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The food choice process as experienced by men who live alone Sellaeg, Kari

Abstract

Existing knowledge regarding food-related experiences of people who live alone is limited, as is knowledge about the food-related experiences of men. The purpose of this study was therefore to explore the food choice process of younger men who live alone. Twelve men of Euro-Canadian descent, age 27 -47, each completed a one week food diary and participated in a semi-structured interview, which was tape recorded and transcribed verbatim. Data were analyzed using qualitative methods and interpretations of findings were guided by an existing theoretical framework. Three inter-related types of food-related decisions emerged as salient for the participants' food habits: a) deciding whether to eat in or out, b) choosing what to eat when eating in, and c) choosing what/where to eat when eating out. Participants categorized choice outcomes for each decision as accommodating/compromising the values of taste, convenience, nutrition, monetary considerations and social values, however the meaning and emphasis placed on each value, and the process of prioritizing between values, differed across types of decisions. The participants' ideals for food habits encompassed: a) the food itself, with ideals of eating fruit and vegetables, consuming meat in moderation, avoiding fast/junk foods, reducing fat intake, avoiding toxins and emphasizing 'natural' foods; b) eating and the food context, with ideals of eating regularly, eating in and commensality; and c) food identity, with ideals of being organized and being conscious. Participants associated living alone with lack of influence on food choices and reduced motivation and time to prepare food at home. The value of convenience was therefore often emphasized, which caused many participants to eat out frequently. Participants tended to reject traditional hegemonic masculinity by actively embracing the traditionally feminized ideal of being concerned about food habits and viewed engaging in food-related activities as part of being a man. Nutrition researchers and practitioners should be aware that food choice might include several types of decisions. Assessing what these are and the value negotiation process for each might provide more comprehensive understandings of food choice. More effective nutrition education might be provided by assessing and considering how living alone and masculinity influences food habits.

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