Communication presents challenges and opportunities in understanding good nutrition

UAB registered dietitian nutritionist Kelly Berg’s work in nutrition communication offers invaluable guidance in navigating these complexities and empowering consumers to make well-informed dietary choices.

nutrition insideKelly Berg, M.S., RDN, LDNIn a world filled with nutrition trends, misinformation and a myriad communication challenges, understanding how to make healthy food choices can seem like an overwhelming task. But nutrition experts like the University of Alabama at Birmingham’s Kelly Berg, RDN are shedding light on these issues, offering valuable insights to help consumers make informed dietary decisions.

Common barriers to healthy eating

Berg, a registered dietitian nutritionist, says individuals face several barriers, including environmental factors, budget constraints, location and the influence of social media.

“Social media platforms inundate people with information, often contradictory, making it difficult to discern what’s truly beneficial,” Berg said. “It’s not just the overabundance of data; it’s also the inability to interpret scientific research and biases, such as confirmation bias, that hampers the process.”

Berg emphasizes the importance of finding valid and credible sources of information like published, peer-reviewed research to cut through the noise.

Tailoring communication to diverse audiences

Berg believes one of the core challenges in nutrition communication is the need to cater to diverse audiences with unique needs and interests.

“Nutrition communicators must master the art of translating complex information into easily digestible formats, considering the backgrounds and preferences of their audience,” Berg said.

She says it is crucial that a needs assessment of the audience be conducted to deliver more effective messages.

“Understanding the audience’s cultural backgrounds, their favorite dishes and dietary habits is crucial in tailoring messages effectively,” she said. “It’s all about finding common ground and showing individuals how to incorporate healthier options into their existing diets, rather than abruptly eliminating beloved traditional foods.”

The impact of food deserts

Understanding the dynamics of food deserts is crucial, especially when it comes to communicating about healthy living.

Food deserts, or areas with limited access to nutritious foods, often play a substantial role in diet-related issues.

“Communities in these regions are eager to learn about making healthier choices, but challenges remain,” Berg said. “We need to emphasize the importance of making nutrition education simple and accessible.”

Learn more about UAB’s mission to making good health simple for all Alabamians through its Live HealthSmart Alabama initiative.


Combating the influence of fad diets

Fad diets often play a significant role in shaping people’s dietary choices. To cut through the noise of diet trends and misinformation, Berg says, consumers should understand the basic science behind which diets are best for them and why they may or may not work for some.

“It’s important for consumers to become critical thinkers and understand the research behind dietary advice and evaluating the sources of information,” she said. “In a world where marketing can heavily influence food choices, it is crucial to recognize the difference between marketing claims and evidence-based nutritional advice.”

Empowering consumers through education

Education, particularly in the realm of nutrition, is a powerful tool for empowering consumers.

That is why Berg teaches the next generation of nutritionists and registered dietitians in the UAB Department of Nutrition Sciences. Her courses on nutrition communication at the undergraduate and graduate levels have received positive feedback from students who gain confidence in interpreting and sharing nutrition information.

“By equipping students with the knowledge and skills to communicate nutrition effectively, they can play a vital role in helping others make informed dietary choices,” she said.

Learn more about the UAB Department of Nutrition Sciences’ degree options here.


The journey to healthier habits

While many strive to change what and how they eat, Berg acknowledges that changing dietary habits is no small feat.

“Nutrition is a multifaceted field that encompasses not only what we eat but also how we prepare and flavor our food,” she said. “Consumers will have to practice persistence in developing healthier eating habits. A Major League Baseball pitcher doesn’t become an ace overnight.”