10 Ways Online Food Magazines Have Changed the Way We Eat

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The Internet has changed our lives in many ways, whether it be at work or at home. One of the most significant changes has been in the availability of information. We have access to almost 200 million active websites with information about every topic under the sun. Combine this proliferation of information with powerful search tools and the result is a library available to almost every person that contains almost every piece of human knowledge.

One way that the Internet has altered the way we live is through online food magazines. Through the information provided by online food magazines, readers can better understand the source of what they eat, creative ways to enjoy their food, and the health impact of their food choices. But in addition, online food magazines have changed the culture around food. Here are ten examples of ways that online food magazines impact the way we eat:

Cooking at Home

People who normally would be discouraged from cooking at home can find the courage to attempt it by reading online food magazines. Online food magazines often run features with the best food recipes for college students, working parents, and even young children. These recipes are often geared toward the skill level, time, and tastes of their target audience. For example, a feature article for busy parents would probably have a title like “30 minute dinner recipes” while a piece geared toward college students might be titled “Single pot dinners.”

In the U.S., people consume 31% more packaged food than fresh food. By encouraging readers to cook at home, online food magazines expose more people to the benefits of home cooking, including:

  • Home cooked meals are usually healthier than fast food or take out food because you control the amount of salt, sugar, and other unhealthy ingredients go into your food.
  • Eating at home encourages socialization, particularly within families. In fact, children who eat meals with their families have a lower risk of depression, substance abuse, and eating disorders.
  • People who cook their own meals have a greater awareness of how much they are eating and, thus, have a lower risk of obesity.
  • Meals prepared at home are less expensive than store-bought or restaurant meals.
  • By planning ahead and doing meal prep on your days off, preparing meals at home can save time during your busy week.
  • People on special diets, such as those with diabetes or high blood pressure, can tailor their food to their health needs. Similarly, people with food allergies or sensitivities can avoid triggering a reaction by cooking their own food.

Creativity

Many readers of online food magazines are looking for new ideas for creative ways to prepare and serve food. For example, someone may see Brussels sprouts at the grocery store and search for Brussels sprouts recipes. Or a reader may have planned a date night and need some recipes for a romantic dinner. By searching for recipes and articles on online food magazines, these readers can get ideas and perhaps develop some ideas of their own.

This is one way in which online food magazines work hand-in-hand with television cooking programs. Television cooking programs work well for their entertainment value and for showcasing the talents of the celebrity chefs that host them. However, television cooking programs sometimes lack the depth of discussion that can come from written articles and photo spreads in online food magazines.

Moreover, online resources are searchable and can be printed or bookmarked for later reference. This gives them greater utility for use in the kitchen. That is, few people would try to cook while watching a television cooking show. However, online recipes and tutorials are intended to be used as references while cooking. This gives them a utility distinct from television cooking programs. Yet they are complementary to them, providing a depth of understanding to match the breadth provided by cooking shows.

Education

One way that online resources provide depth is through their treatment of specialized topics. For example, there are nearly limitless sources online about celiac disease and gluten sensitivities as well as gluten-free cooking. These resources help people living with gluten sensitivities understand their conditions and teach them how to eat delicious food that is also safe.

Similarly, some people, for moral or health reasons, follow special diets such as paleo, vegan, vegetarian, or carb-free. Online resources can provide people who follow special diets with with helpful information, such as:

  • Benefits of the diet
  • Nutritional deficits that can result from the diet
  • Recipes that satisfy the diet
  • How to eat out and remain within the diet’s rules

Clever tips like these can help people adhere to the diet and realize all its benefits. Generally speaking, the less boring a diet is, the more likely a person is to stick with it. Online resources can educate a person so that, for example, vegans are not stuck eating salad for every meal. Rather, they are able to understand the principles of both the diet and its benefits to create dishes of their own.

Travel

One of the most enjoyable aspects of travel is the ability to try local dishes, particularly at authentic restaurants, cafes, and food stands. These hidden gems may be known to locals, but were often overlooked by visitors until online food magazines exposed them to the wider world.

For example, a visitor to Madison may search online food magazines for articles about the best ice cream in the city. Similarly, a tourist in Boston may want to sample the best clam chowder listed in an online slideshow. Online resources provide these readers with the same (or better) information that locals have about the city’s food scene.

Moreover, online food magazines can help home cooks recreate unique recipes at home. A visitor to Florence, Italy can produce a perfect gnocchi when she returns home because of the recipes found in online food magazines. This allows the traveler to relive her experiences abroad, but also introduce her family and friends to the wonders of travel.

Expanding Horizons

One of the greatest accomplishments of the Internet is bringing the wonders of the world directly into the home. Just a few years ago, sushi, hummus, and macarons were either unknown or exotic. Now these dishes can be found in nearly every major grocery store chain in the country. Without overstating their influence, online food magazines contributed to this phenomenon.

Another way that the Internet has expanded readers’ horizons is through the introduction of technology and gadgets used in the preparation of food. Slow cookers, for example, have entire websites dedicated to recipes and techniques for their use. The same could be said for BBQ grills, pressure cookers, and meat smokers. The influence of the Internet on the popularization of these forms of technology was significant.

Online food magazines also introduce new techniques to the cooking public. For example, the Internet has popularized techniques such as brining, salt dome baking, and sous vide cooking. While these techniques were known to professional cooks, the public at large learned about these cooking processes only recently through television cooking programs and online food magazines.

Awareness

Awareness about food has arisen from many concerns, including the impact of food on climate change, risks of insecticides and herbicides to consumers, and the use of antibiotics and hormones in raising meat. Climate change, for example, has raised awareness of where food comes from and how it is processed. While the “farm table” movement did not originate from environmental concerns, the idea of eating locally sourced and produced food does dovetail with the need to reduce the carbon footprint of foods.

Similarly, the Internet has help raise awareness about the potential toxicity of insecticides and herbicides for both consumers and the environment. Pesticides can enter the food chain through runoff from fields that carry the toxic chemicals into surface water and groundwater sources. Even if these sources are not directly consumed, fish, wild animals, and domesticated animals can consume the contaminated water and pass toxins to consumers who eat their meat.

Antibiotics and hormones in meat production can raise concerns both about the dangers associated with the meat itself, such as the risk of creating antibiotic-resistant superbugs, but also in the conditions the animals are raised in. Antibiotics and hormones are used in meat production because producers raise animals in cramped and crowded conditions. By treating animals with antibiotics, they become resistant to disease. Similarly, by treating animals with hormones, they grow quickly enough to be harvested before becoming injured or sick. The Internet has fostered an environment in which information about the practices used to raise farm animals can be exposed to the public. This creates pressure to improve the conditions for both the animals and the consumers who eat the meat produced from them.

Ideas for Gatherings

Whether it is for holidays, weddings, or other events, many readers look to online food magazines for catering ideas. These publications provide many resources for recipes and dishes appropriate for hosting an event that are creative, traditional, or exotic.

For example, someone hosting a holiday get-together can use online resources to find recipes for traditional holiday recipes. A Christmas party can be made unique by finding and using a long lost figgy pudding recipe or a wassail from the Christmas carols.

Similarly, readers can expand their horizons by hosting a traditional Japanese New Year’s party even if they have never cooked Japanese food before. Online resources abound for both Japanese recipes as well as the traditions and customs surrounding New Year’s day in Japanese culture.

Even something simple like a football tailgate party can be enhanced by searching for recipes online. The Internet can turn conventional party snacks into something memorable for guests.

Remodeling

The kitchen is central to American life. According to one survey Americans spend the majority of their time at home in the kitchen and living room. It stands to reason, then, that the kitchen should be comfortable, functional, and attractive.

When undertaking a kitchen remodeling project, many people look to online food magazines for ideas. Online food magazines can provide ideas for new materials that make kitchens safer and more durable. Similarly, layouts and floor plans for making kitchens more efficient can be found online. Finally, there are many websites that provide design ideas to create a modern kitchen, rustic kitchen, or any other style of kitchen that fits your personality.

Equally importantly, online food magazines also profile designers and contractors who may be able to help you create the kitchen of your dreams. These pieces may not just give you ideas — they can put you into contact with the designer or contractor who can turn your ideas into reality.

Celebrity Chefs

Celebrity chefs are, for many readers, like rock stars. These celebrity chefs do not just entertain and educate, they can promote an entire lifestyle. For example, some of the most famous celebrity chefs cook, design, and even philosophize.

This is nowhere more true than the celebrity chefs who write travel blogs and travel articles. These blogs and articles help readers understand countries that they are unfamiliar with. More importantly, they teach readers about the people who live there. These articles not only broaden horizons, but help people to understand that we are all citizens of the world who have more things that unite us than divide us.

Healthier Food

One of the most important contributions of online resources is the spreading of scientific information that help consumers make healthier food choices. Although this information can sometimes be contradictory, such as the back-and-forth on the nutritional value of eggs, the Internet helps to spread this information broadly. This places the choice whether to eat these foods directly into the hands of the consumers.

For example, a recent subject of research has been the role of added sugars in the diet. Sugars were seen as relatively benign (except for the occasional dental cavity), until research began to show its role in many diseases and health disorders, such as heart disease, diabetes, and cancer. Encouraging people to reduce their sugar consumption can have widespread effects, including better health, reduced reliance on prescription drugs, and decreased healthcare spending.

This is so important that many online magazines are dedicated to healthy recipes and healthy eating habits. While nutrition is always one of the highest priorities, knowing what not to eat is sometimes just as important as knowing what to eat.

Healthier foods are particularly necessary for those who already have health conditions, including obesity, high blood pressure, and high cholesterol levels. For people with these conditions, online recipes can be essential to their health without depriving them of the enjoyment of eating.

Food is more than fuel. Food can bring us joy and togetherness. Food can carry traditions and expand horizons. Information about the sources of our food, its nutritional value, and delicious ways to prepare it can only enhance our enjoyment of it.

However, online food magazines do not just provide recipes for us to make what we like. They can challenge us to try new dishes that can provide a completely different experience than we are accustomed to. This can make us healthier, smarter, and more worldly. These resources and their lessons benefit us as people, but also benefit the environment and teach us our role in the world as a whole.

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