Food Habits

Last week my nutrition students were asked to write about their food habits. There are many reasons why we eat what we eat. Most of the time these reasons are within our subconscious and we pay little attention. We just eat. But when you are trying to answer the question of WHY, you really need to draw out those reasons and think about that WHY. WHY do we eat what we eat?

Well, there are many reasons. I just want to mention a few:

CULTURE: Depending on where you are from, where you live and what your parents fed you as a child will determine how you eat as an adult. Culture is defined as traditions, values, or religions that comprise a way of life. Different countries and different regions of the US have different typical foods they consume.

RELIGION: There are many different religions that have food laws. Since those of you reading probably follow just one religion, you might be surprised by some of the dietary laws followed by religions other than yours.

Christian: Certain holidays may prohibit consumption of meat; some denominations may exclude alcohol

Judaism: No pork/pork products, Do not mix milk and meat products, kosher meats (slaughtered in the proper way by Jewish kosher law), fish without scales or fins, certain holidays calling for fasting

Mormon: No caffiene or alcohol

Muslim: No pork/pork products, Halal (meaning lawful or follows Muslim guidelines) meats and foods, no alcohol, no caffeine, observance of holidays including Ramadan which calls for fasting from dawn to dusk during this time period

Seventh Day Adventist: No pork/pork products, no shellfish, no highly spiced foods, no caffiene or alcohol, If strict- follows a vegetarian diet

You can see that some religions actually have a lot in common when it comes to laws governing food consumption. Depending on the religion and of course how religious one is, the level of folowing these laws will vary. But there is no denying that religion will influence our food choices.

FOOD SYMBOLISM AND MYTHS: This many be associated also with religion and other aspects of culture. Food symbolism relates to food security, whether that is emotional, biological or sociological.

Emotional: eating in response to emotions- anger, depression, lonely, nervous, even excitement and happiness. Food can also be used as a reward or punishment. Parents sometimes use food to reward good behaviors from children. Or food can be taken away if someone does something wrong.

Biological: Food is the basis of all living things. We can't survive without it. Food choices also depend on food fads, food taboo (some cultures have beliefs on certain food combinations), superstitions about food consumption, healing powers of foods, organic food preferences.

Sociological: Food choices as a result of what foods mean in society, the use of food as a status symbol, food is also used as a means for communication (how many times have you had a meeting or met with someone and there was food or a meal involved?).

ECONOMICS: Probably one of the more important factors for everyone right now. How much money we have and how much something costs plays a big role in what we choose to eat. So many of us want to eat healthy, try to eat healthy, and for the most part do, but there are times when we have to sacrifice for cost. It is no secret that organic foods cost most. It is no secret that "healthy" foods are deemed expensive. I think many people have a PERCEPTION though that healthier is more expensive.

I have personally seen a familiy of 4 go out to fast food for dinner, order off the value menu and spend $15-20 on a meal. That was just one meal. I made the example to my students that for less money and just a small amount of planning, buying pasta (even the whole wheat kind), a jar of sauce, frozen broccoli and some chicken breasts would cost less than the trip to the fast food joint. While not a meal from scratch and still has a good amount of sodium in the jarred sauce, WAY more nutritious than fast food. But the perception is healthy is expensive.

I also think that it is easier for people to part with just a few dollars at once, even if they do it multiple times over the course of a day. It seems harder for someone to spend $40 at once on food, although this food may last the whole week when purchased at a grocery store.

CONVENIENCE: Which brings me to my last example of why we make food choices (although I could go on all day). Just as healthy foods are perceived as expensive, they are also perceived as time consuming. Preparing and cooking meals takes time. For those of us with busy schedules, time plays a role in the foods we choose. One thing I always recommend to clients is to do all the preparing and cooking at once. This way it becomes an activity. Preping foods that can be cooked easily later on take some of the time out of making dinner later in the week. Preping and cooking foods all at once will allow you to make your own "frozen" dinners that you can easily and quickly reheat later on. I also like to do this to make my lunches in advance for the week ahead. Anything that you can do to save time will make it easier to make healthy food choices when in a time crunch.
QUESTION: What do you think? What are some of the reasons behind your food habits?

Moving along...yesterday so many the blogs I have been reading talked about oats. I have been waiting to make these oat bran applesauce muffins that I have a recipe for. I haven't made then yet because a week ago we ended up with 2 loaves of bread and last weekend we made brownies. I didn't want my muffins "competing for the eating" so I put the project on hold. Stay tuned for updates.

And since everyone loves pictures so much I will leave you with some scenic pics of the island.


Emily said...

Melinda, this post was really interesting. I think I've seen examples of almost all of these reasons for eating/not eating certain foods.

I'm much more motivated by the way foods make me feel. If I have a long day ahead, I need energy! I feel much better when I eat whole foods and fresh vegetables than when I eat processed foods, so I try to choose vegetables more often.

Gina; The Candid RD said...

Wow, thanks for the update on religious and ethnic food laws/rules. I knew about most of them, but had sort of forgotten about the strictness of some. The reason for my food choices is convenience, for sure. I am not one to stay in the kitchen for a long time and I like something that's quick and easy to prepare, yet tastes good and isn't expensive!! That's the way to go, right?!

Gina; The Candid RD said...

Melinda, I have never tried Yogurtland before, but I hear it's very good. I go to United Dairy Farmers for my soft serve "fro yo", and their pumpkin flavor is coming soon!! If I ever see a Yogurtland, I will definitely drop everything and give it a try :)

chow and chatter said...

good post girlie, what do the locals eat!

Lainie said...

Hi Melinda,

Thank you so much for stopping by my blog today! I love that you are a teaching registered dietitian - I think that is phenomenal. What courses do you teach? How did you choose that path? Did you ever practice clinical dietetics or food service?

I love learning about other RDs, as well as hearing there stories and what lead them to where they are now. I'm not entirely sure what dietetics path I'll be taking, but I'm leaning towards the clinical side. There are so many wonderful options though, so I know I could change my mind.

Stay in touch!


Lainie said...

Wow, that should definitely say "as well as hearing THEIR stories"...not "there stories"...sorry for the gramatical goof (I was a journalism major my first go round in college so small typos such as that tend to drive me crazy...had to correct myself, sorry!)

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