I recently attended the yearly ADA/FNCE, Food and Nutrition Conference and Expo down in San Diego, California. The turn out by dieticians was robust and the Expo floor had a wonderful variety of vendors showcasing their products. A number of newsworthy events and trends were shared during this four day event. Here are some interesting highlights:
The name of the organization, American Dietetic Association, has been changed to Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics. According to current ADA President Sylvia Escott-Stump, "ADA has been in existence since 1917, after working to feed the troops healthfully during World War I. Protecting the public's health is the highest priority of ADA and our members, and our new name complements our focus: the nutritional well-being of the American public The new name promotes the strong science background and academic expertise of our members, primarily registered dietitians. Nutrition science underpins wellness, prevention and treatment." The website will continue to remain http://www.eatright.org/.
The ADA conducts nationwide consumer trends surveys periodically, and there was a new one released in 2011 formally presented at the conference. These surveys measure people's attitudes, knowledge, beliefs, and behaviors regarding food and nutrition, as well as identify trends and a better understanding of how consumer's attitudes and behaviors are changing. Some interesting findings included:
- Although 2/3s of Americans are overweight or obese many believe they are doing "all they can to achieve balanced nutrition and a healthy diet."
- For consumers, television remains the most popular source of information on food and nutrition. The internet has surged in popularity. Registered dieticians and nutritionists, followed by doctors are considered "most credible sources," while news media as a resource lags.
- Consumers fall into 3 main groups, when it comes to interest in diet and nutrition. These groups are described as (1) I'm doing it already (2) I know I should but....(3) Don't bother me. Not surprisingly, women make up the predominant numbers in group one, while men with less than a college level of education make up much of group three. The percentage of people in these groups remains mostly unchanged since 2008.
- People are eating more fish, chicken and whole grain foods, and limiting foods with trans fat ingredients.
- Most consumers who are not changing their eating patterns say they are satisfied with the way they eat and don't want to give up the foods they like. More people since the 2008 survey say it takes too much time to keep track of their diet. A similar number still claim they are somewhat confused by nutritional guidelines.
- A well-regarded dietitian involved in interpreting the survey suggests that despite the popularity of "Eat this, don't eat that" and celebrity diet books eschewing rigorous formulas, most people want to hear what they can eat rather than what they should not eat.
- Women more than men find diet and nutrition personally important, though men have closed the gap a bit.
- Though most respondents in the survey acknowledged hearing about foods in terms of labels like "low fat," "trans fat," "sugar," and "carbohydrate," the messaging about sodium limits doesn't appear to have penetrated significantly since 2008, despite all the media coverage.
Dieticians, nutritionists and other health professionals who have nutrition expertise can be enormously helpful when it comes to consumers who want to lose weight and modify unhealthy lifestyle behaviors. They are tracking these surveys, so they have a clear understanding of the challenges that the average person struggling with weight issues faces. They can creatively help you to personally find healthier ways to live your life.