Nutrition Talk: Not Just Based on Taste

by tinareale on July 31, 2012

While studying for my Fitness Nutrition Specialist certification, I come across a lot of interesting tidbits and information. I thought it would be neat to share some things as I study them. Like…the little fact that the  most popular vegetables in the United States are:

  • potatoes – in the form of french fries
  • tomatoes – in the form of ketchup
  • onions
  • iceberg lettuce

It doesn’t surprise me, even as it greatly saddens me. I found it most interesting, though, that these food preferences aren’t solely based on taste. In fact, a huge variety of factors affect our decisions on what to eat on a daily basis. Everything from culture to advertising.

The most predominant area that affects our daily eating habits comes in the sensory component. We still greatly assess our food based on taste, texture, and smell. Each of these sensory components affect us differently. I, for one, am a huge texture eater. The smell of foods won’t bother me much, but toss sprinkles on ice cream and I won’t want it. Make bread the least bit soggy and I guarantee to dry heave on you. You, however, could care less about the textures and have a much sharper palate with the taste of certain foods.

That all makes sense, but I rarely consider the other ways I make my meal choices – yet I know they impact me daily. Here are some other factors that affect our personal dietary habits.


I know I ate differently when in Europe! Lots of FRESH, FRESH, FRESH foods.

  • economics – including what foods are most accessible
  • lifestyle – whether you live on a rural farm with your own gardens or in a busy city with limited time can affect the typical food consumed by a person
  • religious practices and cultural tendencies


Can we say daily habit???

  • daily habits – Most people follow a set routine for their meals and have trouble veering away from it too often. I own up to acting as a creature of habit with my standard oatmeal breakfasts, wrap lunches, and smoothie snacks.
  • outside pressures and expectations from social settings – Think about how someone always wants popcorn with a movie or a beer when out with friends. 
  • cravings – either a physiological signal from the brain or a psychological desire for something – like a “comfort food”
  • nutrition knowledge and what we believe is “good” or “bad” to eat – Information about certain foods will impact our decisions on how much to consume them.


  • physical restrictions – disease will often impact the type of foods a person can or desires to eat
  • age and gender – certain ages will be more averse to new foods or tastes while different genders may prefer some tastes over others
  • genetic disposition – evidence exists that some people may carry genes that give them a sharper taste for bitter flavors and affect

I find that all so interesting. You never really consider the different factors that impact food choices, but when you think about it there really are so many!

Your Turn – Which of the above factors do you think influence your daily decisions the most? I think routine, lifestyle, and nutrition knowledge are the biggies for me. Although when I get on Pinterest, cravings is in there too. Winking smile


1 MizFit July 31, 2012 at 7:19 am

For me it’s finally all habit and lifestyle.

2 Tiff @ Love Sweat and Beers July 31, 2012 at 7:40 am

I’m with Miz on this one. :)

3 Brittany (Healthy Slice of Life) July 31, 2012 at 10:53 am

Me three!

4 Lindsay @ Lindsay's List July 31, 2012 at 7:31 am

I’m pretty much always on the go, so for me, food needs to be convenient. I do a lot of prep work on Sunday night to make it HEALTHY convenience. That’s been key in getting good foods into my body (and Henry & Clara’s bodies).

5 tinareale August 1, 2012 at 8:04 am

Prep work really does so wonders in making healthy eating more doable!

6 Claire @ Live and Love to Eat July 31, 2012 at 7:46 am

Habits & lifestyle for sure! On vacation it all goes out the window. :)

7 Becky Przy July 31, 2012 at 7:47 am

Very interesting information! I think routine, nutrition knowledge and lifestyle play the largest factor for me….and $. We eat a ton of more vegi’s now since we have our garden, but I know once fall/winter rolls around we will be eating the frozen ones–which are good, but don’t get consumed by the handfull like they do fresh.

8 Heather @ Side of Sneakers July 31, 2012 at 7:47 am

I love love love this post!! It’s so great to see you addressing it to, as a health professional working with people on their eating habits it’s so important to have a good understanding of WHY they make the choices they do in order to help them make changes that’ll stick.

For me, it’s nutrition knowledge and taste that are the driving forces. I like to be healthy and properly fuel my body, but I also just like the taste and experience a food can provide, even if it’s not the healthiest.

9 [email protected] July 31, 2012 at 7:48 am

I originally became vegan having had a vegetarian diet as a result of intolerance’s and having been fully vegan for the last 6 months, even if the intolerance’s didn’t exist I would definitely choose to eat this way! I feel energised, healthy and balanced!
On a daily basis I eat to satisfy my cravings (in the healthiest way possible 90% of the time! :) ) I do endeavour to lead a nutritionally healthy balanced life, though it comes quite naturally now…routine! So nearly all of the above bear some influence! Great post!

10 Laura @ Sprint 2 the Table July 31, 2012 at 7:51 am

This is really funny… I can’t stand white potatoes, ketchup, or iceburg lettuce. LOL! I was dropped on the head as a child…

My biggest influences are seasonality and cravings. Thankfully I crave spinach rather than ketchup. :)

11 Alex @ therunwithin July 31, 2012 at 8:01 am

This is so interesting and I have to agree with what you said. We are all about convenience and those items are plentiful. It is also no help that these items are usually the go to ones.

12 Lee July 31, 2012 at 8:15 am

I think basically all the cognitive things that you listed affect how I eat more than anything.

13 Lindsay @ The Lean Green Bean July 31, 2012 at 8:16 am

daily habits DEF influence my eating!!

14 Erica @ For the Sake of Cake July 31, 2012 at 8:50 am

I think daily habits probably influence what I eat the most! I will get in a “groove” where I eat the same things over & over just because that’s what I’m used to!

15 tinareale August 1, 2012 at 8:06 am

I do this too and know I need to be better about variety. It’s just when I find something that tastes good all the time and fills me up and gives me energy I like going with what I know works. But have to remember that variety is so important to get in all the nutrients possible.

16 [email protected] LoveMintChocolateChip July 31, 2012 at 8:51 am

Thanks for talking about this topic!!! i needed this today… for me it is routine… i eat the same 2-3 things for breakfast… 2-3 things for lunch and 2-3 things for dinner! i need to start exploring more in the food department it is just hard when i am only cooking for myself!!

17 Katie @wishandwhimsy July 31, 2012 at 8:57 am

Great post! I’d say that 3 things most influence my eating habits: 1.) economics (Does it fit within my budget?) 2.) Daily habits: when I finds something simple and healthy, I tend to stick with it for a long time! I ate a protein souffle for breakfast EVERY. SINGLE. DAY. for 4 weeks straight…but I thought I should vary it up a bit even though I loved it! and 4.) Genetics: I watched my Mom struggle with cancer in the past year and a half and I recognized that I needed to shape up my own diet to help my chances of prevention later down the road.

18 Kelly July 31, 2012 at 9:05 am

I will eat anything but I am allergic (I just recently found out 3 months ago via testing) dairy and soy. So I now am forced to make food choices that stay away from those 2 food groups. Soy is harder than dairy just because soy is in EVERYTHING. But considering Keith and I hardly eat anything processed it isn’t too difficult.

19 tinareale August 1, 2012 at 8:09 am

Soy really is in everything!!! Like you mentioned with the thyroid, I do try to avoid it as much as possible. I will still have it once maybe twice a week in the obvious way (like the edamame I had in my dinner last night bec I couldn’t imagine keeping it out of the recipe or the occasional bar that has soy in it), but otherwise it’s good I eat mostly fresh things too to avoid it in most everything else.

20 Kaitlin @4loveofcarrots July 31, 2012 at 9:19 am

I have learned about this topic in my health coach training classes. This week an interesting topic was brought up regarding blood types and I learned that depending on what blood type you are your body craves and thrives off of certain foods. When it comes to eating I am a daily habits and nutrition knowledge girl. I also try to satisfy my cravings when I have one.

21 jobo July 31, 2012 at 9:25 am

So so true, what a great post Tina!! Very intuitive and mindful, too. For me, HABIT. Definitely. For oatmeal and such. And the things I know will FUEL me and keep me fulfilled (guess that would go under knowledge!). And sometimes, cravings, but I think that’s a given for most everyone!

22 Lauren @ Oatmeal after Spinning July 31, 2012 at 9:46 am

My husband is a huge texture person- and I am not! It really doesn’t phase me (though I definitely do like a “crunch” added to anything to make it even better!).
It always baffles me that people don’t eat more vegetables. That’s what makes up at least 50% of my diet (75% some days)- because there are SO many to choose from that are SO good! I know that many school lunch plans categorize french fries as “vegetables.” Sad.

23 Bethany @ Accidental Intentions July 31, 2012 at 10:03 am

Habit definitely plays one of the biggest roles in my food choices, especially at breakfast. Since at least kindergarten, possibly before then, I almost always have some sort of cereal on Monday, Wednesday, Friday, eggs on Tuesday and Thursday, something special (pancakes, waffles, or French toast) on Saturday, and scrambled eggs with something pastry-ish on Sunday. That’s how it always was growing up in my house, and that’s how I’ve continued to eat. Lately I’ve gotten a lot better at adding some variety–like I don’t have the exact same bowl of overnight oats every MWF now, I’ll add different fruit, extracts, etc.–but it still follows the same pattern. It’s not like I’ve gotten sick of it, though, so I guess it’s not necessarily a bad thing!

24 sarah @ the pajama chef July 31, 2012 at 10:16 am

daily habits & economics (esp. as a grad student now) definitely play a huge role for me!

25 Heather (Where's the Beach) July 31, 2012 at 10:30 am

Great post. For me I think it can sometimes boil down to influences from others – like going out for happy hour with friends and indulging in cheese dip just because it’s sitting in front of my face. During the week, being at work keeps me more on track b/c it’s easier to stick with a typical routine. I bring my lunch to the office so I’m not faced with any choices to make – bad choices. On the weekends….whole other ballgame sometimes.

26 Ashley @ My Food 'N' Fitness Diaries July 31, 2012 at 10:35 am

I would definitely say cognitive factors influences my daily food decisions, particularly habits, lifestyle, and knowledge.

27 Sharla July 31, 2012 at 10:43 am

You make me want to be a Nutrition Specialist! Soo interesting – love this!

28 Leonor @FoodFaithFitness July 31, 2012 at 11:20 am

I am a creature of habit and find that if a food works, and I’m not sick of it, why change? I am trying to be better about incorporating new recipes each week, but I like my safe foods.

29 tinareale August 1, 2012 at 8:11 am

I am totally the same way. It’s probably one of my biggest nutrition “vices” in not getting as much variety as I could. Well, that and the beer and/or ice cream I always crave on the weekend. But even that is probably more out of habit! Haha!

30 Amanda @RunToTheFinish July 31, 2012 at 11:28 am

great post!! I am actually working to put routine in my favor by creating a set of great clean meals that I can quickly go to because I enjoy them. I know that sets me up for success. I agree that other countries have the advantage with how they eat..real foods, yes even fat, but in smaller portions and not from a box. great post!

31 Lisa July 31, 2012 at 11:33 am

Wow, that is very sad that those are the most popular “vegetables” in the US. My influences definitely come from lifestyle, knowledge, cravings, and habits. I think convenience can also be a big thing too. Especially if I’m away or on the go. This is all very interesting. I love hearing about your adventures in becoming a Nutrition Specialist. Its been something I’ve been looking more into!

32 Paige @ Your Trainer Paige July 31, 2012 at 11:39 am

I think my lifestyle – including accessibility and ability to buy certain foods – as well as knowledge influence my decisions regarding food choices.

33 Christin July 31, 2012 at 11:54 am

Right now I am really struggling with a physical restriction. Since I am on blood thinners for my blood clot, I can’t eat leafy greens, cruciferous veggies, and other greens, and I have to limit vitamin K (blood clotting agent) rich foods in general. Well this is TOUGH because I used to live on salads, broccoli, asparagus, spinach etc and now I can’t have them :(

I have really tried to turn this into a positive by exploring other veggies that I wouldn’t normally eat, but you never realize how many leafy green options there are until you can’t have them. I can’t wait to be off of blood thinners…I have a whole new appreciation for veggies!

34 tinareale August 1, 2012 at 8:13 am

You know I’m still SO glad that you’re doing better overall after your scare! I can only imagine having to still be cautious for the time when you feel so much better and want to eat the nutrients your body knows and loves must be SO hard!

35 Christin August 1, 2012 at 12:03 pm

Thanks Tina…it’s definitely is tough, but so am I :) …and it’s good to know it’s only temporary…have such a great trainer to work with is really helpful too ;)

36 [email protected] July 31, 2012 at 1:07 pm

My kids think that iceberg lettuce is evil. :-) I think I’ve drilled it into their head that other lettuces are better. Although they only eat potatoes in the form of fries, too.

Having one super picky eater is interesting – I’ve found for her it’s mostly about texture and simple flavors. She gets overwhelmed (and did as a baby too) when the flavors are complicated. It’s maddening to feed her, but I’m hoping she’ll learn to deal with it.

Food preferences are really interesting. Sometimes I think people assume that they’ll never like something instead of opening up their mind and just trying something new.

37 Lindsay @ In Sweetness and In Health July 31, 2012 at 1:47 pm

This is so interesting! I’m totally a texture person too. I can’t eat peaches because of the fuzz haha. I would definitely say that all of the cognitive ones are my biggest influencers!

38 Jess July 31, 2012 at 2:32 pm

GREAT post Tina! For me, habit and what makes me FEEL good are what my eats tend to revolve around. Environment definitely comes into play too – especially when out of my own element (Traveling for work) and/or when I’m at a party or event where the menu is out of my control. But for the most part – habit and what feels good. :)

39 Cat @sugaraddictanonymous July 31, 2012 at 2:36 pm

For me, habit and economy are really effecting me these days. I am in such a habit of smoothies for breakfast, not that I am complaining. I love my smoothies. And $$$ is really a contributing factor right now. I am not working, just freelancing, so I am shopping mainly at farmer’s markets. (Last night I used walnuts instead of pinenuts in our pesto since the pinenuts were $10.50 for a small container! Its not that hard to eat healthy on a budget though, which is great for us!

40 Katie @ Peace Love & Oats July 31, 2012 at 3:06 pm

I definitely think economics, knowledge, and health (lots of food intolerances) plays the biggest role in what I eat. And those vegetables on the list? I love that they are what you’d get in a McDonalds meal.

41 Kim @ Redefining Kim July 31, 2012 at 3:32 pm

Tina, this was an interesting post. I had never given much thought into the factors that influence our food choices. I tend to be a creature of habit and eat the same 3 or 4 breakfasts, lunches or dinners. Additionally, for me, lifestyle is a big factor in the foods that I eat – as a working mother of a toddler, I need food that can be prepared ahead of time, reheated in the office microwave, and can be consumed with one handle (when wranggling the toddler).

42 Stephanie @ My Freckled Life July 31, 2012 at 4:54 pm

I’d say environmental has been huge for me since I moved to the country a year ago from Washington, DC. In DC, it was common for me to eat from food trucks, nice restaurants and I didn’t do a lot of cooking at home. In the country I go to the farmer’s market almost every weekend and pick up fresh fruits and veggies from local farms, and cook 90% of my meals at home. Definitely a different lifestyle!

43 StoriesAndSweetPotatoes July 31, 2012 at 7:34 pm

Definitely habit. Soon enough, you start CRAVING your habit. So make it a good one ;)

44 tinareale August 1, 2012 at 8:15 am

Oh I love that quote!!!! You start craving your habit. I might just have to share that (with credit to you of course) on my blog. Would that be okay with you?

45 StoriesAndSweetPotatoes August 1, 2012 at 9:44 am

Of course, have at it! :)

46 Brittany @ Delights and Delectables July 31, 2012 at 9:30 pm

routine and nutritional knowledge def drive me, but cravings usually win over. lol!

47 Coco July 31, 2012 at 9:34 pm

Routine and daily habits for me. I used to be much more influenced by outside expectations, but have learned that I really don’t want to eat greasy food even if I’m at an amusement park!

48 purelymichelle July 31, 2012 at 10:36 pm

daily habits, and outside influence. although I am getting better with this

49 Melissa @ Live, Love, & Run August 1, 2012 at 1:02 am

Oh Tina…you’re making me miss my FNS book so bad right now! ;) It’s packed away for the move!

Lifestyle. Hands down. Lately I need quick, easy, NOW. I have been having to wing-it recently and it’s driving me nuts!

50 Cheryl @ Happy is the new healthy August 1, 2012 at 7:34 am

I am definitely a creature of habit, but I can change habits! I experimented a lot in the past with my diet — and a lot of it had to do with bigger issues over thinking food was good or bad or somehow something more than just fuel and a way to nourish my body and fuel it for all the things I want to do. Now that I’ve got my head on straight, I’d say that nutrition is important but I definitely am influenced by my environment and my circle of friends (evidence: significant froyo and drinks on patios in the summer vs. hot chocolate in the winter!). :) Interesting topic to think about!

51 Julia H. @ Going Gulia August 1, 2012 at 2:53 pm

Interesting to take a second to think of how many little factors there are that go into what we eat! I think that helps support the point that we can’t make assumptions about other people based on how they eat…there’s just too much that goes into it!

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