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4 Millennial Consumers Explain What Food Means to Them

These four millennial consumers outline their food preferences.

Pati Jinich

Resident chef at the Mexican Cultural Institute in Washington, D.C., and host of a PBS series called Pati’s Mexican Table

Today, there is a strong consciousness about eating healthy, nutritious, and especially without adding sugar within the Hispanic and Latino cultures. Food is about family in my culture. We have a long history of eating together as a family.

My point of emphasis to my audiences is about healthy eating for kids. Diabetes and obesity are two issues that are very big in people’s minds, and we can prevent some of their devastating effects with better nutrition. Everyone knows someone who suffers from such diseases.

In Mexico, local food markets are always nearby. You go to the same market your mom went to, and it’s for everyone. Here in the U.S., many Hispanics or Latinos have the perception that the local farmers markets are for the upper scale. Food is more expensive than in grocery stores, and that’s just the opposite of how it is in Mexico.

Elen Gilder 

A 35-year-old mother of three in suburban Minneapolis

When my husband and I were first married, Hamburger Helper seemed like a nutritious meal. Over the years, I learned more about nutrition. I did my grad school project on the effects of nutrition on classroom behavior. That really opened my eyes to the importance of eating healthy.

I now try to make most family meals from as many single-ingredient foods as possible. Most nights of the week, I cook dinner from scratch with high-quality ingredients. We rarely eat processed foods. 

We have been consistently buying organic milk, meat, and as much organic produce as we can get at the stores where we shop. There are many other organic foods we buy inconsistently, depending on what is available and the price. 

I prefer to buy produce grown locally, but I tend to shop at Super Target and Costco. Local foods are hard to find at those stores, and I wish it was more available.

I’ll pay a little more for higher quality ingredients. Target has expanded their Simply Balanced products, and this makes buying organic much more affordable. 

I read food labels, mostly for things like added sugar. I also prefer foods with an ingredient list I can pronounce!

I get most of my recipes from websites. Mel’s Kitchen Café and Pinch of Yum are my favorites.

Kristin Porter (shown above)

A 32-year-old mom in Des Moines, Iowa, who is author of a popular food blog, Iowa Girl Eats

My grandmother was the last of my family to live on or to operate a farm. While I grew up in Iowa, I never stepped foot on a farm until 2013, when I had the opportunity to work with the Iowa Food and Family Project, meeting farmers across the state and talking about their farms. That was an extremely eye-opening experience.

Through my visits, I learned that farmers are doing everything they can to grow safe crops, to raise healthy livestock to feed their families and communities, and to preserve Iowa’s farmland for future generations. 

I have celiac disease (gluten intolerance). I had to become a strict label reader after my diagnosis two years ago. It was then that I realized how many unnecessary (in my opinion) ingredients are added to packaged foods. Preservatives, food dyes, fake sugars, and additives are in so many products on the supermarket shelves. 

In many cases, there’s no reason for ingredients that have been proven to cause myriad health problems to be included in what would otherwise be healthful food. 

I would absolutely pay more for quality products at the grocery store, including packaged foods made without additives or preservatives. Since I have celiac disease, more strict testing of packaged products for gluten levels would be incredible for me. I’ve read that over 20% of products labeled certified gluten-free actually contain unsafe levels of gluten for celiac disease patients, which is extremely upsetting. 

Since my own diagnosis, I have been inspired to help others in a similar position. I published my first ebook, Gluten-Free for Beginners: 30-Day Meal Plan and Guide for Gluten-Free Success, in September 2015 for those who have a gluten sensitivity or who want to know more.

In a perfect world, I’d cook all my meals from scratch at home, but convenience foods are necessary for our busy lives. Local grocery stores are catching on to consumer demands for less “stuff” in their food. It will only get better from here.

Sanura Weathers 

A graphic designer and popular food blogger from Brooklyn, New York

I’ve always been one who makes meals at home where vegetables are the main focus and meat is a side dish. My boyfriend and I eat mostly seafood and chicken, but we have been incorporating a little more red meat. I’m getting bored with chicken! 

We’ve expanded our knowledge of grains, such as eating farro (a specialty wheat) and barley. I love experimenting.

My blog fans want the latest trends such as juicing, Paleo, gluten-free, and others, but I don’t promote fads. I encourage a well-rounded diet with fresh ingredients. What works for me doesn’t work for everyone. 

The nutritional difference between organic and conventional ingredients is negligible and not worth the expense, in my opinion. Natural is debatable, too.

Last summer, I was in a program where I had the opportunity to talk with farmers. I learned there is a difference between what consumers demand and what farmers can actually produce. There’s so much to farming that people don’t understand. Consumers need more education! 

I want farmers to know that I trust our food system, and I thank them for their hard work.

This article is part of a series titled "Meet Your New Boss: The Millennials." 

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