Are social media food photos ruining your diet?

Posted at 3:57 PM, Aug 24, 2018

From the Unicorn Frappuccino to the ramen burger, Gemarla Babilonia-Gaskin is willing to try all the funky foods that pop up on her social media, even the grilled cheese donut, which she says “...was once in a lifetime and it was amazing!”

She’s not alone in devouring these delicious treats.  

Registered Dietitian Libby Parker says Instagram, Facebook, Pinterest, and Youtube are inspiring all kinds of edible concoctions, with different foodie fads to feast on each day.  

Parker says they include “...boozy milkshakes of all the different toppings. Some of them have, you know, slices of cake on top of them, and things like that, giant stacked burgers with all different types of toppings, any of the rainbow foods. The rainbow trend is still really big.”

She says it’s almost like a contest.

“Some of these look very difficult to eat… they are not the most nutritious choices, but they take a great photo. They look really epic. I think people are trying to outdo each other,” she says.

While some of the food trends we are seeing are clearly not claiming to be healthy, others appear to be.

But Parker says we should be careful before buying into that claim. Check the source, especially because anyone can say they’re a nutritionist. Instead, go with guidance from a certified nutrition specialist (CNS) or a registered dietitian (RD) -- both of which have special educations -- for expertise on what really is good for you.

She explains, “Any time that we're going to extremes, that can be really unhealthy. So we're looking at accounts that are cutting out entire food groups. That's not showing really balanced, healthy eating that's going to give us all of our nutrients.” 

She encourages following influencers and hashtags, such as #dietitianapproved, that give meal prep tips, so you can plan healthy meals ahead, and accounts that share options combining good-for-you- foods you might not have paired together before.

She says a general rule of thumb: about half of our meals coming from carbohydrate-rich sources, about 10 to 20 percent from protein and 20 to 30 percent from fat. 

“You can look at other people for ideas for recipe inspiration. There's no harm in that. But in terms of creating really balanced healthy meals and lifestyles, you want to make sure that there's a balance of carbohydrates fats and proteins,” she explains.

Gemarla says she gets great recipe ideas online for her keto diet, which allows her to splurge when a special treat pops up that she just can’t resist.

She says, “It's a trend. You do it once and then you enjoy it and then it's over.” 

Experts say to always check in with your doctor before starting any diet to see what is right for you.