FACTORS THAT INFLUENCE FOOD HABITS AND CULTURE 7
Factorsthat Influence Food Habits and Culture
Variousgroups of people have differing food habits and culture. Thus, peoplefrom different groups, may it be regionally or ethnically, havedifferent food habits. This is one of the many ways in which peopleidentify themselves. Typically, food habits refers to the form offood that people eat, why they eat, their methods of eating, and howthey get and store their food. It is worth noting that these habitsare influenced by several factors such as culture, geography andclimate, socio economic factors, health, and religion among others(Goody et al, 2010).
Kittler,Sucher & Nahikian-Nelms (2012) stipulate that the geographiclocation and climate of an area are some of the greatest influencerson food habits. People tend to eat what is availed in theirgeographic areas. For instance, people who live near the sea eat alot of sea foods because of their availability. On the other hand,people who live in warmer climates tend to eat lots of fruits becausethey do well in such areas. It is rare for people to eat food that isnot geographically availed in their regions because it is expensiveto acquire or people may have no idea of its existence. This isbecause people get accustomed to the food that is easily accessibleand adapt to that eating. When people visit a place with differenteating habits, they find it difficult to get used to the eatinghabits of the region. Although some may try their foods for adventureand end up loving it, others prefer to stick to something closer towhat they eat in their regions. Notably, some regions are known fortheir great supply of certain foods throughout the world or a nation.For instance, California is the major source of wine in the UnitedStates. In fact, it account for 90 percent of wine production inAmerica. This is facilitated by the fact that it has sound climatefor production of wine grapes. The warm days and cooler nightscoupled with well drained soils provides a favorable environment forthe growth of grapes.
Anothermajor determinant of food habits is the social economic influences.There are clear differences in eating habits for different socialclasses. The low income groups have much poorer eating habits ascompared to their high class counterparts. Essentially, this leads tounder nutrition and over nutrition respectively. The low income grouphas three main barriers for acquisition of healthy foods includingcost, knowledge, and accessibility. Cost is the main factor that hasprogressively led to unhealthy eating habits amongst the poor. Mostfoods high in nutrition are expensive thus, the poor cannot affordthem on regular basis. Further, lack of time or cooking resources athome compel the poor income earners to buy cheap foods in thestreets. Most of these foods are high in energy but very low innutrition content. This is because whole meals and fruits are quiteexpensive for them to buy even though they are aware of theirbenefits. Low income areas also experience logistical barriers oftransporting healthy foods to the site. This makes accessibility ofwhole meals quite difficult. In many cases, foods that are notproduced locally are more expensive, which makes it difficult for lowincome earners to afford. Junk foods, on the other hand, are moreaccessible and cheap thus, low income earners prefer them. Likewise,lack of proper knowledge among the poor is another factor thatinfluences their poor eating habits. They are constrained bycircumstances to acquire the right information regarding good eatinghabits. This may be caused by the fact that these people have lowersources of information regarding their health. Availability ofinformation resources among the low income earners is low.Ultimately, income and education levels determine the food choicesand behaviors related to diet. As such, sometimes food habits are notjust a matter of mere preferences, but are also largely influenced byincome (Barasi, 2007).
Thesocial background of people influences food habits. Socializationprocesses may affect people’s choice of food. Although one has apersonal choice of food, constant interaction with others influencesone to adopt the food choices of others. People may also change theirchoice of foods as they grow up and interact with people fromdifferent backgrounds. Similarly, change of background may alsoaffect the choice of food. For instance, an American may change foodpreferences after relocating in Africa if he/she gets accustomed tothe food offered there. This is an implication that people may changepreferences and adapt to what is offered in different socialbackgrounds. Interacting with people from different backgrounds maydrive one’s adventure to try food habits of others, and in theprocess end up changing their food preferences. As such, socialfactors may, consciously or unconsciously, influence the choices ofpeople’s food.
Kittler,Sucher & Nahikian-Nelms (2012) indicates that Cultural backgroundis another greater determinant of people’s choices of foods.Various cultures have different food habits, which consequentlyinfluences people’s preferences. Food habits in America are verydifferent from food habits in Africa and elsewhere. People will eatand get accustomed to food habits offered in a given region. Evenwhen people from specific cultures live together elsewhere, theycontinue with their habits. For instance, if Latinos live in adifferent region other than their homeland, they will continue toidentify themselves with their relevant culture however, they willbecome more flexible in adapting to the cultures of their hosts. Mostcultures try to maintain their food habits in foreign countries byopening up specific hotels that offer specific cultural foods. Forinstance, it is possible to find restaurants that offer Italian foodin America.
Thereligion and beliefs of people plays a great role in people’s foodhabits. Some religions may encourage or discourage certain foodsbased on the belief about them. If people feel that it is ungodly toeat certain foods, they will definitely avoid them in all meanspossible. For instance, Muslims prohibit consumption of pork, and allfollowers have accustomed to that belief. There are other religionsthat prohibit consumption of meat hence, such followers can only eatvegetables and cereals. These beliefs have a great effect in people’sfood habits in a great way. As long as people hold certain beliefs onfood, they are unlikely to eat prohibited food even if it is a stablefood in areas where they come from or move to (Goody et al, 2010).
Theknowledge that people hold on foods is essential in influencing whatthey will eat. Some people are food enthusiasts, that is, they mustcarry out a research on the benefits of food before making a decisionon what to eat. Such people will read on articles about food and howto prepare them. There are people who are very conscious about theirhealth and thus, they cannot consume foods without knowing theirhealth consequences. Most of these people prefer preparing their ownfoods and would rarely eat outside.
Inthe current world, technological developments are influencing foodhabits among different people in various cultures. People are turninginto internet to seek recipes for preparing different types of foods.For those who love cooking, they have turned cooking into a newadventure for trying different menus. They are shifting their focuson the common goods in their cultures by trying different recipes asavailed in the internet. Internet makes it easy for people to tryfoods from other cultures and adopt the ones that prove to betastier. Mass media advertisements also promote various foods. Theyinform people about foods in an appealing way to attract buyers. Insearch of great food, people end up trying these food products anddevelop a preference for them. Most of the foods that mediaadvertises are processed, and have minimal benefits to the body.Regardless of this knowledge, people buy them because of the greattaste that they have. For example, chocolate has become of the mostpreferred snack people thanks to its sweetness and mass mediaadvertisements. People all over the world have adopted the trends ofbuying chocolates as gifts because of its hypothesized value(Kittler, Sucher & Nahikian-Nelms, 2012).
Itcan be concluded that, although food habit is a matter of personalchoice, there are other external factors that affect the same.Depending on where a person is born and raised, religion beliefs,climate and geographical location, economic status, and knowledgeamong others, people have different food habits.
Barasi,M. E. (2007). Nutritionat a glance.Oxford: Blackwell Pub.
Goody,C. M., Drago, L., American Dietetic Association., & AmericanDietetic Association. (2010). Culturalfood practices.Chicago, Ill: American Dietetic Association.
Kittler,P. G., Sucher, K., & Nahikian-Nelms, M. (2012). Foodand culture.Belmont, CA: Wadsworth/Cengage Learning.