Ask the Expert: Sending Nutrition Messages to Gen Z
By Toby Amidor, MS, RD, CDN, FAND
Vol. 25 No. 2 P. 8
Q: I’ve heard that young adults who belong to Generation Z (Gen Z) prefer different methods of learning/education than previous generations. What are the best ways to reach Gen Z to educate them about nutrition?
A: This is a good question though not just for Gen Zers, as dietitians need to keep abreast of how all generations learn best so they can disseminate nutrition messages more effectively.
However, Gen Zers are a unique group—separate and distinct from all others.
First, Gen Zers were born between 1997 and 2012.1 They’re the most digitally connected generation, growing up with technology, the internet, and social media. The iPhone launched when the oldest Gen Zers were age 10, and by their teen years, they were connected to the web, Wi-Fi, and high bandwidth cellular service via their mobile devices. According to a 2018
survey, about nine in 10 teens go online at least multiple times per day.2 Given that these youngsters grew up with social media, constant internet connectivity, and on-demand entertainment, the implications of being raised in this environment have come into focus.
Characteristics of Gen Z
Gen Zers are more racially and ethnically diverse than previous generations and potentially are the most well-educated.3 In a Stanford University interview, Roberta R. Katz, PhD, a senior research scholar at Stanford’s Center for Advanced Study in the Behavioral Sciences, and coauthor of the book Gen Z, Explained: The Art of Living in a Digital Age, said that the Gen Zer “is a self-driver who deeply cares about others; strives for a diverse community; is highly collaborative and social; values flexibility, relevance, authenticity, and nonhierarchical leadership; and, while dismayed about inherited issues like climate change, has a pragmatic attitude about the work that has to be done to address those issues.”4 Katz also explains that Gen Zers developed early skills with digital tools that enable them to be self-reliant and collaborative.
How to Target Them
Since Gen Zers get their information through the internet and social media, RDs need to reach them online. Gen Zers prefer social media outlets such as TikTok and Instagram vs Facebook and Pinterest. So, providing reputable information on these sites is the best way to target them.
According to a blog post on the University of Massachusetts Global website, here are five ways RDs can teach digitally savvy Gen Zers, which can be applied to nutrition education.5
1. Use online educational software, such as interactive presentations and educational games, to keep them engaged.
2. Avoid lecturing Gen Zers. Converse with them instead and encourage a back and forth dialog.
3. Avoid writing large blocks of text when providing information, since this may lose their interest. Instead, use visuals such as charts, graphics, and multimedia.
4. Be available online via instant messaging, since they like immediate engagement and view this as an effective means of communication.
5. Explain why the information presented is relevant, important, and applicable to the real world. Gen Zers want to know whether the information is pertinent to them and how they can apply it to their lives.
When educating Gen Zers, understanding who they are and how they best learn will help RDs get nutrition messages across. Gen Zers are fluent in the digital world and therefore need quick, up-to-date information that’s relevant to their daily lives. Using the various techniques discussed can help dietitians better target this audience to educate them about nutrition so they can live more healthful lives.
— Toby Amidor, MS, RD, CDN, FAND, is founder of Toby Amidor Nutrition (tobyamidornutrition.com) and a Wall Street Journal bestselling author. She’s written nine cookbooks, including Diabetes Create Your Plate Meal Prep Cookbook: 100 Delicious Plate Method Recipes and The Family Immunity Cookbook: 101 Easy Recipes to Boost Health. She’s also a nutrition expert for FoodNetwork.com and a contributor to U.S. News Eat + Run and other national outlets.
1. Dimock M. Defining generations: where Millennials end and Generation Z begins. Pew Research Center website. https://www.pewresearch.org/fact-tank/2019/01/17/where-millennials-end-and-generation-z-begins/. Published January 17, 2019.
2. Anderson M, Jiang J. Teens, social media and technology 2018. Pew Research Center website. https://www.pewresearch.org/internet/2018/05/31/teens-social-media-technology-2018/. Published May 31, 2018.
3. Parker K, Igielnik R. On the cusp of adulthood and facing an uncertain future: what we know about Gen Z so far. Pew Research Center website. https://www.pewresearch.org/social-trends/2020/05/14/on-the-cusp-of-adulthood-and-facing-an-uncertain-future-what-we-know-about-gen-z-so-far-2/. Published May 14, 2020.
4. De Witte M. Gen Z are not ‘coddled.’ They are highly collaborative, self-reliant and pragmatic, according to new Stanford-affiliated research. Stanford News website. https://news.stanford.edu/2022/01/03/know-gen-z/. Published January 3, 2022.5. 3 Generation Z traits today's teachers need to adapt to. University of Massachusetts Global website. https://www.umassglobal.edu/news-and-events/blog/generation-z-traits-teachers-need-to-adapt-to