As the old adage goes, you are what you eat. This is especially true when it comes to the food choices people make, which are influenced by a wide variety of internal and external factors that may actually have little to do with the food itself. Whether it’s conscious or unconscious, your preferences all come down to six factors in particular.

Taste

The most obvious factor that makes you choose one food over another is taste. Food that’s pleasing to the palate, of course, usually wins, but every person’s sense of taste is different. Caviar, for example, is considered a rich, delicious delicacy to those who enjoy it, while others find it just plain gross. People tend to feel hungry for and seek out foods that they subjectively find appealing.

Health

Concerns over health and fitness can also play a hand in food choices. An overweight person trying to slim down by dieting would usually choose different foods than someone who’s not worried about weight gain. Taste is still a factor in these decisions, but often comes second to calories and sugar and fat content.

Emotion

Many people have an emotional connection with food, often tapped as a source of comfort in sad or stressful times. Conditions such as depression, stress, and anxiety can cause people to make choices about food that they might not make in a different emotional state. This often leads to impulse eating, usually involving unhealthy “junk” foods.

Marketing and Advertising

A TV commercial extolling the virtues of a mouthwatering brand of frozen pizza may make you want to rush out and buy one, which is exactly what most advertising executives are banking on. Many food choices are heavily influenced by advertising and media marketing specifically designed to make customers choose one food or brand over another. Children are a prime target of this type of marketing—promise a toy with a fast-food meal or make a cartoon character the face of a breakfast cereal and it’s hook, line, and sinker.

Culture

Your ethnic and cultural background can play a key role in influencing your food choices. A Mexican-American, for example, might be likely to choose very different foods than a Chinese-American would, for purely cultural reasons. Many people gravitate toward food they find comforting, so if you grew up eating (and liking) a certain dish, chances are, you’d 640 to that food over something less familiar.

Economic Status

Cash can rule your food choices, too. A person on a small fixed income probably looks for the most inexpensive food possible. Budget shoppers may purchase cheaper prepared and canned foods, and try to stretch a few fundamental ingredients to make multiple recipes. If money is no object, you’re more likely to indulge in pricey ingredients and top-dollar menu items at restaurants.


References and Resources

Medical News Today: Food and Emotion