Habits over Food

I’m home from the annual Food and Nutrition Conference and Expo (FNCE©) of the American Dietetic Association. I had a few business commitments during the conference, so had to miss a few sessions that I would have loved to have made, but I did get to attend some great sessions.

One that stands out was a session presented by Jim Painter and Elizabeth Ward about the psychology of eating and how our environments impact the food choices we make. Their messages are ones that I share, and many of the tips that I have promoted in my writing and to clients were also confirmed.

This muffin is too large.

For years my practice guidelines have been built on behavior change. I’d like to see key health officials take the focus away from “diet”, “food”, or an “ingredient”, and instead focus on using registered dietitians to coach people toward better eating behaviors and creation of healthier food environments. This will really achieve results. Yes, what you eat is important, but how you eat is even more important.

Some people may think that registered dietitians and nutritionists simply eat healthy diets and exercise daily. No problem. But the truth is, we’re humans just like you, and we work at it every day, and struggle with it just as you do.

As a nation, we eat too much. Yes, the food industry can be partly to blame as they create huge portions of foods and beverages, and this does impact the amounts we eat (see huge muffin – if a smaller muffin is offered, we are just as intrinsically satisfied), but you can change your environment. Some food companies seem to be a trending toward smaller portions and packaging, and consumers may have a say in what happens next (i.e., don’t get sucked into the idea of buying more in bulk, or larger portions to “save money”, when it may negatively impact your life).

Dr. Painter has done a lot of compelling research about how our eating behavior, and the amount of food we eat, is affected by everything from our environment to the size of our bowls and plates. These things really do impact the amount of calories that we check out with at the end of the day (and those calories do matter in terms of weight control and nutrient intake).

I’ll review portion control tips in an upcoming blog. Stay tuned!

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Habits over Food — 1 Comment

  1. My name is Samantha and I am a Health and Wellness graduate student at MSU. We were promoted with an assignment in one of our classes to follow a blog that focused on health and wellness related topics for 5 weeks. I did some research and stumbled upon this blog, and found it very interesting with the wide array of topics mentioned.
    I found this topic very interesting and completely agree with you on this subject. Portion sizes, in my opinion, can be a health and wellness advocate’s worst enemy or best friend, depending on which end of spectrum they fall. We all want to blame processed food and convenient food for the increase in obesity, but one has to acknowledge the fact that extra large portions have had quite a bit of impact on this significant increase. The sad thing is, is that most people don’t even realize they are eating such large portions because they have become so desensitized to the correct portions of food. We automatically assume that a small bag of chips contains a single serving, when in real life they contain 2-3 servings. This is similar to a bottle of juice or soda; one bottle usually contains 2.5 servings but we often drink the entire thing. Instances like this have lead us to believe that portions are much larger than they actually are.
    The phenomena of increasing portion sizes has been something that gradually happened over the last couple of decades, and it still hasn’t seemed to reach its plateau. In my opinion it is going to take a lot of effort, education and support to even begin to change this trend in portion sizes, but recognition seems to be the first logical step. One such website that can be very useful in determining correct portion sizes of each food groups is the USDA ChooseMyPlate.gov website. They offer great tips on how to control portions and even offer visuals, making it easier for some individuals to understand the relative sizes of portions.
    United States Department of Agriculture. (2013). Decrease portion sizes. Retrieved from http://www.choosemyplate.gov/weight-management-calories/weight-management/better-choices/decrease-portions.html

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