The new data, published online ahead of print in the journal Appetite, provide food marketers with vital information about the eating habits and preferences of university students hungry for love.
“An implication of dating and eating is that the food choice patterns initiated and routinized during dating may continue into long-term relationships such as cohabitation and marriage,” explained Dana Amiraian and Jeffery Sobal from Cornell's Division of Nutritional Sciences.
“Consumption of dating foods is the earliest precursor of marriage and food consumption in family meals. Initial partnered food choices by dating couples may set early examples that are continued as long-term food choice trajectories.”
Such choices are also being affected current financial conditions, with the move towards good value, quality foods for preparing at home gathering pace as consumers eat out less. Consumers are also seeking out ingredients for added health benefits in an effort to avoid the costs associated with becoming ill.
The data on dating
The Cornell researchers asked 301 undergraduate students to answer four questions:
- Name three dating foods.
- Name three foods that are not dating foods.
- What makes foods dating foods?
- What makes foods not dating foods?
“This procedure has been used to study other categories of foods, including dieting foods, fattening foods, fiber foods, local foods, seasonal foods, and whole grain foods,” explained the researchers.
Women were more likely to opt for foods like salad and vegetables “in an attempt to appear more feminine and attractive”, said the researchers.
“Eating healthy foods, like salad and vegetables, creates a more attractive, feminine appearance, so women may choose to eat such foods to portray themselves as more attractive for their dating partners,” they added.
Contrary to their hypothesis, men did not opt for so-called masculine foods, such as protein-rich foods. “Instead, men may not be as concerned with their outward, physical appearance in relation to food choices and eating.
“Rather than using food as a personal impression management tool, perhaps men use food choices as an interpersonal impression management tool. They may choose to eat foods similar to what their dating partners eat in an attempt to forge a bond based on supposedly similar eating preferences,” wrote Amiraian and Sobal.
Overall, neat and easy-to-eat foods were often named as dating foods, while foods considered pungent or causing bad breath were listed as not dating foods.
“Dating food choices are important for current health and as potential precursors for long-term eating relationships like marriage,” they concluded.
Published online ahead of print, doi:10.1016/j.appet.2009.06.012
“Dating and eating. Beliefs about dating foods among university students”
Authors: D.E. Amiraian, J. Sobal