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Factors That Affect Your Food Choices

author image August McLaughlin
August McLaughlin is a certified nutritionist and health writer with more than nine years of professional experience. Her work has been featured in various magazines such as "Healthy Aging," "CitySmart," "IAmThatGirl" and "ULM." She holds specializations in eating disorders, healthy weight management and sports nutrition. She is currently completing her second cookbook and Weight Limit—a series of body image/nutrition-related PSAs.
Factors That Affect Your Food Choices
Many factors influence meal choices. Photo Credit: Stockbyte/Stockbyte/Getty Images

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.

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Cheeseburger and french fries.
Cheeseburger and french fries. Photo Credit: CatherinePro/iStock/Getty Images

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.


Chocolate covered strawberry.
Chocolate covered strawberry. Photo Credit: loooby/iStock/Getty Images

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.

Nutrition Facts

Restaurants with calorie labels may influence decisions.
Restaurants with calorie labels may influence decisions. Photo Credit: Monkey Business Images/Monkey Business/Getty Images

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.


Refrigerator filled with healthy food.
Refrigerator filled with healthy food. Photo Credit: Fuse/Fuse/Getty Images

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.

Parental Factors

Family eating meal together.
Family eating meal together. Photo Credit: Maria Teijeiro/Digital Vision/Getty Images

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.

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