Food likes and dislikes are often thought to play a huge role in eating behaviors. The pleasure we derive from food may be one of the most — if not the most — important factors contributing to food intake (Eertmans, et al., 2001; Rozin & Zellner, 1985; Rozin, 1990).

Interviews with customers in supermarkets and restaurants have shown that people consider the sensory properties of food as an important value influencing their choice of food purchased (Furst, et al., 1996). If food is not perceived as appealing in terms of appearance, smell, taste, and texture it probably will not be eaten (Hetherington & Rolls, 1996).

Although food preferences are by no means the only influences on eating behavior, likes and dislikes are very important factors. This article will briefly discuss the influence food preferences have on eating behavior.

Food Likes and Dislikes

The influence likes and dislikes have on eating behavior has been demonstrated in several aspects of eating, including meal duration, rate of eating, amount eaten, (Spitzer & Rodin, 1981) and frequency of eating (Woodward et al., 1996).

Discrepancies have also been reported between food preferences and food consumption (Eertmans et al., 2001). As an example, Lucas and Bellisle found (1987) that individuals who, on the basis of their sensory evaluation (measured with spit and taste tests), preferred medium to high sucrose or aspartame levels in a dairy product actually chose lower levels for intake. It appears that these incongruencies between food likes and consumption are influenced both directly and indirectly by factors other than just food preferences.

Tuorila and Pangborn (1988) obtained questionnaire information about women’s intended and reported ingestion of four foods and one category of food: milk, cheese, ice cream, chocolate and high fat foods. They found that liking of food was a stronger predictor of consumption than health beliefs about the food or consumption of the food. Woodward and colleagues (1996) found that self-reported frequency of food intake could be better predicted by liking and parents’ consumption of the foods rather than perceptions of health benefits of the foods. Wardle (1993) also found that taste was a more reliable predictor of food intake than health considerations.

Steptoe and colleagues developed the Food Choice Questionnaire as a multidimensional measure of motives related to food choice (1995). They found sensory appeal, health, convenience and price as the most important factors influencing eating behavior. Five other factors were rated as less important: mood, natural content, weight control, familiarity and ethical concern.

The best predictor of vegetable and fruit intake in children is whether or not they like the taste or flavor of these foods (Resnicow et al., 1997). Beauchamp and Mennella (2009) suggest that in order to get children to eat nutritious foods it is important that they develop enthusiasm for these foods, implicating the importance of food likes for short-term and long-term consumption. The evidence concerning the impact of food likes on eating behavior is not completely decisive, but the preponderance of evidence suggests that food likes play a major role in eating behavior (Eertmans et al., 2001; Beauchamp & Mennella, 2009; Rozin, 1990).

It is important to note that food “liking,” or pleasure derived from food, is relatively unstable and is just one of many factors that influence eating behaviors (Donaldson, et al, 2009). But this doesn’t negate the importance of liking and its contribution to eating behavior.

References noted within this article are available upon request.

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