American Foodways: Which of these 15 foods do you avoid?

This entry is part 1 of 5 in the series American Foodways
Ballard_Farmers'_Market_-_vegetables (1)

“WHAT DO YOU WANT FOR DINNER?” At a Seattle farmers’ market, a grower talks about the value of her vegetables with customers strolling among the booths. (Photo via Wikimedia Commons.)

HOW DO we choose what to eat? What values shape our choices? What are our collective “foodways,” these days?

Foodways are “the eating habits and culinary practices of a people, region, or historical period,” says the Merriam-Webster online dictionary. Foodways reside at the intersection of culture, history, and economics—and they reveal at lot about a people. What do trends in our foodways tell us about America?

Our foodways relate to one of the 10 Core Values Americans hold dear: the pursuit of happiness. Eating is pleasurable, but sometimes we eat to manage our emotions. Indeed, “Hedonism in America: Eating ourselves to death?” is one of the all-time most popular columns to appear on since I began these columns in 2008.


One insight into foodways is the choices people make about what to eat and what not to eat. Consider this list of 15 foods. Which of these is #1 on your list of foods to avoid? (Spoiler alert: Below I tell you what Gallup learned in a survey conducted this summer so you can compare your choices with the rest of the country.)

Beef and other red meat
Chicken and other poultry
Dairy products
Fish and other seafood
Gluten-free foods
Grains such as bread, cereal, pasta, and rice
Organic foods
Soda or pop, diet
Soda or pop, regular

What did Gallup’s survey reveal about what we’d like to be eating? So, first, here’s what’s at the bottom of the avoidance list—in other words, these are the foods most Americans try to include in their diets: Fruits and Vegetables. Over 90% of Americans actively try to eat these foods. Chicken and other poultry are also in the must-eat category. More than 8 of 10 (83%) try to eat these foods.

What’s #1 on the avoidance list? Soda or pop. Type doesn’t matter. Sixty-two percent of Americans avoid diet soda or pop, and 61% avoid the regular type.

American foodways about soda or pop have been changing. Back in 2002, only 41% of Americans said they tried to avoid these beverages. Since then, increasing numbers of Americans have been avoiding soda or pop.

Many Americans also try to avoid sugar and fat, according to Gallup. But in this instance—it’s not a majority of Americans. Avoiding soda or pop is the only food that a majority of Americans say they try to exclude from their diets.

What’s at the top of your avoidance list?
Have your food choices changed over time?
What do Americans’ declining interests in soda or pop tell us about America?

Start a conversation …

That’s the purpose of the OurValues project. We encourage civil discussion on important topics of the day. You are free to print out, repost and share these columns with friends. You can use them in your small group or class. Enjoy this week’s series!

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  1. Savannah says

    My friends always tell me how bad my diet soda drinking is for me, but I often wonder how many of them actually understand the details of its harmful effects. Sometimes I think that people quit drinking soda and pop more for the ability to tell others that they don’t drink it. Just something I’ve thought about…

  2. Jean says

    The only food from the above group that I avoid is soda, both regular and diet.
    The “Diet Dictocrats” lead the public astray with their false reports about meat, fat, dairy, eggs, and salt.
    What they should really be saying is that these foods are good for you in their unprocessed, organic forms; real salt is good for you, and we need fat and cholesterol in our bodies.
    Study Weston Price, Mary Enig, and Sally Fallon (“Nourishing Traditions”), and don’t fall for what the fda or the govt. tells you is safe or nourishing.