As a growing video-sharing platform with massive reach, TikTok is shaping food culture through the popular hashtag #healthyrecipes. TikTok videos have the ability to influence health attitudes and behaviors, yet little is known about what characterizes the healthy food landscape on TikTok.
This study describes the healthy food landscape on TikTok by addressing the research question: How do the most popular healthy recipe videos on TikTok define healthy food?
Study Design, Setting, Participants
Inductive qualitative coding was used to perform a thematic analysis of the most liked videos on TikTok with the hashtag #healthyrecipes. The top 150 videos were cataloged and downloaded over 3 consecutive days in early November 2021. Video visuals, audio, captions, and hashtags were included in the dataset.
An initial review excluded 40 videos, which were predominantly non-English, presented technical issues, or shared similar messages from the same creator. A multi-phase qualitative analysis was conducted among the final sample (n = 110) using inductive coding methods. The code frame was iteratively developed by a collaborative team of researchers, and each video was independently coded by two researchers employing Dedoose software. Codes were consolidated into themes and sub-themes to address the primary research question.
Three overarching themes were identified: approachability, moral values, and appropriation/wellness culture. Within these three themes, five sub-themes emerged: plant-based/vegan, simple/few ingredients, ingredient-based wellness trends, habit-promoting, and providing functional benefit.
TikTok provides a platform for examining broader perceptions of health in food culture. The themes uncovered present an opportunity for nutrition educators to take a critical approach in understanding how social media platforms amplify polarizing wellness culture ideas and further shape health messaging. Healthy food, as told by TikTok, upholds a common contradiction in the public health sphere: healthy food can be both approachable and exclusionary.