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 are influenced by a wide variety of internal and external factors that may actually have little to do with the food itself. Consciously or unconsciously, individuals choose particular foods over others. Six factors in particular influence these choices.


Taste

The most obvious factor that makes you choose one food over another is its taste. Food that tastes good is understandably appealing, although what is considered tasty may vary widely from individual to individual. Caviar, for example, is considered a rich, delicious delicacy to those who enjoy it, while a child would probably turn up his nose. People often tend to feel hungry for — and thus seek out — foods which they subjectively find appealing.


Marketing and Advertising

A TV commercial extolling the virtues of a mouth-watering brand of frozen pizza may make you want to rush out and buy one, which is exactly the hope of most advertising executives. In fact, many food choices are heavily influenced by advertising and media marketing specifically designed to make customers choose one food or brand of food over another. Children, for example, are influenced by factors such as toys that come with fast-food meals and cartoon characters promoting breakfast cereal.


Culture

Your ethnic and cultural background can play a key role in influencing your food choices. A Mexican-American, for example, is likely to choose very different foods than a Chinese-American would, for purely cultural reasons. Many people will gravitate toward food they find comforting or familiar, which can differ widely from culture to culture.


Health

Concerns over health and fitness can also influence food choices. An overweight person trying to lose weight by dieting will usually choose different foods than someone whose metabolism allows her to eat whatever she wants without concerns of weight gain. Taste is still a factor in these decisions, but often comes second to caloric value and fat content.


Emotion

Many people have an emotional connection with food, which is often tapped as a source of comfort in times of sadness and distress. As a result, emotions often influence food choices. 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. Most of the time, this leads to impulse eating, often involving unhealthy usually leading toward less-healthy “junk” foods.


Economic Status

Your income and monetary status will heavily influence which food you decide to eat. A person on a small fixed income is likely to look for the most inexpensive food possible. Budget shoppers often try to make multiple recipes with the same basic family of ingredients, and purchase less expensive prepared and canned foods. Someone for whom money is no object is more likely to indulge in more expensive dishes or impulse buys.