Medically Reviewed by Kelly Kennedy, RD – Find balance in your eating habits, learn to make nutritious recipes, and reframe your relationship with food. These Black bloggers and Instagrammers show you the way.
Whom you follow on social media may play a role in whether you make or break your health and weight loss goals.
You probably already know that how you spend your time on social media has the power to affect your mood and potentially your outlook on life. But research suggests it may influence how you choose to fill your plate, as well.
A study published in June 2020 in Appetite suggested that Facebook users’ eating and drinking habits reflected what they thought their Facebook peers were consuming. Participants who completed a survey were found to be eating an extra fifth of a portion of fruits and vegetables for every portion they thought their Facebook peers ate. Researchers also observed a less-desirable effect: For every three portions of energy-dense snacks and sugary drinks they believed their Facebook peers were consuming, they enjoyed an extra portion themselves.
The most current U.S. dietary guidelines recommend a diet that prioritizes fruits, vegetables, lean proteins, whole grains, low- or nonfat foods, and unsweetened beverages over processed food, sweets, refined carbohydrates, saturated fat, and sweetened drinks. Following this eating approach may lower your risk of diet-related diseases such as heart disease, high blood pressure, and type 2 diabetes, says the agency. If you are a Black American, you are more likely to develop these conditions than your white peers, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC).
This is where these nutrition experts and bloggers come in. They understand the power of social media to spread their message that healthy eating can help you look and feel great. Some focus on plant-based eating, some promote body positivity along with the recipes they share, and one is focused on eating and thriving while living with diabetes. All are of African descent and seek to inspire everyone who visits their Instagram pages or websites.Eat Plants and Prosper
The Atlanta-based certified holistic nutritionist Whitney Miner believes in the transformational power of “food, fitness, and faith,” and evangelizes about that power to her 11,400 Instagram followers and visitors to her website Eat Plants and Prosper. Her site is chock-full of vegan recipes (containing no animal products) as well as tips relating to spirituality and yoga. According to the U.S. National Library of Medicine’s MedlinePlus guide, a vegetarian diet may help you to lose weight, lower your blood pressure, and reduce your risk of developing heart disease and type 2 diabetes.
Miner says a post on juicing has been especially popular among her followers. She has followed it up with a recent series of juice recipes, such as Razz Apple Juice with raspberries, apples, and carrots; and Golden Goose Juice with golden beets, spinach, and pineapple.
Her advice for healthy eating is: “Eat food, not too much, mostly plants. These seven words from author Dr. Michael Pollan, in the documentary In Defense of Food, changed my life and led me to where I am today. Essentially it means to eat minimally processed foods, be mindful of how much, and that the majority of what we eat should be plants.”
Enticing recipes such as Mediterranean-style fish in parchment and gluten-free carrot cake oatmeal pancakes help to draw about 50,200 followers to the Atlanta-based registered dietitian nutritionist Marisa Moore’s Instagram page and her eponymous website. She describes the site as, “a source for credible nutrition information and simple, approachable recipes to help women prevent chronic disease. Food is a key part of health, but I believe it should be enjoyed without restrictions. All foods fit.” Portion sizes do matter, though, which is why all her recipes include portion, nutrient, and calorie information at the bottom, with a neat slider that allows you to adjust the ingredient amounts to how many servings you wish to make.
Choosing a favorite recipe may be hard for you, because there’s plenty to choose from on the site. As for Moore, she says, ”It’s a toss-up between my smoky chickpeas and spinach — a true 15-minute meal — and my baked salmon cakes.” Having grown up in the rural South, Moore adds, “With a side of grits, the salmon cakes merge my past and present. I grew up eating salmon croquettes, so this recipe comes with nostalgia, lots of flavor and nutrition.”
As you decide which foods fit your healthy diet, Moore advises, “Think in terms of what you can add to your plate versus take away from it. You don’t have to give up your favorite foods or torture yourself with restrictive diets to be healthy.”
Registered dietitians and certified diabetes care and education specialists (and best friends) Wendy Lopez and Jessica Jones reach about 120,000 followers of their Food Heaven Instagram page with a mission to make wellness more inclusive and accessible to all people. “We help people transform the way they eat and find joy in food through the practice of intuitive eating and body respect.” Intuitive eating involves listening to your hunger cues, and body respect requires self-acceptance.
Lopez, who lives in New York City, and Jones, a California resident, reinforce these messages through the blog Food Heaven Made Easy, which includes recipes and advice, and via their Food Heaven podcast. The latter invites guests to tackle topics such as emotional eating and cultural biases in body mass index interpretations. “I especially like the podcast episode about why we should all stop food shaming in 2020,” says Lopez, referring to the practice of judging and criticizing what others eat. “It’s something that we both experience and it’s not helpful for anyone involved.”
Lopez’s advice for healthy eating favors self-acceptance over self-denial. “Don’t start any wellness practices that you don’t enjoy and can’t see yourself doing one year from now.”
The registered dietitian Valerie Agyeman created her Instagram page and website, Flourish Heights, to share tips and inspiration for women of color to “flourish in wellness.” Through her posts for more than 20,000 Instagram followers, as well as the work of several bloggers, Agyeman says, “We share simple tips on a wide variety of topics from skin health, to body confidence, periods, self-care, and much more. We also invite health professionals to share their expertise on our blog, social channels and in-person events.” In this way Flourish Heights integrates healthy eating advice with other important aspects of staying well. “Nutrition is just one piece of the puzzle when it comes to health and wellness, so it’s important for us to have a holistic health approach,” says the Washington, DC, resident.
That holistic approach includes loving the body that you’re nourishing, she says, adding that she wrote a post titled 5 Ways to Connect With Your Body. “I use my platform to encourage and empower women to have a healthy relationship with food and their body. We could all use a little more body love in our ever-changing bodies, and this blog post just shares a few tips and reminders on how to gain more control of your body, while showing it the love and respect it needs and deserves.”
Her advice for healthy eating is to take your time finding the regimen that is best and uniquely for you. “Don’t be so quick to jump on the latest diet or wellness trend. Take it easy and learn to listen to your body, seek guidance from a professional as needed, and understand your health baseline [measures]. This will help you to build a solid foundation of what your eating routine should look like and what is best for you.”
The Hangry Woman
Mila Clarke Buckley lived with a type 2 diabetes diagnosis for four years before learning in August 2020 that she actually had another type of diabetes: latent autoimmune diabetes in adults (LADA). She wants people to know that a diabetes-friendly diet doesn’t have to be boring or leave one feeling “hangry” (a state of irritability that can result from a dip in blood glucose).
That’s why she shares such delectable images with her 37,000 Instagram followers and visitors to her Hangry Woman blog. Her recipe posts for grilled fish tacos and Jamaican jerk chicken wings are accompanied by mouthwatering photos.
Type 2 diabetes results when the body cannot properly process insulin, causing blood sugar (glucose) to rise too high. LADA, on the other hand, is an autoimmune disease that is similar to type 1 diabetes, in which the body’s immune system attacks and destroys the cells that make insulin — which is why it’s also known as type 1.5 diabetes. LADA tends to happen later in life and much more gradually than type 1 diabetes.
People with any form of diabetes can experience blood sugar dips that produce that hangry feeling, also known as hypoglycemia. But rather than coming off as irritable, Buckley, a Houston resident, has a gregarious persona to match her blog’s mission, which she says is “to help people with diabetes feel less alone in their management but to also show them that you can live a happy, healthy life with diabetes and enjoy your favorite foods.”
She says her new diagnosis won’t change that mission. “I lived with a type 2 diabetes diagnosis for four years — that includes the feeling of shame, stigma, and being judged for what other people deemed my fault, and lack of access to the tools that would help me manage diabetes best. Although my [diagnosis] changed, it doesn’t take away any of those experiences, and it doesn’t mean that I experience them less. To me, it means having the opportunity to bridge the gap a bit more, and help all people with diabetes understand each other.”
Buckley includes recipes for those who follow a ketogenic or “keto” diet, but before you try them, check with your doctor to make sure the regimen is right for you. If you take oral diabetes medication, the diet may increase your risk of hypoglycemia, and this high-fat, low-carb diet can pose other health risks to some. Plus, more studies are needed before keto can be recommended for everyone with type 2 diabetes.
Buckley’s personal favorite blog post is titled, “Diabetes Is Not a Joke,” and it takes aim at the stigma that can be attached to the disease because of its link to diet. “People often think diabetes deserves to be a punch line, but it’s more serious than the jokes it often sets off,” she says.
The Nutrition Tea
Shana Minei Spence is a New York City–based registered dietitian nutritionist who describes herself as an “eat anything” dietitian. “I think it’s important to spread the message of diets not working and for people to stop following fad diets,” says Spence, who reaches 117,000 followers on Instagram and also blogs about food and diet trends at The Nutrition Tea. “It’s also important to know that health does not have one look, and people should focus on what health means for their own individual bodies.”
While she describes herself as anti-diet, Spence is not anti-health; a point she made in a recent Instagram post that gets to the heart of her approach to nutrition advice. “It really means being against a toxic culture,” she explains, advocating for people to have a healthy relationship to food and to reject “diet culture.”
“That there is no one-size-fits-all approach,” Spence says. Like Moore, she believes that “eating healthy shouldn’t be about what foods to take out, but what foods you can add in to your meals and make them wholesome.”