HOW DO we choose what to eat? What values shape our choices? What are our collective “foodways,” these days?
Foodways are “the eating habits and culinary practices of a people, region, or historical period,” says the Merriam-Webster online dictionary. Foodways reside at the intersection of culture, history, and economics—and they reveal at lot about a people. What do trends in our foodways tell us about America?
Our foodways relate to one of the 10 Core Values Americans hold dear: the pursuit of happiness. Eating is pleasurable, but sometimes we eat to manage our emotions. Indeed, “Hedonism in America: Eating ourselves to death?” is one of the all-time most popular columns to appear on Ourvalues.org since I began these columns in 2008.
So, WHICH DO YOU AVOID?
One insight into foodways is the choices people make about what to eat and what not to eat. Consider this list of 15 foods. Which of these is #1 on your list of foods to avoid? (Spoiler alert: Below I tell you what Gallup learned in a survey conducted this summer so you can compare your choices with the rest of the country.)
Beef and other red meat
Chicken and other poultry
Fish and other seafood
Grains such as bread, cereal, pasta, and rice
Soda or pop, diet
Soda or pop, regular
What did Gallup’s survey reveal about what we’d like to be eating? So, first, here’s what’s at the bottom of the avoidance list—in other words, these are the foods most Americans try to include in their diets: Fruits and Vegetables. Over 90% of Americans actively try to eat these foods. Chicken and other poultry are also in the must-eat category. More than 8 of 10 (83%) try to eat these foods.
What’s #1 on the avoidance list? Soda or pop. Type doesn’t matter. Sixty-two percent of Americans avoid diet soda or pop, and 61% avoid the regular type.
American foodways about soda or pop have been changing. Back in 2002, only 41% of Americans said they tried to avoid these beverages. Since then, increasing numbers of Americans have been avoiding soda or pop.
Many Americans also try to avoid sugar and fat, according to Gallup. But in this instance—it’s not a majority of Americans. Avoiding soda or pop is the only food that a majority of Americans say they try to exclude from their diets.
What’s at the top of your avoidance list?
Have your food choices changed over time?
What do Americans’ declining interests in soda or pop tell us about America?
Start a conversation …
That’s the purpose of the OurValues project. We encourage civil discussion on important topics of the day. You are free to print out, repost and share these columns with friends. You can use them in your small group or class. Enjoy this week’s series!