Americans make over 200 choices regarding food each day, according to Cornell University professor Brian Wansink. Factors you scarcely notice influence these decisions. Although the of list of potential contributing factors is long, some are particularly common. Gaining an understanding of these factors may guide you toward making wiser choices, gaining improved wellness as a result. To learn specific ways to improve your daily food choices, seek guidance from a qualified dietary professional.
Skipping meals and eating too few calories stimulate hunger, which can influence your food choices. In ancient times, say registered dietitian Sharon Palmer, hunger was often life-saving, prompting early humans to hunt and forage for food for survival. If you experience "starvation," as many dieters claim to, you may crave foods that provide dense amounts of fat, protein, carbohydrates and calories. If you skip breakfast you may be more likely to choose a juicy cheeseburger and French fries rather than soup or salad for lunch. Intense hunger and meal-skipping can also lead to larger portions.
Palatability, or how pleasing you find particular foods, also influences your choices. Taste, smell, appearance, texture and your previous experience with the food contribute to its palatability. A food that once gave you food poisoning may remain unpalatable, while a dish you often enjoyed may seem tantalizing. Visually pleasing foods, such as strawberries drizzled with dark chocolate, may appeal more than a grapefruit or carrot. High-fat, sweet foods, such as pastries and ice cream, have an "undeniable sensory appeal," according to the European Food Information Council. These foods more often lead to overeating.
In a study published in "Obesity" in Oct. 2009, researchers examined the influence of calorie labels on fast food menus on consumers in New York City. Roughly 27.7 percent of consumers stated that seeing the calorie content influenced their food choices. Although additional research is needed, many people consider the nutrient content, calories and ingredients when purchasing foods at grocery stores and restaurants.
Ready access to foods also affects your choices. Having foods at hand, such as chips and chocolate, is likely to increase your desire for them. Living near fast food restaurants may lead to eating meals at those venues more often. Similarly, keeping fruit, vegetables and low-fat milk stocked in your refrigerator, rather than pastries and soft drinks, can result in routine healthier food choices.
Children develop eating habits similar to those of their parents. If you were raised on a particular cuisine, such as Italian or Asian you may choose similar foods throughout your life. A parent's attitudes and behaviors related to food, particularly a mother's, have a significant impact on a child's dietary habits, according to a report published in the "British Journal of Nutrition" in 2008. If a mother diets or overeats repeatedly, her child is likely to do so as well. Imposing harsh restrictions on a child's food intake can lead to poor food choices, overeating and obesity.
- CBS News: Why Do We Eat When We're Not Hungry?
- Today's Dietitian: Taking Control of Hunger
- European Food Information Council: The Determinants of Food Choice
- Obesity: Calorie Labeling and Food Choices: A First Look At The Effects On Low-Income People In New York City
- British Journal of Nutrition: Influence of Parental Attitudes in the Development of Children Eating Behaviour