How a Society’s Culture Influences the People's Diet

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How a Society’s Culture Influences the People's Diet

Many marketing strategies can mask the unhealthy and harmful effects of such foods through colorful and eye-catching visuals / Photo by Getty Images

 

The places we’ve lived and the culture we’re surrounded by play a huge factor in how we behave and who we become. It will then be no surprise that even what we eat is determined by external factors.

But how much of our food choices are influenced by the people around us?

 

Early Development

When it comes to dietary habits, a person’s choices and preferences often develop as early as when they begin eating. A baby or child is often influenced on what to eat through their parents, who have their own perceptions of what is best for nutrition. These perceptions, in turn, are influenced by the society and environment in which they thrive. For example, couples that are vegan or who have diets high in protein will then be introducing these diets to their children. Some parents who believe heavier or chubbier babies are healthier may feed their child in such a way as to make them gain so much weight. Food can also be used as a way for parents to reward or punish their children.

During the early years of a person’s life, they learn mostly by observing others, and eating habits are no exception. In fact, it was found that parents who tell their children not to eat a certain food but do it themselves will be ineffective in influencing their kids this way. It turns out that they end up trying to consume the “forbidden” food more often that it becomes more desirable.

It was also shown that trying to force a child to eat “healthy” actually discourages them from picking healthy foods later on. The key to getting children to try different foods at an early age is diversifying the selection and letting them choose for themselves.

Societal Pressures

As we grow older, we become more independent in our food choices. However, society has a very large role in influencing your diet in ways that aren’t apparent. Many developed nations, such as the US, have societies where most people have busy schedules and tight budgets. As such, cheaper and quicker food is more readily available. Fast food inevitably becomes more attractive and causes an increase in the rate of obesity, which the US is infamously known for. Healthy food becomes a rare commodity because it can often be more expensive than less-nutritious food.

Aside from this, the norms of social events can be a large factor in what food is eaten. Many national pastimes in the US have typically sought-after food items, such as hotdogs at a baseball game, and alcohol at social events. Social situations often prompt people to eat more than they usually would, as they tend to eat more the more people are with them, according to GlobalHealingCenter.com. The food at social gatherings also tends to contain more fat and calories, as they are easier to prepare and more palatable.

Culture and Media

Culture is often affected by the media and how certain things are portrayed by it. Many of the younger generations are susceptible to what is said or shown on the media, and one of these is the portrayal of the perfect body. For men, it is having a muscular body while for women, it is having a slim figure. Some of these images can be grossly unattainable, but in order to achieve them, many people, especially young girls, may resort to eating minuscule amounts of food and going into harmful diets. Unfortunately, unhealthy eating habits often lead to dangerous eating disorders, which have become rampant in recent decades. Some of the most common are anorexia and bulimia, which has led to life-threatening situations.

Aside from this, those who view advertisements of various foods may be swayed into buying them even if they are unhealthy. Many marketing strategies can mask the unhealthy and harmful effects of such foods through colorful and eye-catching visuals. These will often draw in children and even some adults. A study has also found that children who watched too much television also ended up with poor eating habits.

Those who view advertisements of various foods may be swayed into buying them even if they are unhealthy / Photo by Antonio Guillem via 123RF

 

However, cultures can often also have a positive influence on people. Asian cultures, for example, will often have menus that stress a great number of vegetables and low-fat foods. Those who grow up on selections such as these will continue to eat these foods their entire lives. Oftentimes, it is a cultural shift that will alter one’s long-time diet. Latinos, according to LiveStrong.com, have been found to have increased obesity and heart disease rates once they move from their native land to the US. As they are used to having corns, grains, legumes, and tubers in their diet, the shift in locale often causes a deviation from their traditional eating pattern. The availability of certain types of produce in different countries can also become a large factor in getting a healthy diet.

One’s early years and societal/cultural setting can often determine their eating habits for the rest of their lives. However, it is never too late to try switching habits and eating healthy.

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