There are various factors that determine our food intake. These factors include: our age, gender (male or female), our family and social circle, those we consider our role models, cultural environment and our place of living, media, and our knowledge of nutrition among others. Moreover, our food intake is also influenced by personal factors such as appearance, texture and taste, economic status, our personal or indirect experiences with certain foods, habits, health and weight issues, and emotional factors (Dorothy, 2001). All these factors influence, in one way or another, the choices we make regarding which food to take. For example, the local and global prices of food affect our food choices. People tend to avoid those foods that appear costly to them due to their income level, opting to purchase the foods that are cheaper. Similarly, our habits also influence our food intake. Most people have a distinct set of foods that they take and from which they rarely deviate. Habits in food intake result from not having a wide array of food choices. For instance, if a person frequents one restaurant only, he or she will have a narrow range of food options. Many people also inherit the food groups and meal planning processes of their parents. Thus, these people become limited in their food choices.
The aim of this paper is to look into factors influencing my personal food intake taking culture into consideration. Therefore, I will seek to analyze my practice in food intake and choices aiming to determine how I can improve my nutritional practice.
Factors Influencing My Food Intake
Having conducted certain analysis, I have discovered several factors that influence my food intake patterns and practices. These factors are: physical needs, my senses, hunger, psychological and social needs. These factors and their effects are discussed below:
Physical needs impact my food intake and choices in various ways. For instance, I like doing physical exercises on a daily basis so as to keep fit. Therefore, I have to take a good amount of white cheese each morning to make sure I get enough energy for my physical exercises.
Another important factor that affects my food intake is hunger. Every day I need to take adequate amount of foods for breakfast, lunch, and supper so as to avoid feeling hungry. In most cases where hunger is the main drive behind my food consumption, I do not pay much consideration to the nutritional content of my food.
Sometimes I am lured to take certain foods after seeing the foods or smelling their aroma, especially when I walk past a food stand or cafeteria. In these instances, the smell or sight of food awaken my hunger sensation causing me to crave the foods in question and I end up buying them.
I am a social person who likes to spend quality time with family and friends. I also like being busy in my spare time, and to unify people using food and hospitality. When I am preparing foods for these social groups, my main concerns about the food are whether it will be comfortable to serve and eat and not the nutritional content of the food. During these occasions, I focus more on the sharing aspect than anything else.
Psychological needs relate to my mind and emotions. The major psychological factors which influence my food intake are stress and my prevailing mood.
Stress & Moods
Mental stress is a common life phenomenon and it has the ability to influence our food choices and intake in various ways. There are several forms of stress that a person can experience and all of them have a potential impact on nutritional choices (Savage & Lubawski, 1998). The influence of psychological stress on food intake is a function of the affected person, the stressor, and the situation. Generally, some people will take more food while others will take less when faced with a stressful situation (Pamela & Kathryn, 1998). As far as my case is conserned, I tend to eat more when experiencing stress regardless of the nutritional value of the food that I am taking.
The influence of moods on food intake is two-way. Moods affect our food intake while food intake, in turn, affects our moods (Schlosser, 2001). When I am in a depressed mood, for instance, I tend to take chocolate bars in order to cheer up.
Influence of Culture
Culture is another key factor influencing people’s food intake. It provides guidelines with respect to which foods are considered acceptable. It also includes eating practices, patterns, etc. (Haviland, 1990). My culture, for example, has influenced me to eat foods such as rolls, noodles, and tortilla which are common to this culture.
My Plan for Improving and Maintaining Good Nutrition
My current food intake choices and practices do not take the proper dietary nutritional requirements into account. Therefore, I will seek to improve my dietary behavior by increasing my intake of fruits and vegetables, taking more of foods that are low in fats, sodium and energy. I will also reduce my consumption of snacks and junk foods.
There are as many factors influencing our food intake and choices as there are ways of improving the nature of our diets. However, changing dietary behavior is not easy as it requires a lot of commitment and self-discipline. In order to change my eating behavior, I will have to eliminate all those foods that have low nutritional value from my diet and replace them with more nutritious foods.