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How Social Media Affect Our Eating Habits

Food posts on Instagram

A new study shows that images of healthy eating on social media or on screens can positively influence eating behavior. We reveal what’s behind it.

Fluffy waffles with ice cream and sumptuous chocolate sauce, a juicy hamburger with crispy fries or a pasta casserole gratinated with plenty of cheese: social media is full of images of delicious food that whet your appetite. But not only sweets, hamburgers and Co stimulate our hunger. Social media images of healthy eating are also said to have an influence on our eating habits. This is now shown by the results of a recently published study.

Social Media: Do Images of Healthy Eating Lead to Healthy Eating?

A new study from Aston University in Birmingham, England, has examined the effect of social media images of food on our eating habits. According to the study, social media users who look at pictures of healthy food are also more likely to eat healthy foods – especially if these images have a lot of “likes”.

Almost 170 subjects aged 18 to 48 took part in the study. They were shown either picture of fruits and vegetables, of less nutritious foods such as cakes and biscuits, or neutral images of home furnishings. Some pictures had many likes and some few. Afterward, the participants could help themselves to a buffet of grapes, cakes, and biscuits. It turned out that after viewing social media pictures of fruits and vegetables that had many likes, grapes were increasingly used.

“The results of the study suggest that not only images of healthy foods on social media, but also those that have a lot of likes, can make people opt for healthier foods instead of less nutritious foods,” summarizes Lily Hawkins, who led the study.


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Social media could help improve eating habits

The German Nutrition Society recommends five portions of fruit and vegetables a day as part of a healthy diet. But according to a YouGov survey, two out of three Germans only eat two servings of fruit or vegetables a day.

The English study now suggests that social media could be used to improve nutrition and thus increase the daily amount of fruits and vegetables, for example. “By seeing on social media what others approve of as food, our eating habits can be positively influenced and lead to greater consumption of healthy meals and healthy snacks,” comments Hawkins.

Professor Claire Farrow, also from Aston University, adds: “The results suggest that online information about what other people eat is not simply passively looked at, but that this information can influence our food preferences and choices. Especially when we think a lot of other people like certain foods.”


The British study only gives initial indications of how social media can influence our eating habits. Still, it seems understandable that images of healthy eating are more likely to inspire a healthy diet than those that whet the appetite for less nutrient-dense foods such as sweets, cakes, or fast food.

So: If you want to eat healthier, it might help if you follow social media profiles with healthy food and recipes. It’s definitely worth a try.