Does knowing nutrition stuff = changing nutrition stuff?


Nerds know lots of stuff.

With the internet, media, social media, online courses, etc, we have access to more information than we ever have in the past.

However, does knowing lots about nutrition influence our food choices and specifically the adoption of healthy food behaviours and habits?

Many of my clients come to me having done lots of their own reading and research, may have seen a dietitian in the past, however struggle to put what they know into practice. They know some food choices and quantities influence their diabetes control more than others. An analogy can be drawn with smoking, and the knowledge that smoking has deleterious health affects, but the choice to light up still prevails.

So what makes it hard to move from knowing stuff to doing stuff? What barriers get in the way?

There are well documented biological, cultural, financial influences on food choices, and this article is not intended to be exhaustive, but more of a picking of the key influences from a diabetes dietitian’s perspective.

The purpose of a dietary consult is to move a client into making informed health choices and quantities based on evidence based guidelines and best practice. Imparting knowledge is one aspect but it’s also about bring the art of communication and behaviour change to the nutrition science knowledge.

Hunger plays into the equation. Foods can provide satiety and prevent hunger.  If you know that the natural yoghurt is a better choice than the chocolate bar at 4pm, but you’re hungry, well there’s no surprise what will be eaten. Eating enough healthy foods, including low glycemic index carbs, and protein at lunch (in enough quantity) will prevent this occurring.

The distorted belief that so called healthy foods are less palatable and that highly processed, high sugar, fat, salt foods taste better.  There’s an abundance of great recipes to challenge this belief. Some of the recipes posted on EatByDesign (which I have been contributing to) will get your taste buds excited!

Being organised with shopping, meal and snack preparation will make it easier to maintain healthy eating, and prevent hunger (remember the afternoon tea example?).  Cooking enough left overs for lunch, having cooler bags, zip lock bags to portion snacks will help with not having to make a decision about food choices at these times.

The question really comes down to the ability to apply the knowledge. This is what was discussed in Smart Eating.

I’m interested to hear what gets in the way of your “Nutrition Nerd” to “Nutrition Navigation”.

Look out for my future post, continuing on this theme – do cooking skills ( including reality TV cooking show) result in improved nutritional intake?


Cam Johnson is an Accredited Practising Dietitian (APD) and nutritionist with a successful nutrition consulting practice, and a senior diabetes dietitian at Monash Health. Cam's experience includes Northern Health (Senior Diabetes Dietitian), Austin Health, BakerIDI, and specialist medical and weight management services. His career has focused on the nutritional management of diabetes and obesity, including bariatric surgery. Cam has conducted numerous conference and professional development seminars and workshops to health professionals, medical staff and students. He has worked as a health coach and research assistant and been involved in research.

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