Finding Healthy Pinspiration

Pinterest has become the fastest growing website ever, attracting 21 million passionate monthly users.  The food and drink category is one of the largest and most popular — with more repins than any other category.  Now people are pinning instead of clipping recipes, planning dinner parties and weekday suppers on Pinterest, and searching for food ideas on Pinterest instead of browsing traditional recipe sites or flipping through magazines.  It’s a true phenomenon. Pinterest is also a tremendous way for bloggers to drive traffic and find new audiences. All good.


Oreo Layer Dessert by Linhasebolinhos on flickr

Like millions of other folks, I’m certainly enamored with Pinterest, and I use it to organize recipes, track food trends, collect blogging tips, save decorating ideas and  post my nutrition articles.  And I love following other bloggers on Pinterest.  But what I don’t like so much is the popularity of gooey, over-the-top desserts that dominant so many pinboards.  I don’t even like the oft-used description of “food porn,” but I guess that’s what it really is.

I looked at  Repinly to find the most popular food pins of all time, and guess what, it’s sugary, fad-laden creations like Oreo Layer Dessert (46,309  repins) and Butterfinger Pie (21,663 repins).  Hey, I’m not against a nice dessert now and then.  I have my own board of Something Sweet, among my 42 boards, which includes Whole Grains, Veggie Love, Salads I Want to Try and All About Hummus.  So desserts are OK, but does the world really need more calorie bombs like these creations made with cream cheese and whipped topping.  Come on, we can do better than that. Do we really need more ideas for cookie-stuffed cookies smothered in chocolate or deep-fried?   I’m not the only dietitian troubled by what’s happening on Pinterest.  Julie Upton over at Appetite for Health recently wrote about the same topic: “Are Pinterest recipes destroying your diet?


Butterfinger Pie by S. Kosoris on flickr

Similarly, many of the most popular photos on food photo galleries like Foodgawker and Tastespotting are big gooey desserts, too.  One of the most gawked of all time recipes on Foodgawker is Sex in a Pan — again, made with blocks of cream cheese and cartons of whipped topping,  along with packages of  instant pudding.  What’s up with this combo? Not my kind of dessert.  I also took a look at Punchfork, and the most liked recipes include Slutty Brownies, Red Velvet Cheesecake Cookies, No Bake Nutella Cheesecakes, Chocolate Covered Brownie Ice Cream Sandwiches, and Cookie Dough Cheesecake Bars.

All of this sugar overload is one of the reasons why my friend and fellow RD blogger Regan Jones and I decided to create Healthy Aperture, the first food photo gallery that’s helping to expose what’s healthy on the web.  We hope to make a little dent in the world by showcasing the great work of other food bloggers who are creating healthier recipes — inspiring you to get in your kitchen to cook up something delicious and nutritious.  Sure, you’ll find desserts on the site (not really the cream cheese and whipped topping kind) but the majority of photos are wonderful ideas to help you eat more vegetables, boost your whole grains or lighten up your entrees.  You can search for recipes that are gluten-free, vegan or kosher.  Or you can get some great ideas for breakfast, snacks, seafood and Meatless Monday.  We also have a Pinterest page, hoping to inspire healthier pin collections.

spring rolls

Vegetarian Spring Rolls with Peanut Sauce by The High Heel Gourmet

So I don’t think you need to delete your dessert boards.  Just don’t speed your time coming up with yet another way to stuff a cookie inside another cookie, or collecting recipes that combine cream cheese, whipped topping, instant pudding and candy bars.  There are lots of healthier options to inspire you.  We hope that Healthy Aperture is going to help.

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  • Kara Nutt

    I use pinterest, and I know that I probably pin a lot of desserts. However, the recipes I actually use…. mostly the healthy ones. Just because I pinned that beautiful, sugary concoction does not mean that I’m baking all of them. But if I have a potluck to go to and I’m asked to bring dessert, I would go and find one I pinned since I don’t do dessert often enough to have a “go to” dessert I can make off the top of my head.

  • I love what you’re doing and wish you much success! I too find myself mystified and often disgusted by the fat and sugar bombs people tend to pin.

    I also notice a depressing tendency for reduced-calorie websites to feature a disproportionate number of desserts. For many of my clients, sweets of any kind–reduced calorie or not–are trigger foods that tend to encourage overeating.

    And whether people realize it or not, looking at photographs of food can in itself trigger inappropriate eating. Which is, of course, why restaurants advertise their wares on TV and in magazines.

  • My unhealthy eating habits were completely changed when I realized that it was possible to get excited and be inspired about healthy foods. For the longest time I never realized that typical decadent meals, such as pancakes, cookies, etc, could be remade using healthy ingredients. I still get to experience all the joy that I find when baking/cooking, but now I love everything I make even more because the end product doesn’t leave me feeling like junk. I love Healthy Aperture because it combines all the healthy creativity of bloggers and helps me stay excited about continuing to eat healthy:)) Thanks for such a great site:)

  • Alison RD

    Amen from a fellow RD! I have to wonder if simply the act of browsing pinterest induces food cravings….

    Thanks for sharing Healthy Aperture!

  • I have two conflicting thoughts.

    On the one hand, if people can look at pictures of these desserts and not make them, that’s probably not a bad thing. I do wonder how many people actually make the recipes they see on Pinterest. I use my own mother as an example – she hates to cook but loves watching Food Network. It would never occur to her to go make any of the wild creations she sees being made on some of the desert themed shows, but she does watch – and maybe achieves some level of craving dampening by just watching.

    That said, when I look at pictures of deserts like those you have pictured, I actually have a negative physical reaction — I actually feel my stomach turn at the thought of eating a huge chunk of “sex in a pan.” I’d much rather see images of fresh ingredients pulled together in an artful way.

    But that reflects my normal eating style, and perhaps what we are seeing on Pinterest is a reflection on what most people’s eating styles are. Which means we have a LONG way to go to making America’s food habits healthier. Keep up the good work!

  • The real problem is the relationship of just about everybody in the country with food. Far as I can see, most folks are so hooked into junk food and a taste for both fat and sugar that their physiology and sense of what they are eating have been totally distorted. What we need (somehow) is nothing short of a total revolution in how people eat and view food. Of course, as long as the junk food companies keep pumping their products and marketing messages into the public domain, it’s a daunting, if not impossible, task.

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