There are various different aspects that drive our eating habits. These factors differentiate between whether one will choose to eat a healthy meal or snack or an unhealthy meal or snack. Do these factors help us form good eating habits? Do they cause us to eat things that don’t contain much nutritional value? It mainly depends on the person. These factors could lead to negative health issues if one chooses to eat unhealthy foods. The foods we choose to consume day to day are due to three major factors: advertisements in which foods are presented, the availability of certain foods in each community, the taste the food provides, and some even eat specific foods in order to protect the environment.
First, there are various advertisements put out everywhere. Whether it be on TV, on a billboard, or in a magazine or newspaper, various restaurants and grocery stores can be represented by the foods they choose to include in their advertisements. For example, many fast food chain organizations such as McDonalds, Taco Bell, etc. advertise their menus and their new combo meals. These meals often contain tons of calories, carbs, salt etc. As David Freedman states in “How Junk Food Can End Obesity”, “A few words on salt: … Yes, it makes food more appealing” (Freedman 144). People see these ads for food and what they are made of and will eat them not because of the health factors, but because of the taste. These advertisements get people thinking and force them to go out and get whatever the food may be from a store or restaurant. Freedman also exclaims, “Television food shows routinely feature revered chefs tossing around references to healthy eating…all while spooning lard, cream, and sugar over everything in sight” (Freedman 145). These advertisements have people seeing the tasty foods and believing they are healthy, which makes them want to make themselves these meals. They use these advertisements to make profit because it motivates people to eat these foods because they see how delicious they can look on TV or in a magazine or other form of advertisement. Not only do they do this on TV or in magazines to advertise, but where better to advertise specific foods than right inside the restaurant itself. For example, inside Freedman’s article, it is stated that, “‘The more they want you to buy something, the bigger they make the image on the menu board’”(Freedman 150). These tactics not only drive people’s eating habits, but are major influences on how well the fast food services do in the economy. The more they can sell and get people hooked on their new food items, the better they will do financially. Advertisements of these inexpensive delicious foods play a huge role in what people choose to consume daily.
Furthermore, explained in another article, there are decisions made on food that are not based on how the food is advertised or how it tastes. Often, people will eat certain foods based on what they can afford to eat, in other words, what they have access to. In the article “Why Sham Won’t Stop Obesity” by Dhruv Khullar, it is stated that, “…you can buy 2,000 calories for under $10 at your neighborhood McDonalds”(Khullar 137). Being able to buy meals for cheap that satisfy one’s needs for their calorie intake is essential for those living on low income. There may be those who wish to live a healthier diet but cannot afford to do so based on their income. This is an accessibility issue. To be able to afford nutritious foods that accommodate all the necessary nutrients one must consume each day, you have to be at least middle to upper middle class. Also, as Freedman compares a meal he ate at McDonalds to a similar meal at a fancier restaurant, he states, “The sandwich was delicious. It was less than half the cost of the Sea Cake appetizer at Real Food Daily” (Freedman 149). Real food daily, a restaurant that serves organic food and has a menu consisting of highly nutritional foods, was priced higher, simply because their food choices are healthier than McDonalds. The foods are similar, the only difference with McDonalds is they are cheaper and their meals tend to be pumped with fats and other preservatives. People are forced to take an unhealthy option over a more nutritious option because it is all they can afford. Wouldn’t it be so much easier if foods that provided many healthful benefits to the body were made accessible to all, no matter what social class a person belongs to?
Additionally, as mentioned earlier, it is highly noticeable that in this world we live in today, taste is an extremely common factor that causes people to eat what they eat. Whether it be a processed meal such as a hamburger and fries from McDonalds, or a home cooked meal rich in nutrients such as grilled chicken and steamed vegetables, all people choose the foods they eat based on what their taste buds approve of. Many foods, healthy or not, can be “full of fat and problem carbs” (Freedman 145). These carbs and fats included in meals are what make the meals so delicious and very often are what tend to draw people in to keep consuming them. The companies that produce these foods know this, so they continue to produce these foods in order to make a larger profit off of them. Additionally, in “The Science of Taste” by Facts Network, “Taste signals travel first to the base of the brain where some signals are processed. Signals are then sent along to higher brain areas. Some signals go to the ventral forebrain where they may trigger areas that control emotions and memories” (..) This is why most people remember taste and tend to crave certain foods more than others. Hence, taste prominently impacts what we eat.
Finally, one of the most extreme factors that drive what people choose to eat are how what they eat will affect the environment we live in today. There are many specific diets that people choose to stick to that limit the negative effects society as a whole has on the environment. Some examples of these specific diets are: Vegetarianism (no meat products), Veganism (no animal products whatsoever), Pescetarianism (only utilizes fish as a source of meat). These are just a few examples, however, there are many more diets that limit the toll humans take on the environment. There are many ways that eating meat can cause a negative impact on the environment. For example, as explained by Michael Allen Fox in “The Contribution of Vegetarianism to Ecosystem Health”, These wastes, the runoff of water used to clean farm buildings and equipment, and pesticide residues and other agricultural chemicals, are often poorly handled and cause the contamination of waterways and soil, as well as air pollution” (Fox 71). These harmful effects, as well as many others contribute to why people eat the way they do.
People who choose a vegetarian or vegan lifestyle do so because they are striving for change. Another thing many did not know is that excessive breeding of animals has a negative effect on the environment. Cows are one of the major animals utilized in the food industry for their meat. The overbreeding of cows is not only a negative because it is unnecessarily harmful to the animal itself, but cows also emit carbon dioxide which is extremely harmful to the earth’s atmosphere and causes an increase in greenhouse gases. Another reason, not only helpful to the animals, but to the population all over the world is that, “ 240 million tonnes (264.5 million tons) of grain are fed to livestock in the United States annually—enough to feed approximately 800 million people a vegetarian diet” (Fox 70). A pro to eating vegetarian is that there are less fats and additives and the foods are more nutritionally beneficial. If more people were to eat vegetarian or vegan, there would probably be less cases of world hunger, as well as many diseases such as diabetes and heart disease. These reasons are why eating vegan and vegetarian is so beneficial and why it is such a driving factor in the foods that people choose to ingest.
Initially, the most notable causes determining what people eat on a day to day basis are advertisements, availability, taste, and environmental impacts of food choices. The real question is do all of these food choices help form good eating habits? Or do they lead people into eating habits that put people more at risk for disease? If so, how will society change in order to ensure healthy eating for all?