As part of RD day and the RD day blogfest, each of the International Food Information Council Foundation’s RDs is highlighting a key message and also what we’ve learned about messaging as communicators. Visit our main blog page for all 5 posts and see below for links to other blogfest participants.
By: Elizabeth Rahavi, RD Date: 3/9/10
Now more than ever, my favorite nutrition message for RDs is: To focus on the positive, put food back in nutrition and make it fun for people.
What better way to celebrate RD Day then to share our best nutrition and health messages?
However, we are going to take this activity in a different direction. Not because we don’t love good, positive nutrition messages, but because we’ve been researching peoples’ attitudes toward nutrition and health messages for more than two decades and have some insights that we feel are worth sharing.
Positive or Negative: What’s the Right Approach?
Lately, people have been asking questions about positive messaging, specifically if it really works. While some folks might respond to the immediacy and urgency of a negative message and some believe nutrition has to be about depriving themselves of the things they love, from all of the research that the International Food Information Council Foundation and others have conducted, I have to believe that people find too much pleasure in the food, community and culture that surround a meal or snack to make a complete lifestyle change by being told what not to eat.
In fact, this is what David Grotto, RD, and author of two nutrition books, the most recent of which is 101 Optimal Life Foods, found in his nutrition practice. According to Grotto, after adopting a positive philosophy with clients in his practice, he found that people were at first suspicious and approached this philosophy with trepidation. Grotto said, “They were use to being told that to have health they have to deprive themselves. They were pleasantly surprised that it didn’t have to be that way.” In fact, Grotto says that he’s had a lot of success with this approach.
The Evidence Is In the Numbers
Specific to positive messaging, in the most recent edition of theInternational Food Information Council Foundation Food & Health Survey we asked a question to get a pulse check from Americans about how they like to receive dietary guidance messages:
? According to our survey, two-thirds of Americans (67 percent) agree that reading or hearing about the relationship between food and health is of interest to them; and
? Slightly more than half, or 56 percent, of Americans agree that they are interested in hearing about what TO eat, rather than what NOT to eat. Only 13 percent of Americans disagree with this statement.
Straight from the Horses Mouth
Don’t just take our word for it, watch this video of people telling us how they like to receive nutrition advice. It demonstrates a lot of things that we’ve been hearing over the years from people in our research. Here are some other tips that consumers have given us over the years about how to craft nutrition messages that will motivate them to change:
? Messages should engender a sense of empowerment among consumers. These messages should capitalize on people’s strengths and include elements that tell people that they don’t have to be nutrition experts to eat a healthful diet and also incite confidence that they can take action with relatively little difficulty.
? Teach them to Fish: People tend to remember messages that dictate negative rules-especially for dietary practices-but these messages are not empowering and more often than not are ignored. Messages that encourage consumers to make their own choices allow active participation in the nutrition and diet process.
? Keep messages positive and motivating: To be effective, any message about nutrition must address their sources of discomfort (guilt, fear, worry, anger, helplessness) that may accompany a food decision. Addressing issues related to self-esteem are important for effective health and nutrition messages for both adults and children.
? Information must be clear and actionable. Interestingly, consumers tell us that they want information that is clear and propels them to take action, but that is done within a framework. They also tell us that they resent messages that dictate exactly what they should and should not eat and want control over their choices. A lack of parameters, or a framework, can seem too permissive, yet too much restriction is resented.
? Moderate don’t eliminate: Messages about moderating dietary intake is seen as empowering and encourages people to make their own choices.
? Set Goals: Attainable goals can help people achieve their health goals. Goals that are positive, realistic, and achievable and celebrate “small victories” on the road to success were seen as essential factors.
? Make Messages that have IMPACT: To learn more about making messages that have impact, check out this post by Wendy Reinhardt Kapsak.
Do you have a story to tell about positive messaging? Let us hear about it.
Other RD Blogfest posts:
Beyond Prenatals (Debra) – Vitamin D in Pregnancy and Beyond
Wendy Reinhardt Kapsak, MS, RD – Can Dietitians Have Real I.M.P.A.C.T?
Sandra Meyerowitz, MPH, RD, LD – Changes Worth Making Take Time
Carrie Miller – What Nebraska Dietitians Are Saying
National Dairy Council- Nutrient-rich foods build a healthy diet
Janel Ovrut MS RD LDN – My Top Tips for Registered Dietitian Day!
Heather Pierce, MS, RD, CDE – Enjoy Food
Robin Plotkin, RD, LD – Give a Kid a Fish, Feed Him for a Day. Teach a Kid to Fish, Feed Him for Life
Shelley A. Rael, MS RD LD – Food Is LIFE, Nutrition is HEALTHY Life
Kerry Robinson, RD – A Food Safety Message with IMPACT
Marianne Smith-Edge, MS, RD – RDs are the Premiere Food and Health Communicators
Kris Sollid, RD – Unintended Consequences of Simple Messaging
Angie Tillman, RD, CDE, LDN- Take Time to Care for Yourself