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Understanding Food Habits: a Sociological Perspective, 7.5 Credits

Swedish name: Våra matvanor ur ett sociologiskt perspektiv

This syllabus is valid: 2024-01-15 and until further notice

Course code: 2KN050

Credit points: 7.5

Education level: Second cycle

Main Field of Study and progress level: Food and Nutrition: Second cycle, has only first-cycle course/s as entry requirements

Grading scale: Three-grade scale

Responsible department: Department of Food, Nutrition and Culinary Science

Revised by: Department of Food, Nutrition and Culinary Science, 2023-12-11


There is more information on food and nutrition available now than ever before and yet food behaviour often deviates from scientific advice. Despite good intentions, interference with or attempts to control people's food habits can elicit strong reactions. Clashes may occur between cultures and there is a tendency towards conflict around food. To understand these conflicts and dilemmas, food and/or health professionals must recognise how eating habits are formed and the factors that influence them.

In this course, food choice and eating behaviour are explored using the perspectives of class, gender, ethnicity, age, socio-economic status, life course, religion, and geographic region. The complex interplay of agency and structure is applied to real life contexts through assignments dealing with availability, prevailing food and health discourses, and personal/professional development.

The course is aimed at both professionals and individuals who encounter food dilemmas.The course includes analytical tools to identify the roots of potential problems and understand different views on food and eating, thereby developing an ability to act as mediators or sounding boards in challenging situations. Possible target groups are preschool teachers, psychologists, catering staff, the medical professions, and other caregivers.

Part 1. Food as Symbol, Sustenance and Socialization, 5 Credits
This part of the course covers factors which influence food habits, such as gender, age, ethnicity, class, social status, life course transitions, religion, convenience and context. These factors are viewed in connection to symbolic meanings, power relations and food norms.

Part 2. Food culture and professional or personal development, 2.5 Credits
In this part of the course, the student analyses real life situations, current discourses and their own professional or personal views on food and eating with the help of the sociological tools offered in part 1.

Expected learning outcomes

Part 1. Food as Symbol, Sustenance and Socialization, 5 Credits
On successful completion of the course, students will be able to:
Knowledge and understanding

  • use sociological terms to explain how norms influence food habits and preferences


  • identify social structures and norms that influence food choice
  • analyze how food norms create positive and negative attitudes to food and eaters

Analytical ability and attitude

  • demonstrate an open-minded attitude towards different food habits by problematizing taken-for-granted truths and explicating what is seen as deviant food habits using a sociological lens

Part 2. Food Culture and Professional or Personal Development, 2.5 Credits
On successful completion of the course, students will be able to:
Analytical ability and attitude

  • reflect on a food-related dilemma within a professional or family framework by using a social constructionist perspective

Required Knowledge

Courses at least 90 ECTS in one subject. Proficiency in English equivalent to Swedish upper secondary course English A/6.

Form of instruction

Lectures, reading requirements and discussions will be web-based. Internet access, a webcam, and headset/microphone is required. All teaching will be in English.

Examination modes

Assessment is based on oral and individual written assignments (group discussion, essays and an individual project). Assignments must be written in English (with a few exceptions where Swedish is acceptable). To pass the course, all work must be graded pass (G). To pass the course with distinction (VG), the individual project, and one other assignment, must be graded VG.

Deviations from the syllabus can be made for a student who has been granted educational support due to a disability. Individual adaptation of the examination form will be considered based on the student's needs. The form of examination is adapted within the framework of the syllabus's expected study outcomes. At the request of the student, the teacher responsible for the course, in consultation with the examiner, must promptly decide on an adapted examination form. The decision must then be notified to the student.
Students who fail at one examination have the opportunity to take part in renewed examination on at least five occasions. A student has the right to request a change of examiner after two failed tests on parts of the course. The Director of Studies is contacted in such cases. The examinations based on this syllabus can be guaranteed for two years after the student's first registration on the course. Students who have been graded pass on a test can not undergo a re-examination. In the event that the syllabus expires or undergoes major changes, students are guaranteed at least three examination opportunities (including ordinary examination opportunity) according to current syllabus for a maximum period of two years from the date the previous syllabus expired or the course ceased to be offered.
Transfer of credits
Transfer of credits regarding this course (in whole or in part) can be tested. See the university's regulations and transfer of credit system. The application is made at the universitys e-service for credit transfer. Credit transfer is tested by the Student Center at Umeå University


The literature list is not available through the web. Please contact the faculty.