However, it could be argued that culture and tradition seem to exert the single strongest influence on an individual's food choices, attitudes and behaviours (Nutrition Update, 2005,p.1).
For a start, though, we should take a look at what constitutes 'choice' as it affects food intake and also culture. Buttriss et al (2004) opine that the term 'Food choice' can be seen from several respects, due to the varying definition of the word 'choice'. They further explain that the word 'choice' could subsume any of the following meanings:
Conversely, Dindyal and Sanjay (2004) define culture as the set of beliefs or norms that govern the attitudes and behaviours of a set/group of related people. Thus, a cultural group of people are characterised by a shared set of values, assumptions, perceptions and conventions usually based on a common history and language. Thus, food choice can be described as the selection of foods for consumption, which results from competing, reinforcing and interacting influences of a variety of factors (Buttriss et al, 2004). ...
Cultural practices and beliefs in relation to food are based on the accumulated experiences of millions of individuals over a period of time (Horne et al, 1995,p.441). So, several food habits evolve from these learned experiences, which in turn leads to the development of attitudes towards food, thus making food choices a sort of cultural expression (Pollard et al, 2002,p.374). According to Horne et al (1995) these beliefs and attitudes are further fostered in the culture because individuals benefit from, and make use of, these communal experiences, eliminating the need for personal learning with every new potential food item (p.374). From this arrangement, it is obvious that individual members of every culture rely on cultural norms to categorise what is food and what is not, this, according to Horne et al is one of the major reasons why people from different ethnical and cultural backgrounds hold varying views about what food substance is acceptable, edible or healthy (p.374), they stated the example of American Indians eating monkeys, grubs, bees and head lice, Australian Aborigines relishing insects and some Sri Lankan tribes, rotted wood.
Besides what is acceptable as food and what is not, cultural practice also spells what food combination is right and appropriate, what are appropriate times for consumption of different food items and also, method of preparation of the different acceptable food items. For example, among traditional eastern communities, food tends to be prepared for a large number of people and eaten at regular times of the day in contrast to mainstream western cultures where food is prepared less frequently during the day and eaten at less regular times (Dindyal and Sanjay,