The history of healthy eating: part two

Right, here we are again. Picking up from where we left off in the 1970’s in Part One of this series, let’s jump straight into an era which was littered with new ideas of what counted as healthy eating and how these ideas began to shape where we get our information from when it comes to healthy ideals today.


The 1980’s could really be renamed the 19-weightees …. Ok that’s weak, but this era saw an explosion of all kinds of weird and wonderful diets, each promising it was the healthiest and surest way to a long and healthy life. Just to name a few this time frame gave way to the:

  • Beverly Hills diet (consuming fruit prior to meals)
  • The Cambridge Diet (a 320 calorie a day liquid diet)
  • The F-plan diet (restricting your calorie consumption to 1000 and choosing high fibre foods)

A lot of these diets were backed by the still popular belief that we as consumers should be eating less fat, saturated fat and cholesterol. To provide for this popular conception many supermarkets began to introduce a wider range of products to meet the markets demands for these types of products. Sainsbury’s had an impressive collection of their own low-fat products which became available during this era. (Click here)


The weird and wonderful fad diet which plagued this era however was one which meant the consumer ate only pineapple for the first ten days straight (what happened after that who knows) but judging by the reaction of the medical community at the time it wasn’t good.


Fat. No matter what form it is in, is bad. Your average healthy dinner plate during the 90’s would have been devoid of any type of fat, be it nuts, avocados, cheese – you name it. This saw an explosion of fat-free foods onto the market which was backed by major nutritional bodies and governments all over the world. And what happens if you take fat out of something? It’s going to taste, well, awful. So what did we begin to pump our low-fat healthy alternatives full of? Sugar! To do this day experts are still not in agreement whether fat-free has done more harm than good.

No quirky fads this era, we were all firmly aboard the fat-free ride.


This is when healthy eating became more difficult than ever. And where the line between fact and fad blur into one big messy mess. The no fat = healthy mantra was still going strong and still advocated for by most dietary guidelines. However, evidence during this time began to emerge that a high-fat diet could possibly have some benefits – these findings were however ignored.

There was a growing trend to eat raw foods as more research during this time showed that the consumption of raw foods was better for the human body. This is a popular belief still to this day.

But amongst all the “research” and “best advice” was a plethora of beliefs and campaigns which captured the public’s imagination and have made their way into the history books … to name a few:

  • Fish deficiency 'could harm mental health'
  • Vegan diet 'cuts prostate cancer risk
  • Eating less may prevent Alzheimer's
  • Junk food link to asthma


#cleaneating is the battle cry of this generation, a trend kicked off in the early days of the 2010’s with the very popular Paleo diet, which saw consumers reverting back to a diet which was not too dissimilar to that followed by our ancient ancestors.

The clean eating basics believe refined sugar is evil. Processed foods are impure and will only do harm. We are a generation striving for minimally processed, plant-based wholefoods. And supermarkets are not missing their chance to capitalise on this – with a huge range of free-from foods flooding the market; such as retail giant Sainsbury’s, recently introducing an entire range of own branded vegan cheeses to whet the appetite of those banishing anything impure from their diets.

This era also saw a rise in fitness gurus. A simple Google search will bring back about 16,600,000 results for fitness gurus in the UK alone; with many websites sifting through and providing us with a list of the Top Ten fitness and wellbeing experts to follow on Instagram. They promote not only their training ideals, but also provide in-depth nutritional advice which is shaping what this generation deems as healthy eating. It has seen a reintroduction of many foods previously considered un-healthy. We no longer deprive ourselves and healthy eating is no longer what we leave off our plates but instead a celebration of food. Variety of whole grains, vegs, carbs (they’re back!) and fats are all seen piling onto our plates. Variety served with a side of moderation seems to be the way forward. 

This is quite possibly the most radical change seen in the healthy eating industry to date. A large chunk of the population now follows these self-taught fitness experts on a range of social media outlets, rather than the traditional platforms we have seen in the past. It has been claimed that Instagram is spurring the biggest shift the fitness world has seen in decades (click here). 

The Future …

I don’t like to think too much about our dwindling resources across the globe which will inevitably result in impacting what we pile onto our plates. But there is a very real possibility that one day those lovely pizza doughs and other carby delights we love to chow down on could be made of bugs! With meat consumption dwindling due to shrinking resources we’re going to have to re-think what our main meals will constitute of. We might not need to reach straight for the crickets and other protein rich bugs though, we’ve still got the whole ocean to explore. Whatever happens our diets will be forced to change whether we like it or not …



Tags: Food trends

Josie Burt

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