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Publication #FAR8021

Why We Eat the Foods We Do 1

Linda Bobroff2

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Did you ever wonder why you enjoy certain foods and your friends or colleagues seem to have completely different tastes? Have you ever traveled to countries where foods are eaten that you find repulsive? There are good reasons for these differences in food choices among people.

Although biological differences such as food allergies can affect our choices, it's primarily our culture and family traditions that determine the foods we eat. Cultural values dictate what is desirable or undesirable as food, and even the type and amount of food that's offered to guests.

People develop beliefs about food within their particular culture, but these beliefs may or may not be based on scientific facts. It's a good idea then to be aware of beliefs that you may have about foods from your childhood and to determine if they fit with current knowledge about healthy eating.

Food patterns are part of the social norms that parents teach their children. We let our children know which foods are suitable for meals, snacks, or "company" meals, and what foods are not okay to eat at all. We also influence eating habits, not always in positive ways. (Remember the "clean plate club" that we now know can cause children to overeat?) Food patterns and eating habits may be passed from generation to generation. Many of them we should treasure, and others we may want to leave behind.

Listening, learning, and living together: it's the science of life. "Family Album" is a co-production of UF/IFAS Extension, the UF/IFAS Department of Family, Youth and Community Sciences, and of WUFT-FM. If you'd like to learn more, please visit our website at

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Kittler, P. G., & Sucher, K. P. (2000). Cultural foods. Stamford, CT: Wadsworth/Thomson Learning.

Parraga, I. M. (1990). Determinants of food consumption. Journal of the American Dietetic Association, 90(5), 661–63.



This document is FAR8021, one of a series of the Department of Family, Youth and Community Sciences Department, UF/IFAS Extension. Original publication date January 2008. Reviewed February 2018. Visit the EDIS website at


Linda Bobroff, professor, Department of Family, Youth and Community Sciences; UF/IFAS Extension, Gainesville, FL 32611.

The Institute of Food and Agricultural Sciences (IFAS) is an Equal Opportunity Institution authorized to provide research, educational information and other services only to individuals and institutions that function with non-discrimination with respect to race, creed, color, religion, age, disability, sex, sexual orientation, marital status, national origin, political opinions or affiliations. For more information on obtaining other UF/IFAS Extension publications, contact your county's UF/IFAS Extension office.

U.S. Department of Agriculture, UF/IFAS Extension Service, University of Florida, IFAS, Florida A & M University Cooperative Extension Program, and Boards of County Commissioners Cooperating. Nick T. Place, dean for UF/IFAS Extension.