Food Choices – Why Do We Eat What We Eat?

The food choices we make are not always good for us or our planet. Why do we sometimes make bad choices? Why don’t we just eat food that is good for us? Should we all become vegans? What makes us choose the food we eat?

Food is just fuel for our bodies!

I disagree with this analogy. Food is so much more than just fuel. Similarly, we are so much more than machines. Our food choices are influenced by many different factors.

Food Choices We Make

Personal Likes & Dislikes

For reasons many of us do not understand ourselves, there are foods we love and certain foods we just hate. I love soft cheeses and cooked cheese but cannot eat hard cheese, and I have no idea why. A lot of people dislike sweetbreads, brain and offal – probably because of what it actually is! Similarly, I couldn’t entertain the thought of eating insects, even when I know that they are a highly sustainable protein source and are rich in nutrients. And as for oysters, there is no way I could place a live creature in my mouth and swallow it!

Adventurous Eaters

Do you step out of your culinary comfort zone? Most of us, without realising, stick to a quite limited number of foods. On a positive note, it makes food choices easier – but are you missing out? Surely you can only improve your cooking skills by trying new ingredients and combinations of foods? And most important of all, you discover new food to enjoy!

Moral Beliefs

Personally, there are certain foods I refuse to eat –

  • Foie Gras – I’ve never eaten Foi gras and would never consider eating it. Ducks and geese are tortured to produce this product, and the prolonged suffering they endure is unimaginable.
  • Battery & Caged Eggs – I will not eat these eggs. Although battery eggs were banned by the EU in 2012, the rest of the world continues to use battery cages. In my opinion, cages for hens still leave a lot to be desired. We use eggs from our rescue hens in our back garden.
  • Veal – this is a meat I refuse to eat. I understand that veal crates have been banned by the EU but are still used in the USA and many other countries.
  • Meat from Animals slaughtered without pre-stunning – although I respect the religious beliefs and practices of others, I strongly believe that all animals should be treated humanely and therefore stunned before slaughter.

Factory Farming

I would urge everyone to take a look at the above video. It explains why factory farming is a moral and ecological horror. The food choices we have when considering meat and poultry purchase should only be between free-range poultry, outdoor bred and reared pork and grass-fed beef and lamb – or a plant based meal. Factory farming is simply unacceptable.

Although I enjoy eating meat too much to give it up, I respect vegans and believe they should be proud of their cruelty free diets.

Eating & Socialising

Food plays an important part of our social lives. The food choices we make will depend upon whether we are spending time with our family or eating out with friends, or attending a work lunch meeting, or even celebrating an event with treats such as birthday cake

Cost Limits our Food Choices

The cost of food plays a large part in our food choices. Some people don’t have a choice – the homeless, rough sleepers, and people dependant upon food banks. Unfortunately, even in the UK some people have to make a choice between eating or heating (see blog on Hunger in the UK). For those not in such dire circumstances, food choices can still be restricted by cost. Processed food is invariably cheaper than healthy food, and intensively farmed produce is cheaper than organic and high animal welfare meat.

Culture, Heritage, Religion & Upbringing

A complex mixture of culture, heritage, religion and upbringing all influence the food choices we make. Food provides an important link to our cultural heritage. Food brings people together – it’s shared with family and friends. Cooking skills and recipes are passed down from one generation to another.

Religion also affects some food choices. For example, most Hindus are vegetarian and no Hindu will eat beef, and the Jewish faith forbids pork to be eaten.

Food can be nostalgic. Favourite foods are often associated with fond childhood memories. The way we have been brought up to eat our meals also affects our food choices. In some cultures it is common to eat with your hands or chop sticks, and while some families always sit up at a table to eat others prefer to have TV dinners.

Food Choices for Health Reasons

Some people have their food choices restricted for health reasons. This could be due to an allergy or intolerance, or other medical need. Many of us choose not to eat food that is genetically modified or containing additives and colourants.

Trending Diets

Whether the intention is to lose weight, or for medical or ethical reasons; there is a plethora of trending diets. For example, the 5:2 diet, Dukan diet, Paleo Diet, and the Vegan diet. These diets often necessitate a dramatic change in the way people have been eating and as a result their food choices are affected by their chosen diet.

Availability of Food

In the UK most people have enough food to eat. Furthermore, demand for seasonal products all the year round (e.g. strawberries) and exotic fruits, has resulted in the UK importing more of these foods. This gives us a wide range in food choices.

There is a trend to eat seasonal local food in order to reduce food miles, and this obviously reduces food choices.

Advertising

Food advertising is pervasive and persuasive and influences our food choices, particularly those of children. Supermarkets want to make money and use psychology and sophisticated methods to entice you to buy items. Product placement, special offers and tracking customers’ shopping habits are just a few of the methods they use.

Other Factors that Influence Food Choices

Food choices can depend upon our mood – comfort foods are supposed to make us feel better. Time is also an important factor. Do you have time to cook a meal or is it easier to snack? Similarly, are you too tired to cook a nutritious meal – would it be simpler to heat up ultra processed food? Also, cooking skills determine what ingredients to buy and cook.

My Thoughts

Food choices are made for a variety of reasons. The point I would like to make is that we need to know how are food is produced, so that we can make informed decisions on what to buy.

I would argue that we need honest labelling – I want to know if the meat I buy is factory farmed. As around half of all antibiotics sold in the UK are used on farm animals, I want to know if the meat I am eating has been tainted by antibiotics (Compassion in World Farming). I also want to know if the meat I buy has been fed GM crops.

At home we eat meat on alternate days (although my wife rarely eats meat anyway). Click here for some of our vegetarian recipes. This is a choice we have made – to switch from an animal protein to a vegan one. Veganism in the UK is growing rapidly but I could not make the switch. A vegan diet is undoubtedly the most sustainable of all diets, but we can all be more sustainable in our food choices. Just give us the information we require.

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