The Problem With ‘What I Eat in a Day’ Videos

'What I eat in a day' videos might just be the biggest TikTok nutrition trend right now. But are these viral clips helpful guides, or are they something to follow with caution?

‘What I eat in a day’ videos are dominating Instagram and TikTok feeds at the moment, with just a quick search revealing millions of posts under the hashtag #whatieatinaday. It’s practically impossible to go about your scrolling without stumbling across one. But are they helpful, or should you skip past them? Here’s some things to keep in mind.

What are ‘what I eat in a day’ videos?

Basically, they’re short clips – often under 60 seconds long – which offer viewers insights and inspiration for their own dietary routines, by providing a glimpse into individual meals and snacks throughout the day. They can often feature cooking methods, recipes, and sometimes even detailed nutrition breakdowns.

I'm a registered nutritionist... Here are my reservations with 'what I eat in a day' videos

It’s important to acknowledge that the majority of these videos are well-intentioned, aiming to promote positive messages. Whether they’re showing that food is fuel, demonstrating balanced eating habits inclusive of all food groups without labelling any as ‘bad’, promoting plant-based food consumption, or simply providing meal inspiration.

Despite their popularity, here are some of my reservations.

Fail to address individual needs

These videos often overlook the fact that eating habits need to be tailored to individual needs, such as our lifestyle demands, training, personal preferences, and health conditions. It’s not a ‘one size fits all’ situation.

Under-reporting food

They may not accurately represent reality, often presenting a ‘cleaner’ image by leaving out certain foods. It’s unlikely someone will document everything they consume in a single day, creating an incomplete picture.

Calorie counting challenges

Voiceovers may attempt to quantify nutrition – such as providing calorie counts – yet these can be misleading. Individual calorie needs vary greatly and accurate tracking is very challenging. Read our article 'Does calorie counting work?' for more information on the topic.

Encourage unhealthy comparisons

The videos may inadvertently imply that viewers should copy their diet to achieve a similar appearance, leading to feelings of guilt if their diets differ. Could also create a false perception of what constitutes ‘healthful eating’.

Potential agenda

These videos can be influenced by brand endorsements or sponsorships, raising questions about the authenticity of the content presented.

What should your daily focus cover when it comes to nutrition?

We often prefer simplicity, but in this case, there’s no ‘one size fits all’ or the perfect diet. The key is to prioritise diet quality and variety rather than fixating on the calorie content. Consider incorporating some of the below tips:

Plant-based

This doesn’t necessarily mean vegan. Instead, it aims to prioritise a variety of plant-based foods, like whole grains, pulses, nuts, seeds, fruits, and vegetables.

Fruit and vegetables

Aim to mix this up each week. We are creatures of habit but a colourful array ensures a diverse intake of essential nutrients.

Protein-rich foods

Opt for those that also offer a variety of nutrients, like fish, legumes, tofu, quinoa, nuts, and seeds. Also remember to spread your intake throughout the day.

Starchy carbohydrate

Use to form the base of the meal, and choose high-fibre options.

TL;DR

‘What I eat in a day’ videos are gaining popularity, providing viewers with a glimpse into other’s daily nutrition. If you’re tired of the same old lunch every day, they are great for inspiration and meal ideas. However, it’s important to be cautious. Whilst they may spark creativity, they often fail to address individual dietary needs and may not be a true replication of one’s diet.

The key takeaway is to prioritise variety. There’s no one-size-fits-all approach to nutrition, so don’t feel like you need to compare your dietary needs to someone else’s.

Words: Jess Stansfield RNutr, Huel Nutrition Team

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