They grew up eating meatloaf, potatoes and macaroni and cheese, but then along came Julia Child and a host of other chefs and cookbooks, and baby boomer food trends went in a direction their parents could never have imagined. A cornucopia of healthy and delicious food is available and consumed by baby boomers, further improving their overall health and well-being.
Growth of Baby Boomer Food Trends
Baby Boomers have driven fads from the time they could toddle, influencing everything from toys to fashion to music.
When it comes to food, the Boomers were the first group to recognize that popular fare in America, whether on the dining room table or in a restaurant, was bland and lacking in diversity. It often compensated for these shortcomings with too much fat, sugar, salt, and cholesterol. Living longer than their parents and grandparents and getting a better nutritional education meant that Baby Boomers wanted to see limits in such unhealthy aspects to their food.
The emphasis shifted to food that was fresh, including whole grains, and other types of meat aside from beef. The rise in urban farmers markets and community supported agriculture has been fueled, in part, by the desire of Baby Boomers to buy more local, organic, fresh foods. This demographic has an income that allows for the purchase of fruits and vegetables that are more expensive but of better quality than what is found in mainstream supermarkets.
Restaurants and Baby Boomers
Food available for dining out has changed considerably since World War II, and Baby Boomer food trends have affected restaurants considerably.
Even in major cities, restaurant food predominantly consisted of meat with some sort of carbohydrate, usually white potatoes. Italian food was heavier Southern fare, like spaghetti and meatballs, and Chinese food was mostly chow mien.
Although immigration has always meant that a variety of food could be found in America, this diverse fare was only found in the neighborhood of a specific population, and rarely frequented by anyone who was not a member of the immigrant group.
The restaurant revolution began as Baby Boomers learned to cook and got more interested in other cuisines and choices. The mass proliferation of restaurants serving traditional French, Greek, Indian, Thai, Afghani, and Japanese cuisines is due in part to the interest of Baby Boomers.
The Rise of the Farmers Market
Baby Boomer food trends have spurred the growth and popularity of local farmers markets. Once visited only by serious "foodies" and restaurant chefs, green markets were just the sort of thing Baby Boomers craved as their tastes for more and better fruits and vegetables, as well as artisan cheeses, meats, and wines, developed.
As chefs such as Julia Child gained in popularity, the desire to explore the world of produce beyond iceberg lettuce soared. Boomers like chef and food advocate Alice Waters further influenced their peers to shop locally and organic. At 63, the only sign Waters shows of slowing down is in her campaign for the Slow Food Organization, which advocates for locally grown food and promotes agriculture that is ecologically sound.
Not all Boomers are as passionate and activist as Waters, but many who are educated and relatively affluent, and quite a number who aren't, have come to realize the value of good, fresh food and are happy to spend a bit more money in order to get it, to say nothing of supporting their local farmers so that everyone's kids and grandkids can enjoy the best that nature has to offer.
Don't Pass the Salt or Sugar
Baby Boomers grew up salting their already-salty food and adding sugar to sugary cereals. The rise of nutritional labeling on packaged foods, and improvements in nutritional education means that Boomers and their kids are increasingly learning to pass on extra salt and sugar. This will lead to decreases in dietary-related diseases and waistlines. Another way in which the Boomers have started a revolution.