By: Shaun Hui, Keene State College Dietetic Intern
There are many factors that play a role in deciding what we choose to eat. We may go for things that are more convenient, more visually appealing, or more within our budget. Although it may seem challenging to maintain a healthy lifestyle when your environment is working against you, these obstacles can also be a source of support for behavior change. Acknowledging the components that affect our choices can push you further in achieving a healthy lifestyle.
Here are a few ways that our environment can support our food choices and our relationship with food:
Eating with others
Our peers can have a powerful influence on our decisions around food. A 2015 comprehensive study showed that participants ate more when their peers ate more and ate less when their peers ate less1. We eat similar to other people because it gives us a positive emotional experience. Eating with a group gives us a sense of belongingness and encouragement to choose healthy options. Social support has a positive impact on food choices, as well as boosting your self-esteem. Emphasize your healthy eating intentions with your peers and they will likely follow suit.
Places we eat
The location in which food is eaten affects our food habits, particularly in terms of what foods are offered. Whether we are at work or school, the option of choosing healthy foods is not always the easiest. Some may choose to eat at home or go out to eat. With a wide access to fast food restaurants and cafes, it can be more tempting to go with something quick and easy. More and more food places are providing calorie content on menu items to help you be a more informed consumer. Check out the restaurant menu ahead of time and don’t be afraid to modify it to make it healthier.
The media, including, television, magazines, radio, and social media like Facebook and Instagram, is captivating our attention and inherently influencing our food choices. Wherever we may be, we see advertisements that entice us to buy that gluten-free cookie or a “light” ice cream with half the calories. Food product companies purposefully make their products more appealing with bright colors and buzz words to grab your attention. These products may be lacking essential nutrients or may be emptying your wallet quickly. Undoubtedly, the media has an impact on our food habits whether we acknowledge it or not. Investigate more into health promoting media outlets to make more informed decisions.
- Vartanian LR, Spanos S, Herman CP, Polivy J. Modeling of food intake: a meta-analytic review. Social Influence. 2015;10(3):119-136. doi:10.1080/15534510.2015.1008037.