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!