Feb 22, 2012 • By

Boomer nutrition

These days, the average person in the U.S. lives about 78 years. Because of this longer life expectancy, baby boomers are becoming more and more focused on “successful aging” or “extending the middle years.”

They’re doing this by paying closer attention to what they eat.

We’re calling this idea “Boomer nutrition,” and it’s the third in our series this week of “5 Food Trends for 2012.”

“I’d say what I’ve noticed from older consumers is they start to look a lot harder at what they’re putting in their mouth. In part, it’s because they have a lot more time to do it,” points out Karlis Nollendorfs, a senior Consumer Insights manager within our Health and Wellness Center.

Karlis keeps tabs on what aging consumers are doing. He’s noticing that baby boomers seem to be taking a two-fold approach to nutrition.

“They are probably starting to try to avoid what we call limiters. Sodium is a concern. Sugar is a concern. They are looking to cut saturated fats out,” explains Karlis. “At the same time, they are trying to introduce things into their diets that will help them live a good, active lifestyle. Fiber is big. Whole grain is big. Calcium. It’s the staples that everybody kind of knows are good for you.”

So what types of foods are baby boomers consuming?

Karlis says they are increasing their fiber intake with products such as Fiber One cereals and bars. Yogurt, particularly specialized health products such as Activia, is another food baby boomers are migrating toward.

In general, they are eating more vegetables, especially in soup.

Carolyn Gugger, a scientist at the General Mills Bell Institute of Health and Nutrition, focuses on aging from the nutrition perspective. She says it is common for baby boomers to modify their diet in hopes of achieving a particular health benefit.

For example, someone might eat more foods rich in omega-3s because they believe it will help them maintain a sharp memory. However, there are circumstances where consumer beliefs are ahead of the scientific research.

“Sometimes what consumers are seeking, or where they think there’s a specific health benefit, doesn’t align perfectly with the scientific evidence,” says Carolyn.

Not surprising, there are no magical ingredients or almighty foods that promise to improve and extend the middle years.

Karlis sums it up well.

“Most of the maladies and most of the issues that consumers face as they get older – whether it’s diabetes, whether it’s heart health, or whether it’s weight management – it comes down more to your overall diet and lifestyle as opposed to any one ingredient or food helping to address it.”

Editor’s note: This is the third post in a five-part series, “5 Five Food Trends for 2012,” as compiled by Consumer Insights at General Mills. Read about the other trends we profiled: “Free from gluten,” “Never shop or eat alone” and “Sustainability sustains.”