Talking to Others about Food Choices

In the U.S. there are two important research topics regarding food choices. As a health coach, I study these findings. I also know my friends and clients talk about food around their own kitchen tables! The first conversation topic involves what drives us in making our daily food choices. Why do we eat this, but not that? What shall we eat for dinner?

The second topic goes a little deeper, and sometimes, it gets quite heated. Who’s manipulating American communities by manufacturing food-like products that have known addictive qualities. Following that line of thought, I often wonder why we live in a society with both abundant food options and food scarcity. How can we all work together to help everyone eat well, eat enough, and trust their food?

I’ve made a graphic to show the food-choice influences that researchers study and report.

Which parts of your life or choices help you feel empowered? Do you have influences that I haven’t included?

The National Institutes of Health is part of this food conversation. “Consumers choose foods…within the context of their own and their household’s preferences and available resources.” Many of the health coaching clients I talk to tell me about trying to satisfy kids as they shop for groceries. They also tell me they lack enough time to cook at home, so rely on eating out or buying food that needs no prep. When they eat out, everyone gets to choose their own food. Busy parents often tell me what a relief it is to let the kids make their own choices. I get it. It can be tricky to please everyone.

Another part of the food-choice conversation involves eating for emotional reasons. Many people look to food to fill a void or gap in their life. When we are moving from one part of the day to the next — like when we move from our workday to our personal time — we often use food and drink as a distraction to add fun or ease the transition. “The stress of food choice is complex and individualistic: some people under stress…eat more, and some eat less.” *Shepherd R., 1999, Proceedings of the Nutrition Society.

Changing the Way We Choose our Food

When someone asks me this question, I might have a ready answer or I might feel ornery. On a good day, a few great ideas pop into my mind! First, I think about what’s in the fridge. What sounds good to me? If someone is helping me cook, I’ll ask them what sounds good to them. This is the food-choice decision process.

As my graphic above shows, a range of factors come into play with each choice we make. Some of us feel confident in our decision-making around food. Some of us feel our healthy eating lifestyle is not in our direct control. In a research study in 2015, these categories of food choice were found:

  • 26% of people say their mood has the most influence on what they eat
  • 23% say keeping within a limited food budget changes what they eat
  • 22% of people in the survey say the nutritional value of their options is key
  • 64% of people simply eat what others offer them
  • 52% say they’d change their food choices but don’t know how to
  • 53% find it difficult to choose for health because of the taste
  • 61% snack between meals so often they skip meals

Clearly, the myriad of influences on what people eat means the path to better health is more difficult than it could be. The fact that people feel they don’t have control over the food they eat is of particular concern.

Dr. Ian Boyd

How can we change our choices about the food we eat and when we eat it?

Decision-making for food choices sometimes requires a little visual aid. Client Anne reports, “I counted the sodas I drank for one week. I looked on your label reading lesson about how many tablespoons of sugar were in those soda cans. I chose a favorite big red bowl and scooped the amount of sugar I’d drunk during one-week of soda. This visual did it for me! I was so disgusted it was easy to make the choice to flavored water.”

Decision-making for food choices could be made easier. Not every food-industry company is creating harmful foods! Some companies are on the leading edge of mindfully helping us make healthier food choices. As consumers ask for more and better options, the grocery and restaurant community can grow in popularity by listening and responding. When my kids were little, we’d drive about our town, and sometimes we’d see a new building under construction. They’d ask me, “What are they building for us over there?” My hopeful answer was always “I hope they’re building a new healthy food restaurant!”

You may think I’m sappy or kidding you right now, but this was my hope. In the 1980s, many moms like me longed for easier options when feeding our kids and making food choices for them mattered.

I understand that changing the way we make food choices doesn’t just come down to a visual aid or a new restaurant. Changing our habits can be challenging…

Food Choices and Creating Habits in 30-Days

The building or creating habits that help my clients thrive is a focus of my work here at Holland Health Coaching. If you long for encouragement or an accountability partner in a habit-change, I’m here for you. In as little as 30 days, you can think through what now influences your decisions about food (or any other kind of habit you’re interested in). Like my past client Anne, you can find some new tools for crowding-out the foods that no longer serve your goals. Like my past client Jade, you can receive accountability in real-time to help you follow through.

Click the green button below to learn more about what this program offers!

I’m motivated by this: How can we work together to help everyone eat well, eat enough, and trust their food? #empowered #healthyfood #holistichealthcoach #foodchoices #focusonthegood