Millennials are changing the food game

Restaurant portions have doubled in the last 10 years

YOUNGSTOWN, Ohio (WKBN) – Millennials, those born after 1981, are starting to change society in many ways.

They’re more likely to embrace technology. They wait longer to start families. And, they have very different ideas about food.

Christian Rinehart owns several restaurants in Mahoning County. At Mission Taco and Suzie’s Dogs and Drafts, he has had to make changes to keep up with his customers’ tastes.

“We saw healthy as low-fat or low-calorie and weight. Millennials see healthy as non-chemical and more organic and more natural,” he said.

Millennials want to know where their food is coming from, and they tend to shy away from anything that seems artificial. They’re more likely to spend on an organic or craft hot dog than the mass produced links of their youth, and that is forcing changes from the farm to the table to the restaurant.

Restaurants aren’t the only place you’ll see changes. Grocery stores and farmers are also evolving.

“Companies are trying to get away from using pesticides and using antibiotics in the animal meats, even Perdue [Farms]. They’re using oregano in the water now instead of antibiotics,” said Registered Dietitian Jessica Romeo.

“Even little discount grocery stores like ALDI, which are huge in Germany, are now here. They’re going non-GMO and a healthier approach,” Rinehart said.

Millennials are also always on the go, and that means grabbing food on the run. The U.S. Department of Agriculture says this generation spends 44 percent of their food dollars in restaurants.

Like many people under age 35, Abby Kawecki finds herself grabbing meals on the go often.

“It’s easier with school and everything. You have more time to just go grab something real quick,” she said. “You don’t really have time to prepare a meal before you come to class or go to work.”

That can be unhealthy, however.

Jayme Rarick, a Youngstown State University student, tries to balance her need to eat with getting where she needs to be on time. She said that can be a challenge because portion sizes at restaurants are usually much larger than recommended.

“I try, when I’m out, to eat until I’m full instead of eating the full amount. Just because the calories are incredible. You don’t know how much you are actually taking in,” she said.

The National Institutes of Health say restaurant portions have doubled in the last 10 years, and that could be contributing to record obesity rates. The following is nutritional information for area restaurants:

Dietitians say it is possible to eat a healthy meal at a restaurant. It’s all about portion control. They say to skip the adult meal and go for the kid’s menu.

The Mayo Clinic offers tips for determining proper portion size: