How Do We Acquire Eating Habits
Childhood is a key period in the creation of good eating habits, as they greatly affect our health. However, they can be modified throughout life.
Before discussing the factors that determine how we acquire eating habits, we need to be clear on the meaning of the term. According to the Merriam-Webster Dictionary, a habit is “an acquired mode of behavior that has become nearly or completely involuntary.”
It also defines the word habit as: “A behavior pattern acquired by frequent repetition or physiologic exposure that shows itself in regularity or increased facility of performance.” In the article below, we’re going to examine this concept in regard to the way we eat. In other words, our eating habits.
Oour habits directly influence our health along with other factors such as exercise, psychology, economics, etc. And, as is the case with any daily act, eating habits depend on several aspects that we’ll talk about below.
Factors that influence the way we acquire eating habits
The most important factors influencing eating habits are the following:
This includes the place where we live, our customs, and the local gastronomy. You only have to go to another country or region to realize that a culture’s cuisine is an identifying feature.
In addition, knowledge, values and skills around that cuisine have been passed down from generation to generations over the years. We even have access to a wider variety of foods thanks to transportation, the food industry, and new technologies.
The family and social environment
Bearing in mind that eating is a pleasure, sharing meals together with our loved ones allows social interaction. On the one hand, our parents teach us how to eat, so it’s essential to have at least two family meals a day. On the other hand, our friends and colleagues also influence our eating habits. This is due to the fact that we belong to a certain group, since it’s not the same thing as being a vegetarian or enjoying fish.
Nor should we forget that the emotions and experiences we live around the table are also key. By this, we mean eating chocolate when we feel sad, rejecting broccoli if someone’s forced us to eat it, offering a piece of cake or any sweet as a reward. Although we’re not aware of these situations, memories play a role in this type of association.
In any case, these influences can be positive (eating fruits and vegetables) or negative (snacking or going to a fast food chain).
Our environment also plays a key role in how we acquire eating habits. For example, if you have a farmer’s market nearby, then you’ll have more access to fresh and seasonal food. But if you only have access to fast food and supermarket chains, you might have more limited options. Thus, where you live and what type of markets you have in your area have an impact on the way you eat.
Another condition that influences our eating habits is purchasing power, since the price of food and restaurants is different. In addition, our working life affects access to certain foods. Consequently, it has an impact on the development of diseases. We live in a society where the differences are remarkable, since precariousness has increased.
This implies that the lower classes turn to junk foods and fast foods, as they’re cheaper than organic food or fish. At the same time, they can’t afford to eat in a restaurant. Of course, fruits and vegetables may be lower in price, but they may not have sufficient means to cook them. Or they’re at the bottom, so it’s easier for them to grab the cookies.
Food tastes, the biggest determinant of eating habits
Although it may not seem so, our tastes begin to develop in our mother’s womb. Therefore, it’s our mother’s diet which gets us used to certain flavors and shapes our eating habits. In addition, babies have a greater number of taste buds, which is why they perceive a greater degree of intensity of flavors. However, the number decreases over the years.
It’s also necessary to highlight the presence of certain genes related to the more intense perception of bitter or sweet. If you want to know more about this aspect, take a look at the article on how children develop their food tastes.
Later on, our taste depends on the type of food we eat, since our palate gets used to it, making it harder and harder to modify. For this reason, it’s advisable to make the changes progressively.
Another condition is our level of knowledge. Years ago, education was for those who could afford it. But, since the 80s and 90s, all children must have access to a basic education. In addition, the Internet and books provide us with access to a great amount of information. However, it’s essential to do research and consult reliable sources.
Finally, advertisements influence us unconsciously. Manufacturers and retailers want people to buy their products. For this reason, advertisements seek to transmit a message that appeals to our emotions and tastes, allocating huge amounts of money to design and film them. As a result, the more time we spend watching TV, the more unhealthy fast food and snacks we consume.
Also, other conditioning factors when it comes to forging eating habits are culinary skills, hygienic conditions, health awareness, and trends.
Therefore, it’s worth noting that the set of factors we mentioned above interact with each other in such a way that they all shape our eating habits.
Tips for creating healthy eating habits
So far, we’ve explained how we acquire our eating habits. But, before finishing, we’d like to give you some tricks to help you modify them.
First of all, be aware of what food you eat. That’s to say, get informed and savor every bite. Eat slowly. This way, you can choose from several options and opt for the healthy ones.
- Avoid any kind of distraction while you eat, such as a cell phone, tablet, television, radio, etc.
- Eat at the table as a family (in the case of children), or with friends or colleagues. This way, you get to eat more healthy food.
- Encourage dialogue at the table to create a bond of affection.
- Avoid rewarding your children with food and forcing them to finish everything.
- If you’re an adult, look for an internal or external motivation to take the step toward healthier eating habits. For example, tell yourself you’ll feel better.
- Go to the market at least 2-3 times a week.
- Spend time planning and preparing your weekly meals.
As a conclusion, remember that we acquire good (or bad) eating habits during our childhood, but it’s possible to modify them later on. To achieve this, you can resort to coaching and mindfulness eating.