7 Things I Learned About Eating Better from Reddit

updated May 1, 2019
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Name just about any subculture, fandom, hobby, or niche obsession, and there’s likely a space for talking about it on Reddit. The massive online discussion site currently hosts over one million discussion communities (known as subreddits), focused on just about every subject matter or interest you could imagine. The topic of food alone encompasses subreddits one might expect (think: budget eating, beginner cooking tips, and grilling), along with many more you probably wouldn’t (like spaces for passionate fast food debate, shower beer appreciation, and “avocados gone wild,” to name a few). While Reddit’s “bro-cooking community” has gotten a bad rap for gross, bachelor-worthy food hacks, plenty of healthy discussion about healthier eating does exist — you just have to know where to find it.

I first stumbled into the world of food, fitness, and healthy eating on Reddit a few years ago, when I started a regular exercise regimen and felt compelled to learn everything I possibly could. As someone who regularly downs beer with my pizza and would possibly die defending my love for a sack-full of soggy steamed Krystal burgers, I’m certainly nowhere close to a nutrition expert — but a few years of perusing the collective encyclopedic knowledge shared in some of Reddit’s health-focused communities has armed me with plenty of recipe ideas, a new understanding of macros and portioning, and a newfound love for canned tuna packed in olive oil. Here are some of the tips, tricks, and acronyms I’ve soaked up along the way.

1. First and foremost, “healthy” means something different for everyone.

And whatever your definition is, you’ll probably find its corresponding tribe on Reddit. Anyone who’s hopped from one trendy diet to the next knows that no single way of eating is one-size-fits-all. The diversity of Reddit’s nutrition forums reflect that. From the high-protein, low-carb ketogenic crowd to Weight Watchers devotees to people who fastidiously count calories (that’s CICO, or “calories in, calories out”), there is almost assuredly a group of Redditors trading tips, swapping recipes, and offering support.

Personally, I try to integrate a few of these principles into a mostly intuitive hodgepodge of a diet (when I’m not scarfing down pizza, anyway) so being able to cull tips for high-protein offal dishes from r/Paleo alongside recipes for more plant-based eating in r/Vegetarian is like having a whole world of nutritional advice at my fingertips.

2. Everyone has their “secret weapons” they keep stocked in their kitchen.

Of course, this is a little different for everyone based on their nutritional needs and food preferences, but after learning that particular ingredients have cult followings in certain circles of Reddit because of their convenience and their nutritional profile, many of those items became staples in my own pantry.

For me, these go-to items include things like canned tuna, hard-boiled eggs, Greek yogurt, cottage cheese and, yes, Halo Top ice cream.

Nowadays, I tend to keep a few tins of tuna packed in olive oil in my kitchen cabinet at all time. Mixed with mashed avocado, salt, and your choice of seasoning, it’s a dead ringer for tuna salad (sans the mayo). And when combined with diced red onion, a can of white beans, and a squeeze of lemon juice, it makes a perfect chilled bean salad to keep in the fridge for quick meals.

I’ve always enjoyed cottage cheese on its own, but plenty of Redditors fix it up with tomato and black pepper for a savory snack, or fresh berries and honey for a sweet-tooth fix that packs a surprising amount of protein for the number of calories. And nothing beats a bowl of hard-boiled eggs in the fridge, ready to go: I see it as the ultimate portable snack. (I like mine salted and dusted with a pinch of black pepper, smoked paprika, or Ethiopian berbere.)

(Image credit: Stocksy)

3. No matter what your choice of diet is, planning is everything.

This is perhaps one of the first things most fitness and nutrition Redditors will tell you. If you want to be successful in pursuing a healthier diet, it’s all about setting yourself up for that success — especially if you’re simultaneously balancing other life demands like school, work, or feeding your family.

Cooking in bulk and measuring out individual portions ensures portion control and prevents spontaneous lunch outings or last-minute caving to UberEats deliveries. If meal planning isn’t your thing, look to r/MealPrepSunday, an entire community (with a quarter-million subscribers!) swapping tips for the most tried-and-true food storage products, best practices for freezing, and, of course, photos of their own bulk meal prep that usually inspire me to get off the couch and put my slow cooker to work.

4. Understanding calorie intake and macro breakdown can be helpful — and not as complicated as it sounds.

This isn’t everyone’s bag and, for some, it can take some of the joy out of eating, but there’s a reason that tracking your food intake works. Even if you aren’t committed to calculating the caloric value of everything you eat, having an overall understanding of nutritional macros — i.e., your gram-for-gram intake of protein, carbohydrates, and fat — has proven to be really helpful for a lot of fitness Redditors, especially those who like to nerd out on metrics. There’s a lot of helpful info on these subreddits about figuring out the right ratio for your body and activity level, tracking it (using apps like MyFitnessPal), and actually meeting those daily goals.

A common question on the women’s r/XXFitness forum, for instance, is usually about how to increase one’s protein intake without eating loads of additional calories — hence where I first encountered the love for aforementioned staples like hard-boiled eggs and high-quality Greek yogurt. And in researching this, you may even come to realize that you actually should be eating more. It may sound too good to be true, but some Redditors find that after sticking to an arbitrary low-calorie diet while dramatically increasing their physical activity level, they’re actually doing their own bodies a disservice by hampering muscle growth.

5. Correctly eyeballing portion sizes is an art form, but one you can learn.

Whether you’re Paleo, vegan, lacto-ovo vegetarian, or something else, understanding proper portions will almost always play into healthier eating. For instance, I’m a 5’0″ woman, so my daily calorie intake (and thus, the size of what’s on my plate) will look different from that of my 6’5″ husband. (Despite the inherent fun in matching his pizza intake slice for slice.)

For me, communities like r/1200isplenty or r/1500isplenty have been really illuminating. Even though 1200 calories a day is still a little low for my liking, it’s enormously helpful to see what a daily calorie breakdown can actually look like from breakfast to dessert to all the meals and snacks in between. No matter what your personal caloric threshold is, seeing a visual representation of a balanced caloric intake spread out over the course of a day can help give you a better understanding of how your own plates might stack up in comparison.

6. You’ll find all the healthy cooking hacks you could dream of. And there are far too many to list here.

Among almost all of these forums, users are constantly giving and receiving advice to questions like “What do I do with all this kale?” and “What’s a high-protein breakfast I can grab on the way out the door?”

As a home cook, I’ve found plenty of recipe inspiration, cooking strategy, and technique advice in these communities.

And if protein powder’s your thing, there’s no shortage of tips for integrating it into dessert recipes for a pumped-up brownie or mug cake.

7. It sounds cheesy, but there’s something to be said for solidarity.

Beyond the recipes, pantry staples, and food hacks, Reddit’s nutrition forums offer something a little more abstract but no less useful: support and inspiration. Even if you merely lurk in these channels, just reading through the ways users cheer each other on can make one feel inspired and maybe even a bit empowered. And if inspiration is lacking, my secret weapon will always be right here.

A quick scroll through that community almost never fails to encourage me to do better — even when I’m daydreaming about those Krystals.

Do you use Reddit to help with eating more healthfully?