The Hypocritical Diet of the Hipster

October 20, 2014 U.S. News and World Report

Hipsters, once a group that only listened to underground music and derided the mainstream, have become a force in the food world – urging others to eat healthy, eat local and treat food with respect.

While many hipsters love to eat healthy, and pride themselves on their diet of organic foods, kombucha and kale, they also love to indulge in calorie-heavy craft beer and bacon. And when it comes to their health, nutrition experts say these two lifestyles definitely don’t offset.

Zachary Tucker, a 27-year-old bartender from Brooklyn, New York, is a self-described hipster who does yoga, shops regularly at the Union Square farmers market and bikes to work. He also brews his own beer and cures his own bacon. “I love to eat,” he says. “I exercise regularly and eat tons of fruits and vegetables, so if I want to have a few pieces of bacon or drink some local beer regularly, I don’t think it’s going to kill me.”

The Healthy Hipster Habits

Hipsters tend to be conscious about what they put in their bodies and often eat a primarily plant-based diet, which is linked to a reduction in risk for heart disease, diabetes and other health problems, says Kylene Bogden, a registered dietitian with Cleveland Clinic. “The nice thing about this population is that they eat organic and local,” she says. “Their diet usually doesn’t contain many preservatives or processed foods, which is a great way to eat.”

The plant-based diet alone can help counteract other unhealthy habits – like beer consumption, says David Leal?, a nutritionist with the Texas A&M Health Science Center?. “Fruits and vegetables are wonderful for us,” he says. “A lot of people struggle with getting these into our diet regularly. Eating several helpings per day, even if they’re not organic, can help us balance out the other poorer aspects of our diet.”

Plus, hipsters are physically active, often eschewing a car for a bike, Bogden says. “People don’t realize that they walk and bike everywhere,” she says. “There’s a greater calorie deficit when you’re that active, which is why they can go out to eat more often and not gain weight.”

Then There’s the Unhealthy Habits?

Healthy habits are great, but when your unhealthy habits are as bad as your others are good, you can run into a problem, says Jonathan Dugas?, a kinesiologist and director of clinical development at ?The Vitality Group, a company that designs wellness programs for employers. While the hipster diet is high in fruits and vegetables, it’s also high in bacon. “Bacon is high in saturated fat, which raises their risk for heart disease,” he says. “It’s also high in calories, which makes it dangerous to indulge in frequently.”

In addition to bacon-wrapped-everything, craft beer – which tends to be higher in calories than mainstream ales and lagers? – is a mainstay in a hipster diet. ?“Stouts, IPAs and porters are the highest in calories, but also some of the most popular,” Leal says.

How to Maintain a Balance

So does the organic kale soup cancel out the beer-battered bacon? Quite simply, no. And you shouldn’t look at your healthy habits as an excuse for indulging in your unhealthy ones – it just doesn’t work that way, Dugas says. In fact, this type of thinking can be dangerous. “Working out doesn’t mean you can eat whatever you want for the next three days,” he says. “You shouldn’t think of it like that, because when you do, you’re more likely to overeat and overindulge.”

Instead, try to find a balance of the two, Leal says. You shouldn’t drink a six-pack of craft beer and eat a package of bacon every night, but you don’t have to make those items completely off-limits if you really want them. “No one meal is capable of throwing off all our efforts toward health,” he says. “It’s just a question of how frequently we indulge.”

Tucker admits his two diets are at odds with each other. “I know it sounds weird,” he says. “But just because I like to eat healthy the majority of the time doesn’t mean I want to eat healthy all the time. I eat healthy so I can live long enough to enjoy life, and indulging in bacon and beer is one way I do that.”

You shouldn’t indulge every day, Dugas says,? but there is no hard and fast rule for how much is OK. “You don’t want those unhealthy activities to be your norm,” he says. “You want to be choosing healthy activities and behavior as a rule, and as an exception indulging in those unhealthy meals.”

Balance can also come from making smarter, healthier choices about your diet every night, Bogden says. “When you drink beer you’re drinking a carbohydrate,” she says. “If you drink one with dinner, choose a meal that’s lower in carbs. This will help prevent getting that dreaded beer gut.”

Striking a balance isn’t just for hipsters, Leal points out. It’s something everyone should be striving to do – whether your favorite band is an underground folk rap trio or Taylor Swift?. “We all kind of have this problem,” he says. “We all want to think we do more good than bad, so it’s OK to sneak in some ice cream every night. But more often than not, we’re lying to ourselves.”

So be honest about your diet and find this balance, Bogden says, and you’ll be able to indulge in whatever you want without feeling guilty. “An organic diet doesn’t offset the bad habits,” she says, “but it allows more leeway for the craft beer and bacon. Exercise regularly and eat healthy, and you won’t feel bad when you decide to have that drink.”

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