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Learning Objectives

To define food ideology To discuss some food ideologies To examine the implications of food ideologies on dietary practice

What is an ideology?

set of beliefs ,especially one held by a particular group that influences the way people behave

Political Economic Social Religious

What is a food Ideology?

Definition: It is the sum of the attitudes, beliefs, customs and taboos affecting the diet of a given group. (Eckstein 1980) Simple interpretation: What people think of as food What effect they think food will have on their health What they think is suitable for different ages and groups

Food Ideology (II)


attitudes and beliefs are often learned Effect?

taste :people may eat certain foods which are not intrinsically appealing Unusual dietary choices Different food choices:


variety of foods in various societies but no social group classifies all the potential foodstuffs available as food


It describes the belief that ones own pattern of behaviour are preferable to those of all other cultures. Ethnocentrism makes us accept and eat foods regarded as acceptable by our culture

People think their choice of food is right, best and normal. This often results in food ridicule (certain derogatory or mocking statements are made against other human groups)
Ethnocentrism can evoke both physiological & psychological feeling Exposure to unfamiliar food habits brings ethnocentrism to the fore,

Culture Relativism

It is an approach to understand cultures in order to overcome in-built prejudices of ethnocentrism.

Cultural practices of the indigenous group are examined and practices that are not dysfunctional as normal practices are accepted even though they may be different from familiar practices.
Acceptance of unfamiliar food practices leads to an understanding of the food practices and

Food categorization
Methods of categorization of foods vary in every society. Categorization may be based on


value, socio-cultural uses of food combination of nutritional & sociocultural usage

Some of these categorizations may be rational or irrational

Food categorization by nutritional value

Most modern day categorizations of foods are based on nutritional value Eatwell Plate (UK) Healthy Eating Plate (US) Healthy Eating Steps (Ghana) Food guides are likely to change over the years to reflect patterns of production and consumption & introduce ideas of proportionality and moderation

Changes in US Food guide m

US food guide: current

Food Guide



in healthy food choices and planning of a balanced diet within the framework of normal cultural practices

Designed to meet the desires of powerful interest groups May include cultural practices with built-in biases and prejudices, from the researchers perspective

Consumer classification of foods

Schutz, Rucker and Russel (1975) 5 main categories of food

high calorie foods considered appropriate for social occasions e.g cakes and pies Served in particular circumstances (not everyday foods) Foods suitable for all occasions and ages Foods such as milk and orange juice that were often served cold

High calorie foods

Specialty meal items Common meal items Refreshing foods

T Inexpensive filling foods Often high calorie but lacked the social These classifications are potential populartools for function or prestige of foods in category 1 teaching sound nutrition

World wide classification system of foods: cultural groups

Most cultural groups classify foods according to their functional role, perceived and nonnutritional effects Cultural superfoods Dominant staple foods of a society Derek Jelliffe: 5 classifications

Prestige foods Body-image foods

Reserved for important occasions or for important people (xterised by scarcity and high price) Contribute to good health by maintaining a balance in the body eg. Hot-cold foods, fattening and slimming foods

Sympathetic magic foods Physiological foods

Foods containing special properties which are imparted to those who eat them Foods restricted to persons of a particular age, sex or physiological condition

Food categorization: Passim and Bennet

Purpose of food categorization Society To reveal the values assigned to food Nutritionist/ dietitian Concerned with promotion of healthy eating food choices and habits Passim and Bennet (1943) devised a useful approach that incorporates both purposes: how foods are assigned value in the society + promoting healthy eating habits and choices

Food categorisation: Passim and Bennet

Core foods regular, staple, important and consistently used food: mainstay of diet Secondary foods widespread but not universally used: supporting actors e.g cereals, staples, bread Greatest resistance to dietary modification e.g fruits & vegetables changes in choices more readily accepted e.g. crabs, offal, mushrooms, beans

Peripheral foods least common & infrequently consumed e.g. (new foods or items)

(more amenable to change with least resistance)

Benefits of Passim and Benefits Approach

Indicates which areas of patients diet could be easily modified Helps to anticipate which food habits or patterns would be difficult to change or modify Adds to understanding of non compliance with dietary regimes

Food categorization: Allopathic Medicine (I)

Ancient food categories were based on actual or imagined properties and their supposed effect on the body or disease processes. Allopathic medicine is an ancient system of treatment by opposites Foods, diseases and parts of the body are assigned various attributes, notably hotcold concept

Food categorization: Allopathic Medicine (II)

Foods, diseases and parts of the body are assigned various attributes: hot and cold Diseases occur when the body is out of balance and balance is restored by treating a cold illness with hot or heating foods and viceversa

Practiced in many parts of the world (India, China, Mediterranean, Latin America, North Africa & Caribbean)

Limitations of categorization based on allopathic medicine

Variance in food classification


classification of foods in different

cultures Different classification of foods within cultures Classification does not seem to correspond to physical properties of food

some societies adherence to these classifications varies with level of sophistication, economic means and physiological state

Food ideologies: Implications for dietary practice

Food ideologies:
help to understand the ineffectiveness of conventional nutritional counseling among societies that reject scientific values. Adds to our understanding of patients noncompliance with dietary regimes Lack of understanding of traditional food systems creates barriers to well-intentioned attempts to introduce changes in food habits Sound nutritional practices may , with care be Development and reinforcemment of existing traditional systems

What have we achieved?

We can define food ideologies

We can describe food classification by consumers, nutrition professionals and some societies

Further Reading

Chapter 2 : Food and nutrition: Customs and Culture (Paul Fieldhouse)