Reasons that people today give about consuming food no longer arise from need. Sometimes our ancestors had to make a significant effort to catch or breed, and when their physiological hunger came in, every 3-4 hours, they would eat something. What is happening today? Today, everything is easily accessible regarding food preparation. The food choice is huge. But we don’t eat because we feel physiological hunger, but we eat with our eyes.
Today we no longer know whether we are really hungry or we just want something to eat. Many people think they need food, but actually, they have the need for water. However, nutritional habits are influenced by a number of factors, such as individual (e.g., taste), cultural (norms), religious (restrictions), economic, political, social, and environmental. Also, the choice of food is affected by the amount of income, beliefs related to food and prices. Likewise, eating habits are primarily associated with learned behaviors.
Although numerous elements related to eating habits coincide all over the world, there are still elements that lead to significant differences. A common form of nutrition around the globe includes three meals a day, and although meal components vary, they generally contain rice, pasta, seeds, meat, or meat substitutes, and vegetables. But much higher influence on what people eat have personal preferences.
The individual factor is above all a matter of personal taste and preference for certain types of foods. But it is also affected by the food people are exposed to, their own values and family customs related to food. There is an interesting fact that people who are more exposed to one type of food will have a smaller need for it. For example, people who live on the coast and have greater access to seafood, which is traditional food in that area, will have a lower desire and need for fish and will tend to eat a different type of food. Individual taste also affects the choice and the combination of flavors. Preferences for certain flavors are taught and are accepted under the regular and integral part of the diet, while the flavors and combinations of flavors are fashioned over time. The only taste everyone is taught a sweet taste. Why is this so? Probably because mother’s milk is sweet. So the first food to which a child is taught is of sweet taste.
Social influence also contributes to the choice of food. The fact is that belonging to a particular group also has its own rules that are shared in the group, and this is also related to food.
Accordingly, people can eat one kind of food while they are in the group, while they eat another type of food when they are alone. It doesn’t mean that they will eat what they don’t like, only a different combination of diet and maybe even something they would never eat while out of the group.
The environmental factor also influences the social element. Groups will eat what is available in their environment. Previously, the situation was such that every part of the world had its kind of food, which was available at a particular time of the year. But today the case is significantly different. New technologies have disrupted the traditional cuisine associated with a certain age of the year so that every kind of food is available at any time of the year. Accordingly, the influence of dietary, environmental factors is significantly diminished today. Besides, some foods lose their quality if consumed out of season in which they mature, which in some way affects health. The long transport and storage of food, and then the thermal treatment, dramatically reduces their nutritional value and makes them so-called “Dead food.”
The economic factor is the factor that stops people the most in what they would like to eat and what they really eat. Some foods that people buy do not necessarily mean they want to eat them and that they have high nutritional value for them, but only that they can afford them. Therefore, the economic factor includes a category of status.
The belief that a certain type of food is healthy and that it will contribute to health is the fact that affects the choice of food. The selection of food is influenced by taste, appearance, and packaging. Today, marketing is powerful, and it is not the same if the packaging is in red, green or some other color, because the experts who are doing so know very well that they will sell a particular product.
When urbanization is considered, most of the traditional cuisine has been virtually affected by urbanization and has been replaced by newer, healthier and nutritionally richer meals. But some have noticed the nutritional value of conventional cooking, and some foods have kept their usability in the diet like in the traditional times. Some predictions claim that a large number of traditional foods will regain their use in modern nutrition. One of the main reasons is their high nutritional value.
As for today’s diet, people today don’t think much about their food. There is no balance! We know that our plate should have a handful of colors and we should practically use this knowledge every day and count the colors on the plate, and not the calories. Today, people are more obsessed with calories than the quality and balance of foods they bring into their body.