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Social Influences on Food Choices: Peer Pressure
We all know that peer pressure can make kids, and some adults, do some pretty dumb things! But, did you know that it can change what people eat, as well? Sometimes without even realizing that there are social influences on food choices.
And, without sounding like a sociology professor, what we eat is largely determined by who we eat with, or what others around us are eating.
Just think about commercials for food; usually someone in the commercial is eating, which is going to make you hungry and eat what they are eating.
As humans, the social animals that we are, we are constantly trying to fit in and stay within the norms of society, and that includes what we eat.
Unfortunately, our society, as a whole, eats quite poorly. More so than other countries in this world, too.
With the convenience of fast food, all the advertisements for processed food products, and then the social pressure to eat like everyone else. It’s hard not for people to eat the way they do.
Honestly, I’m proud of you. I’m proud of your for reading this, for taking an interest in healthy eating, and I’m proud of you for wanting to help raise a healthier generation. Because goodness gracious, boy do we need it. We need to do something to turn our countries eating habits around, and it’ll start with our kids being raised to tell the difference between food that is good for them and food that isn’t!
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So, now that you know just how important it is to help our children, and ourselves; stay strong and continue eating healthy despite peer pressure. Le’ts dig into how we can actually do this!
Start Young; Make Healthy Eating the Norm
If we raise our kids with healthy food in our home, and on our tables, from the day they start eating solid food; they’ll think that’s completely normal. So, by the time they go to school, they’ll think their friends are the odd ones when they eat unhealthy food.
If your children are still really little, this is the best route you can take for preparing your kids to eat healthy in the face of peer pressure.
My oldest is in kindergarten this year, and she’s so proud of the way she eats and that she eats healthy. She’ll even come home telling me what the other kids eat and how it’s not healthy, or gross.
…Alright, maybe she’s watched a few too many health documentaries with me and knows a little too much of the process animal products go through to become available to the general public.
But, she’s also the one asking me to make her avocado and tomato sandwiches for lunch next week, and split pea sweet potato stew for dinner. So, there’s that!
Make healthy eating a priority in your life
You don’t have to obsess over healthy eating and get mad at anyone in your family who eats something ‘unhealthy’ once in awhile. But, making healthy eating a priority in your life will show your kids just how important it is.
And, don’t just make eating healthy a priority, but learning how to eat healthy, too!
Watch documentaries about health, get a couple of books, and cookbooks. These can be resources for your whole family, especially if you have older children. If they start getting curious about why healthy eating is so important, but don’t want to listen to you; point them in the direction of the resources so they can understand better and learn.
If they learn why it’s so important, either by you making it a priority, or by learning more about healthy eating; it’ll make it easier for them to eat healthy, even when their friends aren’t!
Make a mental note of how you feel when you eat healthy vs. when you eat unhealthy
If you start to connect with your body and learn how you feel when you eat healthy versus when you don’t eat healthy; it’ll make it a lot easier to eat healthier under peer pressure.
So, make sure your kids do this, as well.
You could either make a mental note of it, or get a journal and start actually recording what you eat and how you feel; you may just be amazed!
And, you don’t have to wait til your kids are old enough to write to help them connect what they eat to how they feel. If they complain of a belly ache after eating something unhealthy; ask them what they just ate and ask them if that may be the reason they don’t feel good.
Kids are smart, sometimes they just need a little help connecting the dots. But, when they start to learn how horrible they feel after making poor food choices, they may just stop making them.
They can be stronger than peer pressure when it comes to food choices; sometimes it may just take them learning of the consequences of unhealthy eating first.
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Ignore what other’s are eating, and focus on eating right for you
Ignoring what other’s are eating and focusing on what’s right for you is much easier said than done!
Believe me, I know first hand how hard this can be. My husband does not eat the healthiest of foods, and it is so tempting to eat the same way he does. But, I know I can’t. Or, shouldn’t. Because one glance at the ingredient list on the food he eats, and I’ll see things on it that are horrible for your body; like partially hydrogenated trans fats, high fructose corn syrup, msg, etc.
So, I have to simply ignore what he eats, knowing it’s not good for either of us, and just eat my fruit, trail mix, and healthy home made baked goods (which taste way better than his food anyways).
Understanding how your body feels after eating junk will help you ignore what others eat and eat right for you. So, start there and then move on to this tip, and help your children do the same.
Encourage your kids to teach their friends about healthy eating
If you teach your kids about healthy eating, or have them learn about it on their own, then they may be so inspired by the benefits that they’ll want to teach their friends about healthy eating, too.
If you happen to teach your kids and encourage them to teach their friends about it, then it may even go further, at least with young kids. I don’t quite seeing this work with many teenagers.
But, you never know! If you have a child who likes to be the smart one in the group; then encouraging them to teach their friends about healthy eating might not just help your child make healthy food choices under peer pressure. It may help their friends eat better, too!
Stay positive and be informative when others ask you questions about why you’re eating so healthy.
Staying positive and informative when others are questioning your eating habits can be difficult, especially if the other people are being rude about it.
Other’s may wonder why you’re eating a salad, or drinking a green smoothie, if you already look super healthy. They may wonder why you’re on a diet, when you’re simply eating for your health.
Just know, this is more about them and their eating habits, than it is about yours. Our society has been brainwashed into thinking that people only eat healthy to lose weight, most people don’t think of it as a way of life. And, really, it’s their loss to not eat healthy all the time.
Let them know why you’re eating healthy, why it’s important, and why you’re not going to eat fast food like most people do. But, make sure you say it in a way that won’t offend anyone; simply be informative and stay positive that the way you’re eating is the best for your body.
Make sure to teach your kids to be the same way!
Help your child develop a strong sense of self-esteem so they feel confident in eating healthy even if being teased
One of the most important things you, or your child, can do to overcome the temptation of bad food choices under peer pressure, is to develop a strong self-esteem. Developing strong self-esteem will help you, and your kids, feel more confident that eating healthy, instead of eating like everyone else, is the best choice!
Sometimes others can be rude about the way you eat, other kids might tease your child. But, helping your child build a strong self-esteem and confidence in what they eat, will go a long way with your child making good food choices. Even when your not there to help them decide!
And, let your child know that some kids may tease them or not understand why they are eating what they are. Other children may not know about nutrition or understand that what they eat affects how they feel. Let them know that other kids may not understand that eating healthy is important and will help people avoid chronic illness and help you live longer.
It is Possible to make Good Food Choices in the Face of Peer Pressure
It may not be the easiest thing in the world to do; but you can still eat healthy when everyone else around you is eating poorly.
Believe that what you eat is the best for your body, and be sure to let others know why you eat the way you do when they ask about it. Even if they ask about it in a rude or teasing manner. Know that what you eat is promoting health, and that eating like others may promote disease or chronic illnesses in the future.
Really, knowing the connection between what you eat and how you feel can be very helpful in ignoring peer pressure when it comes to making food choices, for yourself and your kids. So, make sure you are making that connection, even if you need to write it down. Help your kids do the same!