- Some TikTok creators are filming “What I Eat In a Day” videos that show their daily food intake on a given day.
- Dietitians say these clips can be fun to watch for recipe inspo, but may be harmful for viewers who try to compare their own eating habits to people online.
An open-faced egg and salmon sandwich washed down with vanilla Pepsi; air-fried chicken paired with mini potatoes and a dollop of ketchup; a protein-packed yogurt mixed with fruit; colorful salad doused in tahini dressing; a sweet treat for dessert. That’s what TikTok user ‘intuitivecounting’ ate one day in early September, according to a video posted last month.
The video falls under TikTok’s #WhatIEatInADay hashtag, a trending series where social media influencers film the foods they eat in a day, in the order that they ate them.
Some creators will film only food, while others add in captions or voiceovers dictating the number of calories they consumed, or proportions of protein, carbs, or fats. Action shots of a person eating, meal prepping, or body checking—which is when a person repeatedly looks at their body to see if it has changed, in this case, before or after meals—are also popular.
Various creators have latched onto the hashtag, some who use it to promote intuitive eating, and others who use it to show off strict diets or food challenges. But while experts say these videos can be fun to watch for meal or recipe inspiration, they warn against basing nutritional decisions off of influencers.
“There are so many variables involved in people’s unique nutritional needs that cannot be captured in a 60 second TikTok,” Abbey Sharp, RD, CEO of Abbey’s Kitchen Inc., tells Verywell.
Are ‘What I Eat In a Day’ Videos Healthy?
Sharp, who is a registered dietitian, has accumulated a social media following for reviewing What I Eat In a Day videos on YouTube and TikTok, in which she adds critiques and suggestions to people’s meals.
Sharp says she loves watching the videos for meal or recipe inspiration. But what she doesn’t like them for—and what she warns younger viewers against using them for—is making comparisons.
“People’s fascination with what other people are eating is a little voyeuristic,” Sharp says. “It has a hint of disordered eating kind of flavor to it.”
Having struggled with an eating disorder as a younger adult, Sharp says she is keen to pick up on when this flavor grows too strong.
“More often than not, these What I Eat In a Day’s of people’s eating are grossly insufficient nutritionally when it comes to calories—and also are typically riddled with pseudoscience, a lot of like morality and dichotomizing around food, and all these unnecessary food rules that are just not based in science or evidence,” Sharp says.
Some unhealthy trends include the “frugivore diet” where a person eats only or mostly fruit, or the “carnivore diet” where they eat only or mostly meat, Sharp says.
“Any kind of diet trend that eliminates several or even one food group risks major nutritional deficiencies,” Sharp says. “You’re always going to have genetic outliers out there who can thrive on a diet that is extreme, but the vast majority of people who are watching are going to have serious health implications of eating a grossly unbalanced diet.”
Abbey Sharp, RD
There are so many variables involved in people’s unique nutritional needs that cannot be captured in a 60 second TikTok.
— Abbey Sharp, RD
One Person’s ‘Healthy’ Could Be Another Person’s ‘Unhealthy’
Thanks to misinformation online, creators can intentionally or unknowingly promote unhealthy habits when filming themselves eating too few calories or relying too heavily on a particular food group. TikTok viewers may look up to certain creators, and thus start to incorporate these unsafe food rituals into their own eating habits as well.
“Nutrition is seen as one of the only things that we have ‘control’ over when it comes to manipulating our bodies, other than fitness, of course,” Sharp says. “People are watching these other influencers, seeing what they eat, and then trying to copy them in the hopes that they will be able to change their body to look like that.”
But the science of nutrition doesn’t work like that, she says. And the same diet can have drastically different effects on different people.
Different studies show that factors like metabolism and appetite, as well as socioeconimic status, can impact people’s ability to lose and gain weight. And even people as genetically similar as identical twins can respond to food differently.
“We see one person is consuming in one day; we don’t know what they’re consuming the next day, the day before, how much activity they got, what their metabolism is, what their unique body needs are genetically,” Sharp says.
Combatting Toxic Trends With ‘Gentle Nutrition’
When Sharp comments on What I Eat In a Day videos, she may call out a creator’s low calorie count, or point out that they may not have wanted that second cup of coffee if they’d consumed enough protein earlier. But mostly, she’ll tell people the nutrients they can add to their meals to help fuel their bodies.
This approach is called ‘gentle nutrition,’ and prioritizes adding components to a meal rather than taking them away.
“Unfortunately, everything else out there is like, ‘remove this; this is toxic; this is bad… cut, cut, cut, cut, cut,’” Sharp says. “It has yielded a population who are watching these videos who are very scared of food, and very unsure about what they can eat, when everything is just being taken away from them.”
Often, Sharp suggests people add components that will turn their meals into “hunger crusher combos.” Her followers know her for this term, which describes a combo of protein, fiber, and healthy fats. She says the goal of the hunger crushing combo is to help a person consume a balanced, nutritional, meal, and feel most satisfied.
Your Food Is Your Fuel—And No One Else’s
Even as a dietitian, Sharp’s advice isn’t law, she says. While she intends to correct misinformation about nutrition, it is up to the individual to decide if or to what extent they want to incorporate her suggestions into their meal prep.
“My goal is not to tell everyone ‘these are the things you need to do,’” Sharp says. “In my mind, if this is what feels good to this individual, then great; that works for me.”
Sharp adds she encourages creators—herself included—to add disclaimers to their videos that remind viewers not to obsess over the video, and not to take them out of context: a single day, in one person’s life.
She encourages viewers to refrain from fixating on what an influencer is eating, and focus instead on what makes them feel satisfied, energized, and happy. And if a TikTok recipe fulfills that need—”I’m all for it,” Sharp adds.
By the way: She recommends the salmon bowl.
What This Means For You
TikTok ‘What I Eat In a Day’ videos can be fun to watch, but dietitians say not to base your personal food choices off of what you see online.
If you or a loved one is struggling with an eating disorder, doctors, therapists, and dietitians may be able to provide extra help.