About Food Choices

This isn’t about what people should eat. It’s about what people do eat.

There’s nothing that everybody will eat. You may have the most delicious food in the world, or the most healthy, but some people will not eat it.

At least 95% of people will not eat everything. In the USA, somewhere between 45 million and 90 million peopler are on a weight loss diet at any time. 18 million describe themselves as vegetarians, although some of those will eat a certain amount of meat. Around 5 million have a religious reason for food choices. Well over 100 million have health reasons for food habits. There are 25.1 million / 11% of USA adults with heart disease, and 52.9 million / 24% of USA adults with hypertension. 17.9 million / 6% of Americans know they have diabetes, and there are tens of millions with prediabetes. 6.5 million are allergic to seafood, and millions are allergic to other foods. 3 million people / 1% of the population with celiac disease. And that’s just a small sample of the health reasons people use for their food selections. Also, there are foods that people just don’t like – most people will choose to avoid certain foods based on personal preferences.

Why do people make these food selections?

Physical / health
– Weight loss diets – there are hundreds of these, and new ones all the time, with different recommendations that people follow
– Food and nutrition recommendations for conventional and alternative health – eg low fat diet
– Physical reactions to individual foods – allergies and intolerances

Psychological
– Foods we are programmed to select or avoid – bitter, slimy, moldy
– Trained responses – it’s ok to eat blue cheese even though it’s moldy
– Unconscious responses after sickness – you can’t eat something if you got sick after eating it and subconsciously associated the food with the sickness
– Culturally acceptable foods and societal norms – don’t eat organ meats because everyone thinks they’re disgusting

Philosophical
– Religions and sub-groups within religions
– Ethics / environmental – eg vegetarianism
– Economics – can’t afford certain foods
– Expressions of individualism – sometimes kids won’t eat something purely because their parents want them to eat it

What do they choose?
– Individual foods
– Food groups – eg avoiding carbohydrates on a low-carb diet; some people with arthritis might avoid all foods in the nightshade family
– Combinations – eg avoid mixing carbs and proteins, or milk and meat
– Timing – eg eat only fruit in the morning; avoid certain foods during Lent

Many people make their food selections based on a complex mixture of reasons, many of which they don’t even realize.

The food choices of individuals are interesting. When you gather and aggregate this information for the whole population, you can better understand how populations eat. This provides useful information to food manufacturers, retailers, restaurants and food services companies, health organizations, and even food policy.

Want to learn more? Feel free to get in contact.

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