In this study, the participants’ statements are classified according to the key components of sustainable diet in five themes: "Health and Nutrition", "Food and Agriculture Security", "Environment and Ecosystems", "Markets, Food trade and production chains", "Social, Cultural, and Policy factors".
Table 1 represent the demographic characteristics of the participants in the qualitative study. The conceptualization of participants' statements showed that among the determinants of food choice in adults, there were some concepts which classified for sustainable diet (Table 2).
Participants' characteristics in this study (n = 33)
– Explored sustainable nutrition dimensions from among food choice determinants in the study participant (n = 33)
Sustainable nutrition domains
Explored sustainable nutrition dimensions
Health and Nutrition
Food diversity, diet quality
Exercise, physical activity and/or sedentary lifestyle
Food safety and sanitation
Malnutrition (overweight and obesity)
Burden of non-communicable diseases, chronic disease, diet-related diseases
Consumption of calories, macronutrients, processed foods, fat, sugar, and junk foods
Food and Agriculture Security
Seasonal foods, traditional and local foods
Environment and Ecosystems
Use of pesticides, herbicide, fertilizers
Markets, food trade and production chains
Proper infrastructure and access to markets, distance to market, transportation costs to market, storage
Food availability and cost-effectiveness, food price, food environment
Food marketing, advertisement, food packaging
social, cultural, and policy factors
Consumers’ compliance, taste, convenience, preferences
Nutrition knowledge, cookery skills and training, food preparation,
Domain 1: Health and Nutrition
Participants’ food choices in the domain of "Health and Nutrition" included several dimensions of a sustainable diet. Observing food diversity involves consumption of different food groups and avoiding repetitive food choices. Many people stated that they try to choose the food which has better quality and this quality could be of high quality raw materials, appearance of foods, less use of preservatives, food hygiene and standardization:
“I care about the quality of the food and I take care that the quality of the food does not go down. Usually the food we prepare is standard food and my wife is very careful when cooking it to get high quality." (Male, 62 years old)
Physical activity level was one of the items that some participants mentioned and noted its importance in the amount and type of food consumed:
"Since most days I go to sports or clubs or yoga, my breakfast is just a little bit of date, tea and walnut. Bread and cheese do not eat too much. I prefer to exercise with light stomach and so I feel better. I mean, for me, dates and walnuts are good for breakfast. “(Female, 39 years old).
According to the study participants, some of the foods they choose are influenced by their concerns about being obese and losing their current fitness. Sometimes people would choose foods that they believed could improve their appearance and refrain from consuming substances that might be harmful to them, for example sweets.
"I like sweets but try to eat less. Why? Because of its fat content. But my family eats. I eat sometimes" (Male, 62 years old)
Non-communicable diseases such as diabetes were also some of the barriers to choosing some foods. These sensitivities were increased particularly in the case of high-calorie foods containing sugar and fat.
"When trying to buy meat, I try to get veal that has less fat, or when trying to buy yogurt or dairy, I try to get less fat. Well, anyway, obesity has many dangers." (Male, 38 years old)
"I try do not eat fat and salt in our food anymore. We don't eat at all and my weight was too high. My weight was 106 kg, I'm 80 kg now, and I'm very happy. I find it much easier to live this way. "(Male, 63 years old)
Domain 2: Food and Agriculture Security
In the domain of “Food and Agriculture Security”, the participants’ food choice centered on traditional, indigenous and local products. Many participants explained that because of the health and usefulness of traditional foods, they preferred these foods to industrial food, but there were still those who had to choose foods containing the additive and the occasional preparation of traditional foods because of occupational restrictions. The concept of indigenous, local and traditional foods was classified into two groups:
Having healthy look
The positive impact of local food on the health and wellbeing of children, traditional food preference to industry due to unhealthy, healthy beliefs and the character of local food were statements expressed by people about the local and indigenous foods.
Local and traditional foods are one of the most important cultural and indigenous symbols. Almost all of the foods that are cooked in one place and geographical area originate in the customs of that area. According to the participants in this study, local foods are better and healthier than modern foods and fast foods and have a very good effect on the health and disease status of the community:
"We still eat some local foods sometimes. I taught my kids to eat these foods, for example, KASHK (an Iranian cuisines that derived from dairy products) have a lot of calcium. I think they were more proper because we had more power when we ate that kind of food. I'm healthier. "(Female, 39 years old)
"I think local food is much more effective. When my kids eat local food, I think they are much healthier and much better in terms of health" (Female, 43 years old)
The participants pointed to problems with the preparation and cooking of these types of foods that prevented them from choosing them. Most of these problems included inadequate cooking skills of local food, lack of interest in children, inappropriate living conditions and lack of necessary raw materials for their preparation:
“To cook “Abgoosht” (mutton Persian soup thickened with chickpeas), you have to be in the kitchen from morning to noon, or to cook the “Ghorme Sabzi” (an Iranian stew which is a mixture of sautéed herbs, kidney bean and meat), you have to wash the vegetables the night before, crush, fry then cook.” (Male, 62 years old)
"I like traditional foods like beetroot “A’sh”. Or I use animal oil myself to cook “Halva” but my children don't like it. But I do and I love it" (Female, 34 years old).
Ethnic patterns of food: Some of the participants expressed ethnic patterns of food, such as: preparing special traditional foods for the occasion, reconciling the spouse's family with local cuisine, ethnic training about the specific way of cooking, and cooking local foods when all my family members have been gathered. Participants believe special dishes are also served for many special occasions and ethnic patterns:
"Sometimes in a special occasion that my family and others join, such as my mother-in-law, father-in-law, grandmother, grandfather or sisters, particular food such as local foods is prepared "(Male, 62 years old).
Domain 3: Environment and ecosystems
In the domain of "Environment and ecosystems", the amount of pesticides, herbicides and fertilizer use are key components of a sustainable diet. Among participants' statements, their tendency to consume organic food was seen as one of the indicators of healthy food. Knowledge of how to produce and process organic food made them able to trust these foods and make them more suitable for consumption. Since chemical fertilizers, pesticides and hormones are not used in the production of these foods, and one of the concerns of some people is the contamination of food with toxins and hormones, it can therefore be a good incentive for their desire to consume organic food. However, in this study, there are some barriers to the consumption of these foods, such as high cost and low availability according to the participants’ quotes:
"These green chickens are a bit more expensive than regular chickens. I haven't eaten so far, but there are also ostrich and turkey meats that I rarely buy.” (Male, 43 years old)
"When artichoke comes to market in spring and early summer, we eat a lot because we love it. We're consuming everything that's natural, for example, artichoke grows in the mountains, and has no fertilizer "(Male, 62 years old).
"I try to make our food organic so that we don't have to worry about it anymore and feel comfortable eating it." (Male, 63 years old).
Domain 4: Markets, food trade and production chains
In the domain of "Markets, food trade and production chains" and their role in the sustainable diet, participants mentioned several determinants. In this study, participants pointed out components such as proper infrastructure and access to markets, distance to market, transportation costs to market, storage, food availability and food prices, food marketing in terms of advertising and food packaging:
"I only care about my time and whether I can store this food in the fridge now or need it now, for example, some food like vegetables, special fruits that need preparation, or carrots that I want to buy, I have time to shave carrots. ”(Female, 36 years old)
"Ever since we entered the machine life system including newer, our food has become more stored and frozen". (Female, 61 years old)
Economic feasibility was expressed as the most important factor in the food selection process. From the participants' point of view, many factors contributed to their food choices, but what ultimately played the most important role was the financial affordability of the food that could affect the quantity and quality of the food in various forms. In many cases people were aware of the benefits of eating healthy and healthy foods, but due to economic constraints, it was not possible to provide such foods:
"As usual, family income is very important, whether it can buy the foods that are useful" (Female, 36 years old).
"Sometimes we had no money and we had to put aside meat and poultry and replace with the other foods such as soy and mushroom" (Female, 39 years old).
According to some participants in the study, they were exposed to widespread advertising by manufacturers, exporters, importers and Internet networks every day. On the other hand, the majority of participants believed that foods promoted through the press and mass media, especially radio and television, were safe, healthy and harmless foods. According to the study participants, media advertising played a significant role in their understanding of the food and familiarity with reputable brands:
"For example, the various advertisements that exist, for example, do not eat tilapia fish, which unconsciously affects me and that I may not eat fish anymore". (Female, 39 years old).
"The training we received anyway from broadcasting or the media is very effective in changing people's lifestyles". (Female, 36 years old).
According to the participants, the type and appearance of food packaging were some of the factors influencing their food choices. This was especially evident when people went to grocery stores to shop. The good color of the packaging could be so effective that people were encouraged to choose that food because the packaging was attractive, even when they had no previous plans for that food:
"The food packages I choose are very important. When I go to Hypermarket, I see the fruits that are in the packaging and its packaging very neat and clean, I like to buy". (Female, 50 years old)
"In my choice of food, the packaging also has some influence. I like to be stylish". (Female, 33 years old)
Domain 5: social, cultural, and policy factors
In the "social, cultural and political" domain of sustainable diet, some of the components such as nutrition awareness, consumer acceptance and taste preferences, knowledge, skills, education and nutritional literacy are mentioned in this study. People's awareness of food properties, cooking skills, the effect of foods on health and disease could influence their food choices. Participants also pointed to the role of nutritional awareness in the quality of their food choices. According to them, nutritional knowledge was acquired through training classes, related books, newspapers and television programs and information gained through employment:
"With this information and knowledge we get from people around or we hear in the media or we read and acquire in the training class, our awareness has increased here and we have learned how to make healthier foods". (Female, 62 years old)
Color, odor, and taste were some of the issues that the participants paid particular attention to when purchasing food, and even color, odor, and taste were in some cases indicative of nutrient health. Many participants considered tastes as one of their reasons for choosing food. The intrinsic tendency of the flavors, tastes and some of the special foods resulted in choosing food even by ignoring other criteria and only according to taste:
"Taste is very important. I choose more sour foods than sweet ones". (Female, 62 years old)
"I consider more my interest and if I am not restricted, my taste is still important". (Female, 35 years old)
Poor cooking skills were another reason why people were forced to abandon certain foods:
"I like fish and seafood but one reason it's hard to cook at home, so I choose less". (Female, 39 years old).