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Our food choices are influenced by a variety of factors. Knowing why we eat what we do can help nutritionists develop better strategies to help people adopt healthful eating practices.
Think about it for a moment. Have your eating habits changed over the years? Do you eat differently depending upon where you are or the people you're with? Do you sometimes have conflicts between what you want to eat, what you think you should eat, or what others tell you to eat?
You're not alone, says Division of Nutritional Sciences professor Carole Bisogni. Our food choices are influenced by a wide variety of cultural, social, psychological, and environmental forces. To get an idea of how people choose food, Bisogni, fellow nutritional sciences professor Jeffery Sobal, graduate student Laura Winter Falk, and research associates Tanis Furst and Margaret Connors recently interviewed adults living in Upstate New York. The study participants, who represented various ages, socioeconomic groups, and family structures, were asked about how they chose food when shopping or eating.
Bisogni says that there have been many studies of people's food choices over the years. Most are singular in perspective, taking a predominantly cultural, psychological, or sociological point of view. Previous studies also have limited their interest to the factors that the researchers identified as important prior to the data collection.
"We took a different approach," she says. "Through open-ended interviews, we talked to people about their food choices and learned about what they do and also why they do it. The interviews revealed a whole range of factors that appear to work together to influence food practices. Understanding these factors and how they work together can help nutrition professionals design better strategies to help people make dietary changes to promote health."
Bisogni and her colleagues used the results of their study to create a conceptual model of the food choice process. They then examined the model again through …