Ahead of the curve: students and clean eating


At Magnet, we’ve been looking at the way students stock their cupboards and how their diets, cooking habits and culinary influences vary from their parents and grandparents.

Interestingly, we found that students’ diets are becoming healthier. Clean eating, for instance, appears to have had a lasting impression on them. Our data shows us that students are six times as likely to try and then stick to different lifestyle diets, while 69% of students said that the rise of various contemporary food trends are shaping the way they think about food.

‘Clean eating’ and ‘raw’ diets are leading the way, alongside more established diets such as vegetarianism and veganism, which are two of the most popular lifestyle trends. Moreover, this means students are moving away from how they have been stereotyped in the past, with 31% of students saying they are committed to making a conscious effort to eat healthier food.

Students are avoiding ready meals and are being more adventurous in their diets, with more than one in five (21%) saying they are ditching foods they consider unhealthy. Handier than ever in the kitchen, these socially and ethically conscious students are embracing culinary trends wholeheartedly, and there seems to be no sign of that slowing down.

However, we found that if you opened the kitchen cupboards of anyone in the UK, regardless of age, you’d be sure to find a tin of baked beans. This cupboard staple has managed to keep up with the times and outlive many years of food trends gone by!

How is social media having an impact?

Digital food channels on social media have found ever increasing popularity with students and parents. Almost 30% of students cited Instagram as the primary influencer on their food choices, with 35% of parents saying they gather a lot of inspiration from Facebook.

These social channels get millions of viewers and followers, covering everything from perfectly prepared, cheap steaks, to two-ingredient soufflés. With easy-to-follow recipes for those of all skill levels, cooking has never been so accessible or well-marketed.

Our compulsion to share what we eat has been a driver of this. The popularity of meal flaunting on Instagram can be seen in the frequent use of hashtags such as #foodporn, which has over 136 million posts, and #foodie, with 71 million posts. With such high volumes of these types of social posts, those who are more active on social media are more likely to be influenced and change the way they choose to eat.

In what might be perceived as a complete role reversal, students are choosing foods with greater nutritional value and are leading the way with their dietary choices. They are stocking up with healthier dried and tinned foods, with lentils and quinoa rising in popularity, while, interestingly, parents and seniors are actually stocking their cupboards with more junk food than students.

Who’d have thought it!

What foods are trending in the student world?

From the study, we have created a barometer to showcase which foods are ‘hot’, which are ‘not’ and which are ‘non-movers’ in the student world, along with supporting commentary from specialist registered dietician, Nichola Ludlam-Raine and blogger at; Nic’s Nutrition.

*the barometer is created from foods selected by students as the ‘most used/must have’ products vs ‘least’.

Explore the Magnet blog to find out more about how our diets are evolving.