I am so excited to present this episode this week – I heard Christine Palumbo speak at our OKAND state meeting and I wanted to share her message because it’s important to understand the generational differences when we do our jobs. Many new ideas and processes came to my mind when we were talking because it’s just so phenomenal to think about how we can change a few little things and appeal better to our audience based on their frame of reference.
Christine Palumbo, MBA, RDN, FAND BIO
Christine is an award-winning dietitian and principal of Christine Palumbo Nutrition, a nutrition communications practice in Naperville, Illinois. Her entrepreneurial career includes freelance writing, corporate wellness, private practice, nutrient analysis, corporate consulting and dietetic education. She pens the Good Sense Eating column for Manhattan Family and several other New York Parenting magazines.
Christine is frequently featured in print, broadcast and social media and has hundreds of interviews under her belt. A highlight of her career was the day she was a guest on the Oprah Winfrey Show. She also once debated the late Dr. Robert Atkins of the Atkins Diet Revolution book fame on television.
She has received every possible award from the Illinois Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics, including Outstanding Dietitian of the Year. She received a Bronze Award from the Parenting Media Association for outstanding work as a columnist. A graduate of St. Catherine University in St. Paul, Minnesota, Christine was named the University’s Outstanding Alumnae, the highest honor given at St. Catherine. She also received the prestigious Four Pillars Award from Nazareth Academy in LaGrange Park, Illinois.
A current member of the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics Nominating Committee, Christine has served on numerous national committees and on its Board of Directors and was also named a Fellow.
Christine’s website is christinepalumbo.com
[00:00:00] You’re listening to the nutrition experts podcast featuring guests who take the scientific talk about food and break it down for practical use. You’ve heard the phrase you are what you eat. Come find out what that really means. Experience conversations with experts in the field of nutrition and understand the power of food for our health wellbeing and beyond. Now here’s your host registered dietitian and nutritionist M athea Ford.
Mathea Ford: [00:00:26] Hi there. It’s Mathea. Welcome back to the Nutrition Experts Podcast. The podcast featuring nutrition experts who are leading the way using foods starts today, right now with our next guest. It’s great to have Christine Palumbo on the show today. Christine welcome to Nutrition Experts. I’m excited to have you on the show and share your expertise with my tribe.
Christine Palumbo: [00:00:48] Hi Mathea! And I’m just as excited to be here with you so thanks.
Mathea Ford: [00:00:52] It was exciting to listen to your presentation at Oklahoma Dietetics Association meeting last month and I wanted to talk to you some more because I thought it was a very interesting topic. So, the topic we’re going to talk today a little bit more about is generational trends, food differences. That type of stuff. So, what made you interested in that topic?
Christine Palumbo: [00:01:17] You know I have always been interested in learning about what makes people tick.
Christine Palumbo: [00:01:25] I noticed that you have a Master’s Degree in Business Administration as I do which is a rarity among Registered Dietitian/Nutritionists and I remembered for one of the classes being at a library and there was a whole magazine publication about psychographics and it was not just looking at demographics of people but other types of people are interested in it that drives their behavior. So, I’ve always been fascinated with that. I’m also very interested in the younger generations. I’m a boomer. I’ve got a sister who is believe it or not Gen X and I have three children who are millennials and of the millennial children two of them are married and have kids. One was recently married no kids yet. So I’ve always watched with great interest how they eat, their attitudes towards nutrition. I like to see how they grocery shop, how they cook and especially because the millennials are very much interested in eating out. You know how often they eat out.
Mathea Ford: [00:02:37] Fascinating! So, can you tell me or talk a little bit about the biggest concerns that the different generations have when it comes to nutrition? So, kind of go through each generation and maybe your their concerns related to nutrition?
Christine Palumbo: [00:02:54] Absolutely. So, first I’m going to start with the silent generation. These are people who were born between 1930 and 1945 so they are older folks. They are very interested in healthy aging and they are also interested in brain health, preventing dementia. Many of the Silent Generation members are in excellent health. They’re the subscribers to the newsletter such as Environmental Nutrition or Tufts University Health Letter and finally, Nutrition Action which is published by CSPI. And then again, there are people of the silent generation who are in poor health and those who have also passed away.
Christine Palumbo: [00:03:40] So those who are still at good healthy want to stay healthy as long as possible and they want to keep their wits about that they want to stay keep their brain healthy. So that’s the Silent Generation and then we move it to the next generation the Baby Boomers. So, those are people who were born between 1946 and 1964 and along with the Silent Generation, the Boomers want to keep healthy brains keep keep their memory keep their alertness. It’s message for those who are still working. They want to stay healthy for their grandchildren if they have any or those who are about to be born and they also want to engage in the anti-aging. They, a lot of boomers don’t feel like what they feel like they’re the exception. They think that they could prevent aging. They also think that they can cheat death which is impossible you know. As the pastor of my church says every so often during his service he says “None of us are going to get out of get out of this alive.” That’s that group and then we move it to Generation X. It’s a it’s a it’s a smallest group sponsored a generation and those members of that group are born from between 1965 and about 1980. And just a little aside the only group for which there is a formal definition by the U.S. Census Bureau is the Baby Boomers, Gen Xers and everybody who comes before or excuse me comes after that. There’s a little bit of squishiness when it comes to the d ividing mark with their ages or their years of birth.
Christine Palumbo: [00:05:23] So Gen Xers are parents of college students in some cases they are parents of grown children but usually they’re in college or high school and perhaps even still in middle school. Gen-Xers as well as the millennials which we’ll talk about in a moment. Gen-Xers are very interested in taking care of themselves so that they can take care of their kids. They are very busy with various types of sports, marching band and so forth so they need to have the energy to keep up with their their youngsters or kids and they’re also interested in their children’s nutrition so that the kids can perform well at school, boost the test scores, get it good schools and launch successful careers. They’re also interested in their kids nutrition or sports. That’s Gen-X. So, the millennials were born from approximately 1981 to about 1994. Although I have seen to about 1997. So, again there is no formal definition no agreed upon definition of who the millennials are. The way I like to look at it it’s probably not necessarily fair but I think of the millennials as the children of the baby boomers. But that that’s just Christine’s definition. So, this is the largest generation the millennials have eclipsed the Baby Boomers as the largest generation in this country. And they again they’re starting to. They have kids at home. Some of them h aven’t yet form to households but they are very seriously in the market if you will for the forming households and settling down and h aving children and then Generation Z. So, another term for Generations Z would be the post millennials or even the iGen. They were born from approximately 1995 or again maybe 1998 to about 2012.
Christine Palumbo: [00:07:38] So, I think of these people as today’s current college students say the 18 to 22 year olds, high school students and then younger than that and they are [gosh] there are just all over the place in terms of having the money to spend, knowing how to cook, being interest nutrition. This last generation is the most ethnically diverse and so that influences their enjoyment of an interest in a variety of foods, spicy things, foods from different countries. They’ve even shaken up what we offer types called Fast Food. You know we’re with the industry likes to call quick service restaurants. They’re not going to the traditional typical quick service restaurants like Burger King, McDonald’s, Wendy’s but they’re expanding to places like Chipotle. It’s an interesting group to watch. There’s definitely some overlap in the interests in food and eating habits of millennials compared to Gen X but there are just distinctions.
Mathea Ford: [00:08:49] So I’m a Gen-Xer and my kids are the i-generation. And I have noticed or Gen Z whatever you might call it. I’ve notice that they’re very in tune to environmental concerns so they hear of things on TV or whatever they want to know why you know things are happening and they seem to get a little bit more of the news and that may just be my family. But they seem to be concerned about waste, about our throwing things away, they want to make sure we’re recycling. So, I don’t know. Is that any sort of trends or?
Christine Palumbo: [00:09:32] Well, you know I don’t have any data to back this up but my hunch is due to my own personal experience. And I think it’s the age at which they are Mathea.
Christine Palumbo: [00:09:43] Because I recall that what by millennial children were in middle school in particular they were very interested in the environment, very interested in recycling and all the things that you’re talking about. And in fact the recycling craze really took off when the millennials were in school, were in elementary school, when they were at middle school. And so I think it’s I think it’s just something that is part of the life cycle I think is just an interest that they have. So what I recall from the time is that the millennials got their parents to recycle. They came home from school and they said to their Baby Boomer parents we need to be doing this. And that’s what the recycling boom really happen. Now, what’s happening now that’s new and has happened over the last maybe five years is the extremely important issue of minimizing food waste and that to me is a new horizon. I think that there’s a lot out there. If you look at articles about food waste, restaurants are doing their bests to minimize it. I know i n my own suburban Chicago home for years, my husband and I have a little system where we put out some containers at every bit of food waste that I can put in these compost containers, I do. Even coffee grounds that are in paper filters. Those go out there and they all decompose. And in fact just this past weekend, my husband went to one of the containers and dug out the beautiful black crumbly compost and put it on top garden squares in preparation for planting our tomatoes and our herbsthis coming weekend.
Mathea Ford: [00:11:40] I used to travel a lot and they used to change the sheets on the Hotelbeds every night and never encourage you to hang up your towels.
Mathea Ford: [00:11:51] They get you fresh towels everyday. And now when I get to a hotel I noticed “OK, we’re going to change the sheets except her you know unless it’s your third night or something” and they’re constantly encouraging you to improve the environment so y eah reducing waste. Can you talk about specifically about what the Baby Boomers? Because I think yes younger generations have some health care concerns at times. But as the Baby Boomers age as they become Medicare eligible. What effect are they having on health care and how we deliver and how we give them health care as they get older?
Christine Palumbo: [00:12:30] Baby boomers are currently aged 54 to 72. And that is a very wide range in terms of where they are in their life stage and in their health. So, they actually have the demographers have actually broken this down to two cohorts – an older group ages 63 to 72 and the younger group ages 54 to 62. So the 63 to 72 most of those are eligible for Medicare. Some of them are joined Social Security. And whereas the younger ones they’re not. The Baby Boomers as I mentioned earlier. They are interested in anti aging. So, one example and I mentioned this I believe when I spoke in Oklahoma last month in the state of Florida there are clinics that are popping up where they offer blood transfusions, drawn from millennials at up to $300,000. And so the Baby Boomers are spending. They’re spending their children’s inheritances to get transfusions from young people. That’s an extreme.
Christine Palumbo: [00:13:55] Another area where the men are involved is they’re taking testosterone in order to look and feel younger. Unfortunately, these men are serving as guinea pigs because there is not much research on safety s pecially the l ong term safety of t aking testosterone. Another area where Baby Boomers are have changed things is in the area of weight management. And of course you and I and most of our listeners are well acquainted with the overwhelming evidence or preponderance of overweight and obesity in this country. You know I think most of us know that two in three Americans are considered overweight based on their body mass index and one out of three is considered obese. So, what the baby boomers are doing in terms of weight management, it’s not so much how they look although that is there is some aspect to that. But they’re using weight management, weight loss is a pragmatic tool to prevent illness. And it’s actually a physical emblem of good health. So in other other words, they watch you slim down so that they look healthy and there are so many boomers who are single for a variety of reasons and they want to look attractive for the opposite gender. So, that’s one thing. And then something about Baby Boomers having to do with food when they were younger in their 20s and 30s they were at the leading edge of many contemporary food and beverage trends. So, these include fresh and less processed foods and beverages. Baby Boomers because they have many of them have time if they are retired or semi retired they go out to eat a lot even if they’re not retired. A lot of boomers who are empty nesters and in other words their kids have left home.
Christine Palumbo: [00:15:52] And so they have time and they have money to go out to eat. So, they eat out a lot. And in many cases I’ve noticed just anecdotally just from people that I know with this generation, the women were the primary meal procurers. They did the meal planning, grocery shopping, cooking and cleanup. And guess what? They are done. They are s o done with cooking and so they want to go out to eat. And I think the husbands gladly go along. So, they’re eating out a lot. They go to a variety of restaurants. In some cases they take their kids out or even their grandkids if applicable to either a quick service restaurant or a fast casual like a Panera. So, they eat out a lot and you’re a dietitian, I’m a dietitian. We both know that eating out at restaurants of any type is associated with or calories taken in for most of us and therefore some weight gain. So, there is a bit of a conundrum there. Yeah. And then the Baby B oomers. You know the women have they’re either postmenopausal or actually most of them are postmenopausal because the average age of menopause is 51 and if the youngest baby boomer is 54 then most of them are postmenopausal. So, there is a general weight gain and tummy gain after a pause for women. But when they go out to eat they’re taking it more calories than they blame menopause or maybe they’re take blame medication for their weight gain but maybe they should just eat at home a little bit more often or order or taking smaller portions when they eat out.
Mathea Ford: [00:17:38] Well, you know I have had people tell me that like you said the Empty Nesters. Sometimes, specially if you’re single, it’s almost easier and cheaper to eat out because you don’t have the leftovers, you don’t have to go to the grocery store and you don’t have to fix you know maybe they were used to fixing bigger portions so it’s an interesting justification for eating out.
Christine Palumbo: [00:18:05] Yeah, I think it’s not so much a cost saving. I think the justification primarily is “I am sick of cooking.”.
Mathea Ford: [00:18:11] Yeah or they’re still working and you know their spouse maybe still working so and they don’t have all these other activities, it’s also a social experience to eat. Food is a wonderful opportunity to sit down and talk if you put your phone down. Believe it or not. Yeah. So. So, you talked a little bit about how Baby Boomers kind of experience food differently or have had changed some trends. Can you talk a little bit about the other generations how they experience food or how they interact with food differently?
Christine Palumbo: [00:18:49] Sure. Well, let’s touch briefly on the silent generation in contrast to their grandchildren and perhaps even great grandchildren. They are accustomed to eating three square meals a day. There is very little snacking that takes place with the silent generation. It just wasn’t part of the culture when they were growing up and when they were younger. And I happen to think that’s a good thing. I think that snacking has just gotten out of hand in this country. And I think that that has contributed to some of the weight gain that we’ve had.
Christine Palumbo: [00:19:26] You know we dietitians have said for years oh you should eat you know many small meals and don’t allow yourself to get too hungry or don’t allow your blood sugar to get too low and people would hear the you know multiple. If we said multiple small meals I think they heard the word multiple. They didn’t hear the part the small part. So, little snacking. Again they are tired of cooking, they go out to eat a lot. And as you mentioned it’s a social experience for them. They and again they take it. They like to go do places like McDonald’s and it’s quick, it’s inexpensive, it’s predictable and they take their grandchildren there. So, that’s the Silent Generation. Now, Millennials they sure have done a lot in terms of their eating habits. They’re very focused on healthy and convenient foods. But they also like to indulge their senses. So, they expect healthy convenient and indulgent foods based on what the USDA, the Amber Waves posts they say that millennials spend more of their grocery money on prepared foods and also pasta, sugar and sweets compared to other generations. What’s really heartwarming as a parent of two daughters and a son, millennials who are married or have live in partners they share the shopping responsibility between the genders. So I say “yey” for that. And even parenting has changed, Where co-parenting is the norm and the dads are nearly just as likely to grocery shop as the moms do these days. And when they go to the grocery store both the men and the women, they are really big on the use of technology so they use apps and they use recipes that they access while they’re shopping.
Christine Palumbo: [00:21:32] So, they might come across a you know an item that’s on sale or they just see something that strikes their mood and rather than trying to you know just passing that item up because they don’t know what to do with it. They access recipes via the apps on their mobile devices, looking for recipes in that way they have all the ingredients. Millennials are big label readers. Yey! They are bigger label readers than the general population. In fact about 65 percent look on the product label. And that’s greater than other generations. What millennials are big on though Mathea is the brand story behind the food product. The brand story, so they’re looking for the origin, the certification and the authenticity. I was at a grocery store last week in my town and it’s just a it’s Jewel and I believe they’re part of Albertsons. It’s a store that has been in the Chicago area for dozens and dozens of years. It’s just a staple. And I was making out some pears, Bartlett pears and there was a sign attached to the pear display with the picture of a farmer – a female farmer. Pretty she had a hat on, you like a kind of a cowboy hat and it talked about the farm and had her name and it said these Bartlett pears are from this farmer and this farm and it gave a location. You know just outside of the Chicago area and I was I was kind of blown away by the store that had it as well as the type of product.
Christine Palumbo: [00:23:21] So, that’s that’s something. So, millennials really want to know what’s in their food and where it came from and that demand for information is growing. And it’s comforting to millennials as well as Generation Z. You know knowing a little bit about their food and the company that it comes from are the farm or the farmer. It comforts them and something else about millennials which I find fascinating is that they’re making their food choices based on their value system. So, it’s a part of saying you know I want to feel healthy or I want to identify with the food that I eat. And that is a shift from previous generations. So, more about millennials they really like evolved flavor profiles. They are very interested in ethnic and evolved flavor combinations. It’s actually become a cliché to assume that Millenials love S riracha the red hot sauce. And in fact McDonald’s introduced a Sriracha burger last year in sales of Sriracha and hot sauces are way up. Millennials are into too. I am not even sure how to pronounce says Poke. P-O-K-E, it’s a r aw fish salad from Hawaii and Shakshuka which is a poached egg and tomato recipe f rom the Middle East. There are Pinterest boards dedicated to these foods and more you know fascinating to me and then what other thing if we have time with the millennials and it is they’re looking for new ideas when it comes to cooking and they’re also time challenged. So, as dietitians, we can help them by giving them advice, we could provide instructional videos on YouTube or on our websites or blogs. We could create listicles for them. That’s a combination of the word list and article.
Christine Palumbo: [00:25:27] So of course nobody wants to read a full article any service bulleted or everything is a list. Community groups are are big in Pinterest, just huge resource for people who are looking for authentic recipes that millennials are drawn towards.
Mathea Ford: [00:25:48] Was just going to say you know that’s very interesting with the recipes and the apps because my husband and I do use an app when we go grocery shopping and you get mark it off and keeps us all updated so we can split up in the grocery store and get everything. But with the videos and in that same app you can look up recipes you can watch a video and see how something is made or. And I’ve noticed that my kids who are that iGen love watching YouTube videos like that is there TV now.
Christine Palumbo: [00:26:24] YouTube is the biggest social media platform.
Mathea Ford: [00:26:26] I believe it because my kids will watch. They have favorites and they know these peoples names. And it is really sad to me like a year ago, I was watching Jimmy Fallon when I get ready to go to bed. And there were the two guys on there. And people are going to laugh at me because I don’t remember their exact names but it was Reid and somebody in there like Science guys and they all do these tests but they were YouTubers and my daughter walks into the room and she’s like “Ohh! These and such and such are on Jimmy Fallon” and like I had no idea who these guys were so but they’re they’re… It’s that ability to kind of build their audience on YouTube on that social network.
Mathea Ford: [00:27:12] But yeah, there’s all kinds of recipes, all kinds of information on there that I think is just very easily consumed and they enjoy consuming that information that way.
Christine Palumbo: [00:27:24] I think you hit the nail on the head very easily consumed. Yes.
Mathea Ford: [00:27:28] Yes. Something that they can pick up and eat that’s healthy. Yeah. Yeah. So, I’ve been a dietitian for 21 years. I know you’ve been a Dietitian for a little while too. So, lots of things have changed since we became dietitians. I, for one remember first learning about food labels in my college c lasses and when they were getting ready to come out. So, there was not even food labels on everything when I first became a Dietitian. So, can you tell me what’s your favorite thing that’s changed in nutrition thought that has happened kind of since you become a dietitian over time for men to now?
Christine Palumbo: [00:28:07] The first one to first welcome change is the recognition that plant based fats are actually helpful. I remember when I was in school and for my early years of my career where the advice was to eat a low fat diet for health as well as for weight management. And now we realize that it is the quality of the fat where the fat comes from that makes a big difference and that a low fat diet isn’t beneficial. In fact, it can be harmful in one of my first jobs I was a Cardiology Dietitian and I was teaching classes to the heart attack victims or people had had heart attacks and their families and people who had cardiac surgery, the coronary bypass surgery and I would tell them they had to avoid nuts because nuts were high in fat.
Christine Palumbo: [00:29:06] And then I w ould go home and I would eat nuts and somehow so I had to tow the party line if you will and say eat low fat, avoid nuts because they’re high and fat. But my instincts told me that nuts were healthy. That they were good. So, that’s one welcome change. And then the second one is related. And that is the recognition that a plant based diet offers a wealth of health benefits and that we should try to fill our place with plant foods and eat animal protein such as meat more of a condiment or as a small you know a side dish if you will. So, b oth has to do with plants. I know and as a dietitian I ‘d been asked a question so many times you know “what’s the healthiest food or tell me what I should eat or how many and what percent of calories should I eat from carbs, protein, fat or you know just basically t ell me what to eat?” And now, my advice is concentrate on whole unprocessed foods and most of your calories should come from those and then you can augment with some other things but plant foods and that meat and animal proteins you know you can still eat them but it’s smaller portions and even skip a day or two.
Mathea Ford: [00:30:33] How can are these and other nutrition professionals or people who are into nutrition, stay on top of trends and yet information on trends from the place that they can trust?
Christine Palumbo: [00:30:46] Well, you know a couple of suggestions here one is to basically keep your eyes and your ears open.
Christine Palumbo: [00:30:52] What are your friends asking you about when you go to the hair salon or nail salon? What are you overhearing? What types of conversations are you overhearing? So, that would be my first tip is just stay alert and to be aware of what people are asking you. Another is when you’re getting ready for work in the morning and maybe you have a news program on The Today Show, Good Morning America, CBS This Morning or some of the other programs. What are some of the topics that they’re covering? Are they bringing out questions about? Are they bringing out topics such as a new diet fad or what is the latest “super fruit” or “super food” and I use those terms in quotation marks because in my book, and I think a lot of people’s books any food that grows from the ground is a superfood. So, you know be aware of you know what you hear in the broadcast media also maybe you’re listening to radio, you might hear some information there. Scan headlines of some of the major newspapers and magazines so New York Times, Wall Street Journal, Washington Post, USA Today, Time Magazine. Every once in a while actually quite often there are articles pertaining to that. When I was preparing for this discussion, I saw an article that had been published in The Washington Post and it said that the coconut oil craze was over and my first reaction was I didn’t know that because coconut oil, coconut fat and all things coconut has been huge over the last few years. But apparently a couple of years ago that fad has more or less passed away and we’re on to other things.
Christine Palumbo: [00:32:52] And I didn’t know that. So that was interesting. And then there are other dietitians and people who are involved in the food industry. There are all sorts of free electronic newsletters that you can subscribe to. So GMA, SmartBrief, FoodNavigator.com, the International Food Information Council has an annual, it’s either annual or bi annual survey of consumers and it’s a wealth of information. There are people who are interested in the grocery industry. There is a website called Food Dive. And then finally Supermarket Guru. That’s Phil Lempert. And he has interesting pieces every so often. So, all these provide free free newsletters that can appear in your inbox daily. And I know sometimes when I just get busy it’s like oh I can’t deal with it so I just delete them so I don’t even worry about missing something.
Mathea Ford: [00:33:54] Yeah! Cause it’s gonna pop up multiple places and start being things that you hear over and over and then go look a little more.
Christine Palumbo: [00:34:01] Very good point. Very good point. Yes!
Mathea Ford: [00:34:04] Well, Christine I want to thank you so much for being on the podcast today. It was a pleasure to have you on our show. I know my listeners have learned a lot about differences generations and kind of what changes and what stays the same over time. So, if listeners want to connect with you what’s the best way to do that?
Christine Palumbo: [00:34:24] Well thank you for inviting me Mathea.
Christine Palumbo: [00:34:26] It’s been fun talking about one of my favorite topics and yeah sure if anybody would like to follow me I’m on pretty much all sorts of social media and you can connect with my social media via my website. So my Web site is ChristinePalumbo.com and I will spell that because it sounds a little bit different over the air Christine is spelled with a C so it’s C H R I S T I N E P as in Peter A L U M as in Mary, B is Boy O .com. So, on my website I put media articles where I am quoted and again my social media – Twitter, my Facebook page, Instagram and LinkedIn – I have all of those concentrated on the home page of my website. And at some point this year I will likely put together a newsletter just haven’t had the chance to formalize that but that is on its way so that way you don’t even have to go and look for my information.
Mathea Ford: [00:35:46] Great! Well, guys this has been another great episode of the Nutrition Experts Podcast. The podcast that is all about learning more so you can do more with nutrition in your life.
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