More conscious and healthier, faster and whenever it fits

According to a study by Nestlé nutrition has become important for the Germans. But this is not a change of trend just yet, says Dr Tatjana Schütz.

That is how Germany eats“ is the title of the new nationwide study by Nestlé. It investigated the eating habits of 10,000 consumers and how those were influenced by social changes. For Dr Tatjana Schütz, nutritionist at the Integrated Research and Treatment Center (IFB) AdiposityDiseases Leipzig the connection between health and nutrition is the most surprising result: "The study shows that the health aspect is playing an increasing role for the consumers. Many people still keep eating unhealthy food so we cannot speak of a change of trend just yet, but the conscience for a healthy diet is growing noticeably." She will be commenting on the most important study results below:

We eat when we have time for it.

The destructuring of everyday life keeps increasing due to work life. Consequently we don't take meals, especially lunch and dinner, at fixed times anymore. This can be noticed especially with the younger generation: The percentage of younger people between 20 and 29 years old with ever changing daily routines has risen from 47 to 52 percent since the first study in 2009, among the working people from 37 to 41 percent. Instead of hunger open timeframes dictate when we eat.

Tatjana Schütz: Of course the eating habits differ from person to person. But especially with morbidly overweight people it is important that they have regulated meal habits - meaning that they eat at fixed times. A breakfast routine is especially important. That has been shown by data of the National Weight Loss Registry in the USA, where overweight persons who have lost weight can register. This routine is as much part of losing weight as exercise, approximately one hour a day, a diet that is low in calories and fat free and controlling the weight.

Standing or walking: something fast to go.

Now and in the future you eat differently: "Snacking" and "Out of home" eating are the trends. Unsteady daily routines lead to main meals being replaced by snacks that you eat quickly on the road. Everybody knows the situation that you quickly go to the backery or resort to fast food because you are suddenly hungry.

Tatjana Schütz: The German Nutrition Society recommends five meals a day. But there is data that questions this concept when it comes to overweight persons. Because snacks have extra calories that are not cut down during main meals. Thus snacks increase the total energy input per day. Snacks that are low on calories like an apple with only 52 calories are eaten quite rarely. Most of the time people eat snacks such as sandwiches, a slice of pizza, a croissant or a cereal bar that deliver a lot of energy even in small doses. As soon as you eat them on the run the satiation effect is quite small.

Like parents, like children

Also with nutrition the family is still the most important basis of socialization for children. And as the study shows, the parents are aware of that. 58 percent of the parents with a high income, 53 percent with a medium income and 45 percent with a low income stated that a balanced diet for their children is very important for them. 68 percent of the Germans and also two thirds of the parents with children under the age of 18 think that overweight and an unhealthy diet of children are wide-spread problems nowadays. But still most families struggle with prviding themselves constantly with healthy food in everyday life.

Tatjana Schütz: Overweight in children also exists because of a combination of different factors. There is for example a close connection between overweight and the time children spend in front of a computer or the television. Parents can work against that by creating active freetime, providing their children with knowledge about healthy diet at a young age and including them in the preparation of meals.

Good food is important

Nutrition has a more important role today than two years ago. The percentage of consumers that think low prices are most important decreased from 48 to 39 percent since 2009. Only 58 percent still pay attention to a good price performance ratio, while it was 66 percent in 2009. The most interesting thing ybout that is according to the study that this trend is taking place mainly in the lower income groups.

Tatjana Schütz: That is one step in the right direction, but we have to observe the further development. Not everybody who claims to pay attention to the quality of food is also willing or capable to pay a higher price for it. The food scandals of the last years - BSE, rotten meat - have resulted in drops in sales only temporary, the market has recovered since. That is rather contrary to the belief that a large number of people has essentially changed their eating habits.

Regional instead of organic

In the search for healthy food consumers attach more importance to regional products than organic food.

Tatjana Schütz: Regional food isn't necessarily worse or better than organic food. An important point in my eyes is the choice for fruits and vegetables according to their harvest time in Germany. Short transports, freshness and support for local structures are arguments in favor of regional products. Products that have been produced conventionally are neither distinguishable from organically produced products concerning taste nor concerning ingredients.

Sustainability and social responsibility - what does that have to do with our diet?                                                           

Those two terms have gained in importance over the last two years but they overwhelm many consumers. Most of them don't know what to make of them.

Tatjana Schütz: A sustainable production of vegetable as well as animalistic food deals responsibly with nature and preserves soil, water and air. It should be a goal to pass on animal medication, agricultural pesticide and chemical fertilizers as much as possible and conserve the diversity of sorts and races not only in Germany but worldwide. This would not only be good for us because we are the last link in the food chain. But it is also our responsibility to conserve the nature for future generations.

Keywords: nutrition & diet, society & social life, causes of obesity