Making Food Choices

The first assignment in my Principles of Nutrition course has the students answer this question:

Take a moment to reflect on the factors that influence your personal food choices. Which factors influence your daily food choices the most? Which factors influence your daily food choices the least? Based on your understanding of the stated food choice factors, provide evidence that identifies potential advantages and disadvantages for each food selection factor. 

I loved reading their answers. Especially because this particular class is rather quiet, and when I gave them the chance to tell me about themselves, most wrote "nothing at this time". Since I cut and paste from their submissions, you won't get the same look at their personalities that I did from reading the entire thing, but let me tell you that it was illuminating.

I appreciated the candor with which many answered. I noted the misinformation, but also the insight. It reminds me of the work we have in front of us as dietitians, especially in terms of how we communicate and how we help encourage behavior change. But I also love the opportunities that I have to teach students about personal habits, even in the midst of their academic pursuits.

Here are a few of the responses. As you read these responses, what do you resonate with here? What factors influence what you eat? 

"From infancy till present, most of my food choices have been influenced by ethnicity. I have also learned to enjoy some varieties of food from different ethnicity and countries since immigrating to the United States."

"I am from the south and from a family that finds it wasteful to not eat absolutely everything on my plate. Although I find chicken fried steak, mashed potatoes and gravy (not instant) extremely satisfying and comforting, I do not partake in it anymore because the negative seems to outweigh the positive when I consume it."


No matter what aspect of the factors that is instrumental to our choices...if one fails to balance whatever he/she eats, they are putting their health in jeopardy.


I grew up in a particular area of Africa and was brought up with the cuisines of that area and even coming to this country did not change my choices. This helped create habits."

"A disadvantage [to choosing foods based on ethnicity] is that you sometimes cannot find the food you usually cook. An advantage is that it can serve as a way of knowing the heritage of your food."


A meal at home is a masterpiece of flavor, colors and textures.


"On busy days there will be vegetable soup because healthy eating is a must."

"Habit, convenience, and emotions can also be disadvantages...[but] perhaps our values and positive associations can change these into when on the run for convenience grab a [piece of] fruit and water instead of greasy chips and sugary drink."

"In my case, I’ve learned that what you put into your body is what you will get out. So if chips, cookies, hotdogs, and soft drinks are going in then diabetes and heart disease will come out."

"During the fall and spring I commute 60 miles a day to campus and back home alone. Juggling school, commuting, and work, becomes very time consuming which causes me to find a quick and cheap alternative to meals."


I used to be a person that was always eating out because I was always to lazy to cook and I'm not a very good cook. I started feeling sluggish and tired due to all the bad food that I was eating.


"I realized I needed to change my eating habits when my son was old enough to eat real food because I want to set a good example for him."

"I am from Sierra Leone, West Africa, and although I sparingly eat fattening foods that are common in the western culture, I am morbidly obese because I love to eat, especially foods from my country, and when something tastes good, it’s hard for me to stop eating."

"A factor that influences my daily food choices the least would be emotions such as boredom, depression, anxiety, and stress."


When eating food I usually eat what tastes good without considering if it’s healthy for my body. I love eating delicious foods not thinking of how many calories or fat it has. 


"An advantage of eating foods based on your values can be that it will make you feel good for being faithful to your own family’s values; a disadvantage could be that not all of your own values can be appropriate to people and one might not get respect form those individuals. Everyone can benefit from their culture; it teaches you to get familiar with your cultures food and will help you make your own food choices."


Katie Goldberg

Katie Goldberg, MCN, RDN, LDN, has been a registered dietitian since 2013, but has always had a passion for good food and a healthy lifestyle. Katie earned her Master’s of Clinical Nutrition from the University of Texas Southwestern Medical Center and has worked in private practice, higher education, in a clinical setting, and as an in-house dietitian for a food company. Whether it's at through large groups or one-on-one, Katie enjoys connecting people with easy and practical solutions for better health.