Little research has been conducted into Russian eating habits despite a wealth of social studies revealing attitudes toward food and nutrition.
Vera Minina, a researcher at St Petersburg state university, ran a series of surveys and in-depth interviews in the city throughout 2013 and 2014 for an insight into national eating habits and attitudes.
The results of the research show that whilst Russians have clear definitions of what constitutes healthy eating, most say they fail to achieve it on a regular basis.
In two separate studies, Minina investigated first the everyday eating habits and attitudes towards food of local residents, and their ideas as to what constitutes a ‘proper meal’.
The first study took 800 participants aged 18 – 86 to discuss their eating norms; the majority reported associating traditional Russian food strongly with a healthy meal. Home cooked soups, meat and fish dishes, cooked vegetables, kasha (buckwheat) topped the list for ideal dinners.
A majority of participants also showed a willingness to change diet and take the advice of food experts; 62.5% said they were prepared to restrict their diet for health reasons and 53.1% said theyu would follow the advice of food experts.
The second study, conducted with the centre for sociological and internet studies, interviewed participants of active working age (28 – 52) to discuss their definitions of ‘proper food’.
Once again, emphasis was placed on the dinner, and a majority of respondents again said they considered a ‘proper’ dinner one with fresh, healthy and varied ingredients.
However, the majority also reported rarely being able to frame their diet according to these ideas. Pricing, availability and time restrictions were all blamed on failure to adhere to what participants themselves considered ‘proper’ food.
Minina said the study was limited due to its focus on metropolitan communities – results in more suburban or rural areas may produce opposing results.
It is clear from the study that Russia has an appetite for health foods – particularly in traditional cuisine.
This is reflected in much of the country’s policy toward food production. The Russian Federation is the world’s largest GMO free territory after the country’s president Vladmir Putin signed a decree banning the use of all GM products last July.
He had announced the previous year his intention to transform Russia into a bastion of eco-friendly food. Speaking at Moscow’s parliament in 2015, Putin said: “Russia is able to become the largest world supplier of healthy, ecologically clean and high-quality food which the Western producers have long lost, especially given the fact that demand for such products in the world market is steadily growing.”