Think about the last time you tried to change your diet. Why did you decide to change? Was it hard? Did you stick with it? What made it so difficult? Although the saying “you are what you eat,” may sound simple and easy to apply, understanding why we choose the foods we do is much more complicated according to health professionals.
Many factors determine a person’s overall health; understanding the dietary patterns, food habits, and flavor preferences can provide unique insight into someone’s diet and overall health. Dr. Natalie Poulos, faculty member at The University of Texas at Austin, suggests that by applying well studied theories of health behavior to diet and food choice, individuals have the potential to gain the insight needed to understand the development of eating patterns, preferences, and attitudes toward food.
To examine theories of behavior as they relate to nutrition in an academic context, Dr. Poulos has designed a course within the online Master of Science in Nutritional Sciences at UT Austin to do just that. Through the course students will apply health behavior theories to nutrition and dietary patterns. Through this course, Poulos suggests that students will learn and discuss “why people choose the food they do.” The idea is that “once we better understand where someone is coming from and how they make their choices, we are better able to help them shift their dietary pattern to one that is more supportive of health,” explains Dr. Poulos.
For example, self-efficacy, the belief in an individual’s capability to achieve a desired outcome, is a theoretical concept that will inevitably appear throughout discussion as research consistently finds that increased self-efficacy can predict if someone will achieve their goal or stick with a behavior. Let’s say that you were interested in losing 15 pounds. Do you think you truly have the skills and capability needed to do that? If you have doubts, what might improve your self-efficacy? Increased support from friends? Increased skills in food preparation? More education? All of these are theoretical constructs that will be discussed in Theories of Nutrition Behavior in hopes they will shed light and understanding on the very complicated behavior of eating.
Want to know more?
If Theories of Nutrition Behavior is something you are interested in learning more about, consider learning more about graduate programs at The University of Texas at Austin’s Nutritional Department or the new 100% Online Master’s of Science in Nutritional Sciences. Theories of Nutrition Behavior is the first course in the concentration of Health Promotion & Disease Prevention within the online MS program.