In October, I attended the 2018 Food and Nutrition Conference and Expo (FNCE) in Washington, DC. The event gathered more than 10,000 nutrition experts to discuss important trends, research and insights in food and health. The conversations among the largely registered dietitian (RD) attendees were diverse, with hundreds of sessions hosted and posters presented. Here are three things I found of interest.
The era of influencers is indisputably upon us; nutrition, particularly food, is a large part of it. Nutrition professionals are well aware of the influence self-trained cooks have (hi, Chrissy Teigen). They aren’t opposed to more information about healthy, delicious food but they also know their pivotal role in promoting balanced (and science-based) food choices. It’s no surprise there were on-site tutorials for Facebook Live demonstrations. Discussion about the perfect Instagram “food porn” shot also revealed RD considerations to balance palatable pictures with their impact on people with eating disorders. There is an appetite among many to hone and advance social media skills to enhance influencer-dominated channels with their nutrition expertise.
RDs are increasing their share of voice at diverse and high level health conversations. While many RDs still work primarily in private practice or healthcare system, the influence they have on public health and policy discussions continues to grow. Sessions highlighted how RDs are key partners in the “bigger” issues surrounding wellness and health, including NCD prevention. These efforts are far and wide, including cross-sector efforts, such as working groups on Capitol Hill, reports by think tanks such as the Bipartisan Policy Center and programs at insurance businesses (e.g., John Hancock Vitality). As we think of the key players in pivotal health conversations, RDs must be at the table.
Future wearable technology will likely disrupt how we make nutrition choices, potentially for the better. The FNCE meeting took place as we were introduced to the heart-monitoring capabilities of the new Apple iWatch. So it wasn’t too far-fetched to hear predictions for future wearables that will monitor biomarkers immediately after food intake or other technology for the mouth or stomach to capture food intake, providing a real-time (and brutally honest) alternative to today’s food diary. Just like the reminder that you haven’t reached your 10K step goal can push folks to take another walk around the block, this food and nutrition data has the potential to nudge us to healthier food choices. The information could also give health professionals a clearer picture of patients’ true dietary habits to encourage and recommend changes to increase health.