An annual food-and-health survey says foodies shop with an eye to both taste and nutrition, prioritizing foods that are free from artificial ingredients, high in healthy components, and minimally processed.

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On Nutrition

Are you a foodie? What does that even mean? The term “foodie” has become so overused that it almost invokes eye rolls. Indeed, the term can come across as pretentious and elitist, but being a foodie could pave the way to better nutrition. Really, what’s so wrong about having a yen for quality food and caring about where that food comes from?

According to findings from the International Food Information Council’s 2017 Food & Health Survey, being a foodie is about much more than posting Instagram photos from the farmers market and the hot new brunch spot. It’s about being willing to pay more for quality food that is tasty, healthful and aligns with your values, even if you have to sacrifice some convenience along the way (like fighting for a parking spot at the farmers market, perhaps). What’s more, foodies are more confident in their nutrition knowledge and have a unique definition of “healthy.”

In this year’s annual survey, the IFIC asked people what factors drive their food purchases: healthfulness, taste, price, shared values, how it’s made, convenience, sustainability, brand and packaging. From there, they identified six distinct types of food consumers. “Diligent Searchers” take all aspects of a food into account before deciding what to buy. “Product Selectors” care about brands, but taste rules, followed by price and convenience. “Pleasure Shoppers,” who tend to be male, care about taste first and foremost, although price matters, too. “Unbiased Buyers,” who tend to be female, don’t care about brands, but they want their food to be healthful, tasty and a good value. “Indifferent Consumers” don’t care what they eat (they’re also younger, predominantly male and most likely to have children at home).

The sixth type of food consumer identified from the survey is the “Foodie.” Foodies tend to be female, slightly older and are most likely to have a college degree. They have the highest average incomes and are least likely to have children under the age of 18. That certainly makes it easier to spend more on food and pass up convenience foods. It may also contribute to their confidence — foodies are most likely to feel secure about their food choices even while they acknowledge that nutrition information is often confusing and conflicting.

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Foodies shop with an eye to both taste and nutrition, prioritizing foods that are free from artificial ingredients, high in healthy components (top picks are vitamin D, fiber and whole grains), and minimally processed. They are the only group to include “minimally processed” as a top-three criterion. Interestingly, when survey respondents named their most desired benefit from food (top picks were weight loss, cardiovascular health, energy and digestive health) fewer than half could name a food or nutrient that might help them achieve that benefit. Foodies are less likely to experience that dietary disconnect — 60 percent are able to name a food that would help them reach their health goals.

If being a foodie means striking a balance between food as fuel and food as pleasure, then sign me up. While you’re not likely to find me at the latest trendy brunch spot (I prefer to brunch at home) and I’ve never posted a photo of avocado toast on social media (at least, I don’t think I have), I am choosy about where I shop and what I buy. I will spend more on quality food — again, for both taste and nutrition — but I keep my food budget in line by keeping an eye on sales and rarely eating out. I see good food as an investment in health, so if I need to scrimp, I’ll do it somewhere else.