Food: Three Influences on Eating Habits

To make sense out of food, we must think about health and enjoyment. Our body is not a machine that just injects something to survive. Health and enjoyment should go hand in hand with food. Never force-feed the body with something that someone says is good. On the other hand, be prepared to modify our eating habit for a healthier and happier life.


The kind of food we eat is largely influenced by culture. People in different places eat what they are accustomed to as passed down from previous generations. There is nothing right or wrong, good or bad with that. One cannot apply personal bias or limited knowledge to pass judgment on the food of a foreign culture.

Nevertheless, some cultural habits are prone to produce more obesity, higher cholesterol, or higher sugar content in the blood, which is increasingly evident in the US. This is due to certain kind of food being consumed in large quantities.

The diversity of Chinese food has generated some humorous comments. Foreigners like to say that the Chinese eat anything that has four legs except a table, and anything that flies except an airplane. While this is true to a small extent, I wish to remind the critics that they don’t know what they are missing if they don’t try.


Geography plays an important role in the food we eat. For instance, in the US where there is plenty of space especially grassland, it facilitates the raising of cows. Consequently the American diet has more dairy and beef contents. In addition, efficient transportation of food makes the country more uniform in its diet.

In China, although space is abundant, there are four times more people than in America. Overcrowding exists along the coast and some inland regions. Raising cows are much more costly than pigs or chickens. The differences in regional geography coupled with less efficient transportation has resulted in much diversified regional cuisines in China.

In Japan, whose four islands add up to only the size of California with a population half that of the US, meat consequently becomes very expensive. Most of the meat and fruits are imported from overseas. Naturally, the Japanese turn to the ocean as their farmland where they harvest fish and seaweed. Thus seafood becomes a major staple in the Japanese diet.


In modern days, you will be surprised how and what you eat is influenced by television and what is hip at the time. This explains the success of McDonalds, KFC, Coke, bottled water, energy bars, vitamin pills, and even pet foods. These businesses have one thing in common. They offer convenience and hyped results.

It is increasingly clear that the growing fast food industry is contributing to obesity, cholesterol and high blood sugar in the population, especially the young. A movement is taking place in American schools where children learn to plant and harvest their lunch vegetables in the school garden. This instills the concept of food harvested from nature to erase the misconception that food is delivered on trucks and packaged in attractive bags or boxes.

If we look back ten years ago, there was hardly any bottled water around. This industry suddenly blossomed out of nowhere. We were told all the good things about bottled water without knowing the environmental impacts of millions of discarded plastic bottles. We also got the false impression that tap water was unsafe. We did not get sick drinking from the tap before the onset of bottled water, did we?

As for pet food, are you surprised that many people think that pets can only eat pet food? Try to give some meat to your dog and some fish to your cat. They won’t eat pet food anymore after they have tried the good natural stuff. Have you wondered what kind of food eaten by dogs and cats before pet food was invented not long ago?

(January 2012)

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