Various motivation factors are responsible for choices of foods and beverages in different eating occasions at various times of the day.
Using three different methods, researchers investigated these factors and their influence. They identified at least 15 major motivators behind study participants’ food choices.
These motivators fell into two broad categories: function oriented (e.g. liking, hunger) and emotion oriented (e.g. pleasure, sociability). They included: liking, need and hunger, habits, price, convenience, choice limitation, health, weight control, natural concerns, pleasure, affect regulation, sociability, social norms, social image, traditional eating, variety seeking, visual appeal.
What’s for dinner requires more thinking
Meals and snacks are pre-conceptualized differently. Meals are structured while snacking often is not. Food choices for meals, thus, were different from food choices for snacks in this study.
For the study participants, choosing foods and beverages for meals were the result of the interplay of more motivation factors than for snacks.
Liking is the number one motivator for food choices in most situations. But results also showed that food decisions were significantly influenced by the time of the day at which the eating occurred.
During the day, participants were more likely to be driven by functional motivators. Convenience was the most important for breakfast and lunch, while morning snacking was associated with weight control, need and hunger.
Emotional motivators like pleasure, sociability and variety seeking were key drivers for dinner choices. The participants also cared most about the visual appeal of foods whilst enjoying a late night snack.
Findings of this research are reported in the Journal of Food Quality and Preference.