Food is essential to life and is a part of our day-to-day lives. There are many choices we have to make throughout the day in regards to what we decide to consume and when. There are also many reasons and/or influences for why we eat what we eat. Oftentimes, we choose foods for many other reasons besides hunger - such as social, economic, cultural, and psychological factors.
The main reason is taste and personal preference. Taste buds are developed in the womb and shape the preference for sweet, sour, salty, or bitter tastes. The foods a mother eats during pregnancy as well as when breastfeeding may influence which foods and flavors her child will eat. Additionally, being exposed to a variety of nutritious foods throughout childhood and adolescence may assist with having a broader palate for foods as an adult.
Ethnic heritage, culture, tradition, and habit also impact what we eat or drink. Food is a big component of cultural identity and tradition and of time spent with family. People from different cultural backgrounds may eat specific foods unique to their culture. Being exposed to different cultures and food traditions may increase your exposure and preference for a variety of cultural foods. Think about how your culture, tradition, and/or family habits have impacted your food preferences!
Social interactions and settings play a big role in our food choices too. Research has shown that individuals may eat different foods and amounts when surrounded by others compared to when eating alone. This is why involving the whole family in healthy eating habits may be more effective than trying to eat healthier alone for the social support and healthy influences.
Availability, convenience, economy, and income are other big factors in regards to what we eat. In food deserts, where people have limited access to healthful and affordable foods, individuals may be less likely to eat nutritious options and may have increased risk of chronic diseases related to a poor diet. Having access to and the financial ability to purchase more vegetables, fruit, whole grains, beans/legumes, nuts/seeds, and lean protein sources may increase intake and variety of these foods which may be beneficial for overall health.
What we eat may also be impacted by emotions, stress and boredom as well as prior positive and negative associations with foods or beverages. Individuals may have foods that bring the feeling of comfort as well as foods that may be tied to negative emotions or prior experiences. If these factors are leading to changes in weight and health status and/or are impacting quality of life, it may be helpful to seek support and recommendations from a healthcare provider, Registered Dietitian, and/or psychotherapist.
Lastly, our ethics, values, health status, and body image may also impact our food choices. We may choose and eat certain foods for health reasons as well as for our ethics and values. For example, some people choose to be vegetarians for ethical and/or environmental reasons. Think about the values that impact your food choices.
Each person is unique and will have different reasons for choosing to eat the foods that they eat! It can be helpful to understand the factors behind some of your food choices and to try to find ways and support if needed to increase healthy food choices to best support overall physical and mental health.
Note: This blog provides general information and discussions about health and related subjects. The information and other content provided in this blog, website or in any linked materials are not intended and should not be considered, or used as a substitute for, medical advice, diagnosis or treatment. This blog does not constitute the practice of any medical, nursing or other professional health care advice, diagnosis or treatment. We cannot diagnose conditions, provide second opinions or make specific treatment recommendations through this blog or website. If you think you may have a medical emergency, immediately call your doctor or dial 911.