The article has been automatically translated into English by Google Translate from Russian and has not been edited.

From convenience foods to detox: how the fashion for 'healthy eating' has changed in 80 years


Source: Billboard Daily

For the last 80 years, the food industry has been swinging like a pendulum: semi-finished and fresh farm products, meat diets and vegetarianism, fast food and fast-casual. "Billboard Dailydecided to follow how the concept of "healthy food" has changed over the course of eight decades.

Photo: Shutterstock

Creating a fashion for anything, including in the field of food, is an integral part of the culture of human development. The concept of “healthy nutrition” certainly took place long before the XNUMXth century - in Ancient Rome and Ancient Egypt there could well have been their own power food. This topic is very broad, but over the past century, “healthy food” has traveled a huge and fascinating path of market niches, and the American market has played a significant role here.

What is "healthy food"

“Healthy nutrition is a rational, balanced diet that ensures the intake of nutritional biologically active substances in accordance with physiological needs, maintains the functional state of the body at a high level, organized taking into account the principles of sparing nutrition,” is written in the methodological recommendations “Hygienic assessment of students' diets”, approved by the head of the department of Rospotrebnadzor for the city of Moscow and the director of the Research Institute of Hygiene for Children and Adolescents of the SCCH RAMS in 2008.

“Health food is a vegetarian food grown with organic methods, without additives, eaten for dietary purposes,” says the Collins English Dictionary.

“Health food is food containing only natural substances that are beneficial to health,” says the Longman Dictionary of Contemporary English.

“Health food is especially healthy food; usually products produced organically without the use of chemicals,” according to Webster's New World College Dictionary.

“Health food is healthy food because it does not contain chemicals, and also contains too much sugar and fat,” writes the Cambridge Dictionary.

As you can see, there is neither particular harmony in opinions, nor clarity of wording. In Russian dictionaries, the concepts of “healthy eating”, as well as “healthy food”, “healthy food”, “healthy food”, “healthy food”, simply do not exist. At the same time, of the above, it is the first explanation that seems minimally speculative.

There is a lot of controversy, but scientists have not yet proven that natural and organic products are more useful than genetically modified ones. Or that spirulina, gluten-free bread, and yogurt can help you live longer or improve your health. But real examples from history prove that propaganda of the benefits or harms of a particular product used to turn out to be a session of mass hypnosis. Sometimes harmful, sometimes neutral, but always accompanied by a leak of money from the pocket of the consumer to the companies involved in the conspiracy, well, or, let's say, a hoax.

1940s: "green revolution" and new technologies

The Green Revolution began in 1940 with the creation of new technologies in agriculture: crop failures in Mexico prompted the government to seek help from the Rockefeller Foundation, which sent a group of agronomists there; it contained a geneticist and breeder Norman Borlaug, who developed new disease-resistant, highly productive wheat varieties. This made it possible for Mexicans not only to provide themselves with products, but also to earn exports.

The US imported about half of Mexican wheat and then, in the 1950s and 1960s, became its own producers and exporters. The term "green revolution" did not appear until the 1970s, when Borlaug received the Nobel Prize for his contributions to agriculture. The name refers not to environmental friendliness, as one might think, but to the introduction of new technologies, including the use of pesticides and herbicides in agriculture, which helped establish mass production and save a growing population from hunger.

In parallel, another branch of agriculture is developing - organic farming. In the UK, 1940 comes out the “Look to the Land” manifesto of Lord Northbourne, which for the first time uses the term “organic agriculture”.

1950s: metropolitan areas, commercials for convenience foods and fast food

The post-war period and the era of the baby boom led to the active development of industrial production: everything cheap, multifunctional and easy to prepare flooded the market. Chips, breakfast cereals, toast, instant coffee, canned meats and more - new products have emerged, and already existing local ready-to-eat brands have gone national. The turnover of Frito-Lay, which produces Layʼs, reached $100 million at this time; Maxwell House instant coffee, whose history originated in Tennessee after the war, began to be drunk throughout the country; the canned Campbell soups that made artist Andy Warhol famous became a symbol of the era of mass consumption, and SPAM ham was encouraged to be added to every dish.

A cult of working women appeared: now her task was not to stand at the stove all day, but to work her shift and, after returning home, quickly prepare a hearty dinner. This could be done not only from semi-finished products - it was this idea that was well sold to the public.

So the food industry, which assumed conveyor technology, began to develop at lightning speed. The population began to face problems of health and overweight, people began to pay attention to what they eat.

In the middle of the XNUMXth century, much that is now considered harmful was promoted as beneficial. And one of the most surprising examples is smoking. Cigarettes on advertising posters and magazine covers were smoked by celebrities, doctors, pregnant women, and the kids said: “Before you scold me, mom, maybe youʼd better light up a Marlboro.” The promotion of smoking has been associated with both ignorance and aggressive marketing by manufacturing companies. Cigarettes were affordable, legal for everyone, positioned as an elite product and therefore symbolized success in society.

Organic farming was slowly but surely developing: Natural Food Associates appeared in Atlanta in 1953, which brought together purchasers and suppliers of organic products. And at the beginning of 1960's, the book “Silent Spring” was published on the environmental impact of industrialization in general and the negative effects of pesticides in particular. She attracted attention and influenced the development of the popularity of all "natural".

1960s and 1970s: California, vegetarianism, fitness

California, the most progressive region of the United States with its fertile lands, concentration of minds and financial flows of Silicon Valley, becomes a cult place: in the 1970s, the hippie movement and the beginnings of fitness appeared here - aerobics and running. Food is a great tool to promote the values ​​of all kinds of movements and political views. In the late 1960s and early 1970s, vegetarianism became one of these tools: at first, not in the aspect of healthy eating, but as an idea of ​​universal harmony as a response to industrialization and aggression in the world. From this follows the fashion for everything natural in food - but more on that later. In the meantime, a word about vegetarianism.


Plant foods have been an important part of the human diet since long before the term “vegetarianism” was coined in the 1840s in Great Britain: such diets were practiced in ancient Greece, India, ancient Egypt and elsewhere, and its adherents were called Pythagoreans. Until the beginning of the XNUMXth century, meat was an inaccessible product for most of the population: production and storage technologies were not so developed. But in the middle of the XNUMXth century, the situation changed radically. The development of technology has led to a drop in prices, made meat more affordable and thus influenced the increase in its consumption.

In 1970, the idea of ​​abandoning meat was seen by people not only unhealthy, but also unsuitable for survival, but in spite of everything vegetarianism became popular.

Several books have influenced the spread of vegetarianism in the United States. The first is Francis Moore Lappé’s Diet for a Small Planet published in 1971, which promotes plant foods. The idea, obviously, was picked up by a man as a protest - an icon of the American counterculture and the hippie movement Stephen Gaskin. He and a group of like-minded people went by bus to Tennessee, where he founded the commune of The Farm (it still exists), in which they promoted life in harmony with nature. At the same time, the fashion for local products begins (in the commune, by the way, they set up a vegetable garden), small-scale production and fetishization of life in the countryside, as opposed to the urban one.

There is a magazine about vegetarianism, the Vegetarian Times (the printed version still exists, there is also a website) and vegetarian restaurants. New wave of development of vegetarianism was received in 1987 year with the publication of the book "Diet for New America" ​​by John Robbins, where all information was gathered in support of vegetarianism: the horrors of the meat industry, stories about the dangers of meat and the benefits of plant food, and so on. New ideas come to megalopolises, where people, living in a frenzied rhythm, begin to think that their lifestyle is the cause of their poor state of health.

Fashion for craft production

In response to the faceless industrial bread, fashion for artisan breadmaking arises; Nathan Mayrvold, the ideological inspirer of the culinary laboratory of Modernist Cuisine, which publishes an epic series of books under this name, tells us about the growth of industrial production, which has produced a grand series of books about bread —Modernist Bread: The Art and Science), on the website of the American edition of Eater.

The market of organic products continued to grow, the demand for local products and environmental friendliness grew. In 1973, California farmers founded California Certified Organic Farmer, the first organization to certify organic farming in the United States.

Industry of false opinions

In the 1970s, there was a new wave of fashion for yogurts, they became a panacea for everything - up to dysbacteriosis. The Danone yogurt company, operating since 1919, in the 1970s, after merging with a glass company, entered the international level. The success was due to the fact that, unlike the main instigator of the myth about the endless benefits of sour-milk mixtures, Ilya Mechnikov, Danone guessed to prepare fruit and sweet yogurts, which were also promoted all their lives as products that promote longevity.

Danone published books and posters with Ossetian and Georgian old men on the cover. They really were old-timers, but obviously they did not drink yoghurts or kefir. Nevertheless, the advertisement was successful.

The benefit of manufacturers, corporations and politicians from the industry of false opinions is one of the most important reasons for what we all eventually came to in the 2017 year. You can read more about this in the lecture notes of bartender and amateur biologist Ivan Yufryakov.

1980s and 1990s: organic, green logos and fast casual

The idea of ​​healthy nutrition is primarily the idea of ​​megacities. It arises where there is good agriculture, and develops where there is money - we will soon return to California, but for now Texas.

In the late 1970s, protest culture spawned a dozen small veggie stores in Austin in the late 1984s, and two of them, SaferWay and Clarksville Natural Grocery, merged into one to form Whole Foods Market, then the largest "healthy" store (that's what the word whole in the title) of products. Whole Foods developed successfully: in 1990, it opened outside of Houston, Dallas, New Orleans, and five years later, outside of Texas, in California. In 1999, the company acquired several stores of this kind, and in 100, the XNUMXth store under this sign opened in California. The main purchasing department is now located there; The company was recently acquired by Amazon.

Sales in the organic products industry in the United States grew rapidly, and in 1990, Congress passed a law governing national organic standards.

From fast food to fast-casual

At the beginning of 1990, Panera Bread chains appear with decent author's bread and Chipotle Mexican Grill with the idea of ​​handicraft production, maximum freshness and abandonment of frozen products - the first places in the fast-casual format. This term was coined in 1993 by Paul Barron, author of the book Chipotle Effect, an American sociologist and analyst at the restaurant market, gave him this explanation: people want better ingredients, products from manufacturers with a face, interesting dishes and new experiences - in short, food with a story. And so that it is fast, but not necessarily the way it used to be, people are ready to wait for the product to be of high quality. The idea of ​​a mass healthy meal came just from his presentation.

Chipotle grew spontaneously until McDonald's, which had been in business since 1990, noticed a new trend in the late 1955s and invested in the company. Prior to this, Chipotle owned 16 restaurants in Colorado, and after McDonald's sold it in 2006, the network had about 500 locations throughout the country - this certainly indicates the potential of the segment. The Chipotle phenomenon is analyzed by the same Eater. However, fast casual becomes mainstream later - only in the early 2000s.


“The fashion for healthy food would not have appeared if there had not been a fashion for unhealthy. Almost all the giants of fast food consider for themselves the transition to a healthy course, but for them it is difficult on a large scale, and for all in their own way. One business is developing because the opposite business needs it - from these initially small companies they gather human resources with new knowledge. Alternative steaks are needed by those who produce premium steaks, and so on.

Coca-Cola has invested in Innocent Drinks, McDonaldʼs in Chipotle, although globally it did not draw conclusions from this deal to switch to healthy eating lines. The international market is younger and more flexible, and all McDonald's experiments with healthy food take place there. An example of innovative campaigns: in Hong Kong, you can assemble your own burger, and in Italy, the country of pizza and pasta, launched a gluten-free burger.

“McDonald’s” in many markets switched from ready for made for you when the guest’s order is being collected directly under him - this idea, by the way, came under the influence of fast-casual. Now fast food is still growing as a traditional format, but at some point it will inevitably begin to fall and will definitely die in developed markets. ”

Unfair fight with fat

Another iconic trend of the early 1980s was the anti-fat campaign. This is the subject of a large article by Brian Welsh in Time, in which he writes that scientists were mistaken when they declared fat the number one enemy, and analyzes the attitude towards it in the United States for decades. He talks about how the taste of his childhood (it was in the early 1980s) was the taste of skim milk, because the dangers of fat were trumpeted everywhere: the US Senate published a set of dietary rules that urged Americans to replace fatty meat and dairy products with vegetables and fruits ; The US Department of Agriculture has issued a dietary guideline calling for the avoidance of cholesterol and all kinds of fats.

It worked, and American habits began to rapidly change: supermarket shelves filled with low-fat yogurts, and eggs for breakfast were replaced by cornflakes. This, of course, changed the business. From 1977 to 2012, U.S. consumption of “high-calorie” foods did indeed fall, while consumption of supposedly “healthy” carbohydrates increased—after all, bread, cereals, and pasta were at the base of the USDA pyramid. Decades later, studies were conducted that showed that Americans do not get healthier from such a diet. And the new idea will again play a huge role for everyone in the world - from manufacturers and businessmen to ordinary people.

Slow Food Movement

Another example of the confrontation between industrialization and the fast food system is the Slow Food movement, which arose in 1989 in Italy. Slow Food is: preserving local culinary traditions, using and respecting local products, understanding the importance of knowing the origin of food and its quality. Adherents of the movement believe that all aspects of our lives - food, culture, politics, agriculture, the environment - are closely interconnected and, by making a choice in the direction of certain food products, we influence the manufacturing industry, and ultimately the world.

The movement immediately became international: the manifesto of Slow Food was signed by 15 countries. Now the organization has thousands of representatives around the world, including in Russia. The philosophy of the movement is professed by chefs, restaurateurs and manufacturers.

2000s and later: bfight against GMOs, fashion for organic, superfoods

The main trends of 2010 of the year are gluten-free nutrition, organic products, superfoods, farm products, vegetarianism, veganism and raw food diet, all kinds of diets and detox. All this existed in different forms before, but now it is, perhaps, at the peak of its popularity.

Gluten-free markings began to be used in the USA from the 2004 year, and this was done freely until the 2013 year, until the rules became regulated. On the myths associated with gluten, you can find a lot of interesting articles with a lot of historical facts and links to scientific research, as, for example, in the New York Times. More about these topics in the materials of the Daily Billboard: about the fact that we are lying superfoods, you need to know about gluten and yeast, and everything about detox.

Industrial food pretending to be "healthy"

The appearance of these and many other trends is a logical development of a big trend towards everything “natural”, which also manifests itself in the corporate style of brands and the interior of establishments. The rebranding of McDonald's in recent years is the clearest example. In recent years, the company has begun to use the phrase "farm products" in advertising, changed the corporate identity (the use of green and wood in the interior) and the menu - removed some classic items like macchiken and introduced Gourmet burgers. As Paul Barron said, albeit more expensive, but better. The same thing happens with other similar networks.

Literally at the beginning of July, KFC opened its first "healthy food restaurant" in China. Why healthy? Because aprons are green, greenery in the interior and a wooden counter with trays. The same inedible salads and french fries, but in a new wrapper. Imagine, unfortunately, it works.

Quality food, not screaming about yourself

Fast casual continues to gain momentum, and in 2001, the first Shake Shack in Madison Square opens in New York - a cafe with burgers, hot dogs and milkshakes of the famous restaurateur Danny Meyer's Union Square Hospitality. A large restaurateur opened a place with a menu similar to the conventional Burger King, but with food made to his usual high restaurant standards.

Then there was nothing similar in the world, but today a similar cafe is a fashionable common format. After 2010, Shake Shack began to open throughout the country and beyond, including in Russia. Seemingly simple food, but prepared not from frozen semi-finished products, but very high-quality products, according to recipes that are not inferior to really interesting restaurants in ingenuity, but quickly and without white tablecloths.

GMO vs. natural

Fashion for everything “natural” means including fashion for something historical. The idea of ​​returning to the origins (for example, fashion for paleodetes, that is, the Stone Age) and, accordingly, the struggle with innovations are being promoted. Under this theme, the fight against GMOs exactly fits: more on this in the comments below. We only note that in the 2012 year, the American Medical Association officially stated that there is no scientific basis for special labeling of genetically modified products.

The same companies are lobbying opposite trends.

Summing up, one main conclusion can be drawn - the fashion for certain products and formats does not arise by itself. We ourselves do not play the main role in shaping trends, as we would like to believe. The consumption of convenience foods, canned soups, breakfast yogurts, skimmed milk and organic products is imposed on us by manufacturers, businessmen, and politicians.


“If you do not alternate crops, yields fall dramatically due to the accumulation of disease and soil depletion. In our country, as a rule, trends are set by large farms. If they plant another crop on the field, then they do it in large numbers, and, naturally, all this needs to be sold. If the product is new, it is quite difficult to make it - there must be demand. Therefore, it begins to create.

In the past few years, Latin American quinoa culture has become famous outside the homeland. In the near future there will be a re-injection: while it is being transported from the Andes, but a large European company, Alsur, has recently taken up cultivation on an industrial scale. Quinoa is a very profitable crop: it is easy to grow, it has not accumulated pests and diseases, it is practically not necessary to process it, it itself suppresses weeds and generally grows like grass. So now we will hear everywhere that quinoa is the most useful of all the useful cultures.

Who benefits from putting GMOs in a bad light

Another vivid example of lobbying is harm to GMOs. The first genetically modified cultures were created for conveyor technologies: for the complete mechanization of production, so that even weeding machines were not needed. The main application of the gene modification was the strengthening of resistance to herbicides, in particular to Roundup: they water crops, it poisons all the weeds, and the genetically modified plants into which the protection chain is inserted remain. The introduction of new technologies led to the struggle of transnational corporations for primacy. Roundup is produced by Monsanto Corporation, the world leader in plant biotechnology, which, of course, is unprofitable for agricultural machinery manufacturers, chemicals like Bayer pharmaceutical company.

The ultimate beneficiary of propaganda of harm to GMOs has not yet been found, and, most likely, he is not alone. You can sin on Bayer, on combine harvester manufacturers - a lot of those who have lost their earnings due to the introduction of a new technology.

There is a version that the American Soybean Association is behind the injection of information about the dangers of GMOs: it is beneficial for them to grow everything only in the US - for soy money goes from all over the world, people are provided with work, and if technologies are transferred to Russia, demand will be less because we ourselves will start growing according to their technology.

In parallel with the attitude towards GMOs in Russia, the feeds used by our manufacturers contain genetically modified soybeans grown in the USA. We prohibit GMOs from ourselves and buy everything from Americans, and it is very profitable for them. By the way, every new variety and hybrid in Russia must be registered, and in the USA, hybrids of two lines of registered GMOs are registered under a simplified scheme - there it is considered safe and natural. So, when the State Duma voted unanimously for a ban on GMOs, the American specialists at Monsanto laughed: it's all the same that now banning cars and introducing horses.

Considering that this whole century will pass under the sign of genetic engineering - and it is used in pharmacology, cooking, the food industry, agriculture, and construction - the one who has more potential will take over the world. Now this States - there is concentrated more than half of all world studies; they invest billions of dollars in science. This was understood by the Chinese, who gave 43 billion dollars for the transnational company Syngenta, which also deals with biotechnology. "Bayer" underestimated genetic engineering and is now merging with Monsanto, so as not to be on the sidelines, because otherwise China will rule the world. "

Speculation on the topic of use, labels

In Russia, labels on products are not equal to advertising: federal law does not apply to information about a product, its manufacturer, importer or exporter, placed on the product or its packaging. It’s impossible to write in a laptop advertisement that it is the fastest if it’s not a proven fact, but this doesn’t concern the packaging of goods, and we get what we get: “from everyday stress” on sweet tins “Delicious help”, “normalizes weight” on the package with spirulina, “farmer” where there is nothing farmer, and “without cholesterol” on the labels with vegetable oil, even though it cannot be there.

In addition to exaggerating the useful properties there is another interesting point - giving false meanings. For example, GOST Р 51074-2003 obliges to indicate on the label that the product contains unusual components of protein nature and genetically modified substances. The fact that it is necessary to indicate their absence does not say anything, however, manufacturers generously decorate the labels of their products with stickers “Without GMOs”, “Without Soy”, “Without Glutamate”.


The concept of "healthy eating" in the modern world is really closely related to vegetarianism, organic food and green labels. But what is it really? Are farm products equally useful? Cereal bars - a panacea for all ills or a brief throwing of energy into the body, not conducive to improving health? And the green color in the corporate style is a magic wand that turns fast food into fast-casual?

There are many questions, and the answers to them are just beginning to appear. In the meantime, our main task is to listen to ourselves and shake the noodles off our ears. Don't be like the characters in the Funny Or Die video about a time-traveling doctor who tries to keep people from consuming "bad" food. Look, this is a crudely abbreviated but funny version of the article you just read.

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