiful result.
What do you think about sports nutrition at hockey camps?
Share your thoughts in the comments.