The Factors That Influence Our Food Choices

Our health depends on our food choices. Here we will discuss the cultural, social, environmental, emotional and sensory factors that influence our food choices. This understanding will help us to choose our food consciously so we can live a healthy life.

Food is a material we obtain from plants or animals, that our body can ingest to get all essential nutrients like proteins, carbohydrates, fats, vitamins and minerals for energy production, physical growth and maintenance. In simple words, whatever we eat is a food.

We are What We Eat

We eat food in small quantities, several times a day, every day. If a person lives for 70 years or more, he will have consumed more than 1,00,000 meals in his life. Whenever we consume a meal, it effects our body in a certain way. Our body uses every small meal to build up few extra muscles, repairs some bones, maintains some tissues and replaces the old with new. Sometimes, when we eat more than our energy requirements, our body stores this “extra” meal as a fat. Our body can use this fat later when it feels lack of food or energy. So, it means, whatever we eat today, will become a part of our body tomorrow.

Our Health Depends on Our Food Choice

If you observe your body carefully, you can see the effects of what you eat, on your body. If you choose a food which is good for you, your body will become healthier day by day. Most of the times you eat your food without much thinking about it; but sometimes you think, “Is this food healthy for me?” or “Should I eat this food or not?” If you think in this way, knowledge of nutrition can be immensely helpful for you.

The Factors That Influence Our Food Choices

Now we will discuss the factors that influence our food choices so we can understand the entire process and select our food more consciously for a healthy living.

Have you ever thought about it that why do we eat pizza in friends gatherings on Sundays; what is the connection of popcorn with movies; why do we prepare a cake for every birthday; why does a boy gift his girlfriend a box of chocolates; why do we follow a vegetarian diet during Navaratri or why do we always get Kada Prasad at Gurudwaras? I want to say that food is not only for nutrition but it has a deeper connection with all aspects of our life. We will try to understand the significance of food in our life through these factors.

1. Taste

This is the first and most crucial factor that influences our food choice. We choose a food due to its taste. According to a study, the taste of sugar and salt attract our taste senses the most. After that we love to eat foods having more fats and different spices.

2. Smell and Texture

Smell and texture also affect our food choice. We love to eat crispier and more shiny foods having a nice fragrance. We love the feeling of crispy chips when it crumbles; or when a soft shining pastry dissolves; or when a cold ice cream melts in our mouth. All this experience really stimulates our senses. There is a company who named its food product “Kurkure” (means crispy), so people can remind that experience just by reading the name, just to increase the sales.

3. Habits

Sometimes we eat a food only because we have been eating this food since beginning. It becomes our habit and we just follow it casually without even thinking. For example, we eat fruit in morning, drink milk in evening, eat three times a day etc. This habit becomes a pattern and we accept this unknowingly.

4. Emotional Comfort

Our food choice is deeply connected with our emotions. Either we are in depression, feeling happy, with a loving partner or all alone; we have a food choice for every emotion. We love to drink coffee or a cup of hot chocolate when we feel lazy. Sometimes we eat more sugary food just to feel happy. Every food has a different effect on our mood and mind chemistry.

5. Marketing

Believe it or not, whenever you watch a food commercial, either on television, internet, magazine, or street corner, it changes your mind in a certain direction. Most of the advertisements you meet everyday are about junk food that has too much sodium and oil, having almost no nutritional value. Advertisements like burger, pizza, French fries etc. Kids are easily attracted towards these frauds. As you know, kids love to watch Doraemon, Chhota Bhim and Ben 10 like cartoons now a days. Food companies use these cartoon characters in their advertisements, print attractive cartoon pictures on their food packets, just to brainwash the kids and increase the sales. Just think about it, how these companies are conditioning our kids’ perspective about food choice.

6. Social Gatherings

Every week we join social gatherings like birthday parties, marriage parties and different social events. Every type of event has its own code of food. In such situations, we can’t choose our food but has to follow the code.

7. Availability

Availability is a major factor in food choice because we can only choose a food which is available in our area. The common foods in south India are rice, fish, banana, and coconut because they have all these foods in abundance; same as wheat, pulses, grams, and millet in north India. So, every geographical area, every country, every place has its own staple foods.

8. Cooking Skills and Time Issues

As you already know that life is too busy now a days. People don’t have enough time to prepare their own foods. Even people don’t have cooking skills. Such people prefer foods that are quick and easy to prepare. Everyone knows about Maggie noodles. This is one of the most preferred dishes (or whatever you name it) for busy people. There are many other semi prepared foods available in market, you only have to boil them or put in oven for 10 minutes. There are some people who don’t want to spend even 10 minutes in kitchen can call Swiggy, Zomato or Dominoz etc. These companies will deliver your ordered food at your door steps within 30 minutes. All these habits will make your food choice extremely limited. You can get enough calories (even more) but not enough nutrients for your overall health.

9. Religion and Culture

Every religion or culture has its own preference of foods. Hindus, Muslims, Christians, Buddhist, Jain, Chinese, European, Japanese; everyone has his own food perspective. As in Islam it is prohibited to eat pig meat (pork), in Hinduism it is prohibited to eat cow meat (beef), Jains are pure vegetarians, some orthodox Jains don’t even eat onions and garlics. In Chinese culture people can eat insects, scorpions, and snakes. So, every person’s food choice is influenced by his religious, social, and cultural values.

10. Body Conditions

Food choice is also influenced by health conditions, physical goals, daily activity, age etc. Bodybuilders prefer to eat high protein foods to make more muscles. Diabetes patients prefer to avoid sugar, high glycemic and low fiber foods to support their health. There are people who have heart problems, want to lose or gain weight, young or old, pregnant or lactating, in active or sitting jobs; every person has his/her own food choice according to physical needs.

11. Budget

Our food choice is greatly affected by our budget and economic conditions. If our budget is not good, we are not able to add variety of foods in our diet. If our budget is good, we can add different vegetables, fruits, dry fruits and even supplements in our diet.

12. Nutrition

This is the most underrated as well as most important factor. We always avoid nutritional value of a food. We never think about calories, type of fats or carbohydrates, how much a food is processed, organic or not, while choosing our food. Even people who take a look on nutrition facts before buying a food, don’t have enough knowledge to evaluate it. This is the reason of our poor health. This is the reason, chronic conditions like heart disease, diabetes and cancers are growing rapidly day by day.

We have discussed 11 different factors here that influence our food choice. Now your task is to think about these factors. Can you relate these factors with your food choice? The more you will think and understand this entire process, the more conscious you will become to choose your food in a positive way. If you know any other factor, please write in comments, so we can add in this article.

Thank you.

Published: April 24, 2020
Updated: April 26, 2020

Author: Vikas Dhavaria

A free spirit who loves to read books. Interested in philosophy and nutrition.

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