“Eat more fruits and vegetables, May”, mommy said. This is the statement that I have always heard from my mom since I was young. At that time, I wondered why I had to eat all of the veggies that were 50% on my plate in every meal and I always felt that they were tasteless so I did not want to eat them and I told her that I preferred KFC fried chicken with crispy french fries. As time passed, I have grown up to be a smart senior high school student and, one day, I accidentally saw my friend sharing another Facebook post of medical doctor about the tips to be longevity and it was listed on the first one “Eat lots of vegetables and fruits in every meal’.
I was thinking that “Well, I know why my lovely mom always keeps pushing me to eat those veggies”. Apart from this post, I saw the story of my Instagram friend and actress that they have a healthy eating habit like a lot of avocados, strawberry, quinoa, and sesame, and what I really love was that they are all slim which is my ideal body.
This led me to decide that I will adopt healthy eating habits. Nowadays, I have seen healthy food appeared in the menus of many restaurants and there is the new area in Tops Supermarket selling only “Healthy Food Products’. Also, I went to have lunch at my favorite clean food restaurant at Chieng Rak and there were so many people compared to other restaurants around that area that I need to wait for the queue about 15 minutes.
This makes me wonder what has influenced Thammasat University students to eat healthy food in their daily lives.
According to World Health Organization, the basic principles of healthy diet include the following: nuts, whole grains (oats, wheat and brown rice), at least 400 gram of fruit and vegetables per day, less than 5% of total energy intake from free sugars, less than 30% of total energy intake from fats (the intake of saturated fats should be less than 10% of total energy intake and trans-fats should be less than 1% of total energy intake), and less than 5 gram (one teaspoon) of salt per day. The practice of a healthy diet also helps protect people from different types of diseases such as diabetes, heart disease, stroke and cancer (World Health Organization, 2018). Nowadays, it can be seen that more people have shifted their lifestyle to eat healthier food and exercise regularly, for example, there are a lot of people attending the running marathon events at different places in Bangkok, Thailand. At the same time, there are many kinds of popular diet trends such as dairy-free, low-carb, low-fat, gluten-free and vegan and the adoption of each diet trend is varied according to different individual demands, gender and age. According to Crimson Hexagon, Lou Jordano wrote that women prefer gluten-free, while, men prefer fat-free diet to any other kinds of diet. Moreover, the consumers under 35 years old are interested in dairy-free, low-carb and low-fat diets, whereas, consumers over 35 years old are more likely to adopt vegan and gluten-free diet (Crimson Hexagon, 2018).
Furthermore, the health and wellness trend has gained popularity among consumer groups globally. According to Forbes (2017), Deborah Weinswig mentioned that according to the data of Euromonitor International, the global health and wellness market reached $686 billion in 2016 and the market is expected to grow at a 3.5% Compound Annual Growth Rate, to $815 billion, by 2021. Besides, she also stated that Jack Ma, Chairman and Founder of Alibaba, summarized the growing trend that consumers, today, would like to be healthy and happy since they are increasingly spending their time on fitness or other activities that will help improving their well-being such as eating organic food, taking health supplements and following particular types of diet (Weinswig, 2017). Therefore, the increasing customer demand of healthier food means that the companies in the food industry have to adapt according to the changing trend by concerning more about health as the top priority when researching and remarketing any new product. In the western country, the growth of organic food market is expanded tremendously, especially in USA. According to Food Navigator USA, Stephen Daniells stated that there is the increasing demand of organic products and the estimates in 2012 from the Organic Trade Association revealed that 81% of American families purchased organic food at least some of the times and the production of organic food has soared about 240% between 2002 and 2011. The recent report by Information Resources Inc. and SPINS also founded that the sales of organic retail sales topped at $81.3 billion in 2012, up 13.5% from the previous year and it was estimated that the sales of US organic food market will grow 14% from 2013 to 2018 (Daniells, 2014). This shows that the growth of the healthy food market is more likely to gain more and more value in every year. In addition, the trend of healthy food has also widely captured the attention of a lot of people globally. According to Forbes, Nancy Gagliardi mentioned that the global sales of healthy food products are estimated to increase and reach $1 trillion by 2017, according to Euromonitor. As Nielsen had conducted online Global Health and Wellness Survey that polled over 30,000 people about the customers’ perception towards healthy food, the result showed in the 2015 report of January that 88% of the respondents including Generation Z to Baby Boomers are willing to pay more for healthier meals (Gagliardi, 2015). This can be implied that every generation, no matter young or older people, places the important on the health-related issue and gains interest in purchasing healthier food that will boost their health.
The likelihood that people will engage in the healthier diet will be higher if they believe that it can help preventing them from diseases (Petrovici & Ritson, 2006). Moreover, according to Weenottranon & Kee-ariyo’s research, they had cited that Podjanee Pueankham (2011) who conducted the study about the attitude towards healthy food consumption in Chiang Mai and it has found that people will be more motivated to consume healthy food if they think it will help them have beautiful skin and help them be able to control their weight (Weenottranon & Kee-ariyo, 2017). Apart from this, people will concern about the taste of the healthy food since they think it is tasteless when compared to the unhealthy food which is more delicious. They will also
have less desire to change their diet to healthy diet if they perceive that they are less risk from the diseases (The European Food Information Council, 2006). This means that people are less aware the hazard of the fatty food that they usually eat in daily life and place less important on the health since they have the belief that what they eat everyday is still healthy since there is no sign of the diseases for them.
According to the research titled “An Exploration of the Relationship Between Income and Eating Behavior “, the limitation of budget is the potential obstacle for a healthier diet. (Chen, Liu & Binkley, 2012). This means that the low income limits their options for what they eat. Healthy food usually costs higher price than other junk food so people who have lower income or are in lower-income families will not be able to purchase healthier food. The energy-dense food which refers to the food that is in high calories such as sweets and fatty food are cheaper than the nutritious food, for example, a package of hotdogs costs only a dollar but beefs or porks cost several dollars. This makes the low-income population to be more likely to spend their money on the energy-dense food for a living than fresh fruits and vegetables according to the European Food Information Council. In contrast with the higher-income families, they will be more likely to purchase the fresh fruits and vegetables, whole grains and other nutritious food items, according to a 2010 article published in “Nutrition Today” (Ipatenco, 2018). This is in line with Konttinen, Sarlio-Lhteenkorva, Silventoinen, Minniti & Haukkala’s research (2012) titled
socio-economic disparities in the consumption of vegetables, fruit and energy-dense foods. They had conducted the study and they found out that the individuals who are in lower socio-economic status will consider price as more important than the nutrients in food, while, higher income individuals will be more health-conscious when they choose what to consume (Konttinen, Sarlio-L?hteenkorva, Silventoinen, Minniti & Haukkala, 2012).
Our eating behavior is heavily influenced by the social environment or our surroundings. Our diet choices depend mostly on our close social connections or who we are closely with. This is because we want to conform with the behavior of others and to fit with other people’ norms and values. Therefore, the type of food we eat when we are alone and what we eat when we are with our peers will be different. This reveals that friends can influence our diet. Global Healing Center had elaborated that the meals eaten with others contained more carbohydrate, fat, protein, and total calories (Group, 2016). This illustrated that people will be more likely to consume more when they are with other people since it is more fun to share a variety of menus to eat.
Social media also influences the way people eat. In social media, there is a lot of social media influencers that promote healthy food (Sportstec Clinic, 2018). This can cause the followers, regular people who follow their lives on social media, to follow the same routines as them, for example, trying to eat at the same restaurant or find the ingredients to cook the healthy food like those influencers. According to Harper Adams University, out of every social media
platform, Facebook was the most popular platform (60 percent) and had the most influence on people’s food choices because Facebook is the channel that most of their friends and family are using and it provides more pictures and videos so the facebook users could visualize the picture of food. The posts about food on social media make people to look for ingredients and cook for eating healthier. The most popular food-related social media accounts that most people are following were fitness or healthy recipe sources (33 percent) because they want to improve their diet and health (Harper Adams University, 2017).
The food itself may not significantly impact the choices of food that people eat but it includes both internal and external factors that influence what they eat as Michael Brent stated on LEAFtv which is the resource portraying the how-to for women who want to have a modern, fresh and energized lifestyle that mass media or marketing and advertising can heavily trigger customers to be mouth-watering and be more likely to choose this specific food or brand of food than the others (Brent, 2019). For example, when children see the advertisement on TV about fast-food meals that come with free toys and the story of cartoon character about Nestle’s breakfast cereal’s advertisement in Thailand, they will be excited and ask their parents to purchase this food for them.
Similarly, based on the curriculum resources of the Ontario Physical and Health Education Association on the topic of “Making Healthy Choices”, it is illustrated that the media can be one of the most powerful influential factors on how young people view themselves. The media
will portray messages that “the ideal body is slimness” and large body size is considered as “unacceptable” in society. The advertisements on different kinds of media such as television, magazine, and billboard, usually have the presenters that are in shape and fit body size (Ontario Physical and Health Education Association, 2010). Therefore, this reveals that the media shapes people in society to have positive body image attitude towards fit body size and negative body image attitude towards chubby body size in which the heavyset or obese people are mostly ridiculed by other people in the society.