Two things will always be true about food and nutrition: dietitians love to talk about it; and the world loves to listen, learn and question everything they’ve ever heard about food and science.
Most of us are comfortable fielding individual nutrition questions but often we’re at a loss when asked to give a longer presentation on a single topic. We worry it won’t be engaging enough, that there won’t be enough to talk about, or that it’s information everyone already knows.
I can’t cite statistics, but I can tell you from years of experience, nutrition talks are one of the most requested and popular topics for groups of all ages and in all settings – from kindergarten to corporate wellness. Just remember, you’re the expert and even if you’re covering the most basic nutrition topic, your audience absolutely will learn something new, and they’ll appreciate the opportunity to ask their most pressing questions.
The best nutrition presentations aren’t the ones with lots of earth-shattering research and a detailed PowerPoint. Instead, they often have basic information, presented in an interesting way that engages the audience. It leaves them with a few simple ideas to solve a problem they have, or one they might not even recognize they have.
Here are a few examples from our nutrition colleagues:
Sohailla Digsby RDN recently presented at a fitness convention. Her talk was titled “How a Diet is Like a One-Night Stand.” She spoke about how fad diets are like an exciting but fleeting relationship, in comparison to healthy lifestyle changes which are comfortable, sustainable, and more like a good marriage.
Lacey Armstrong RD serves as the Executive Director of a study abroad program in Italy and enjoys talking about constipation management - AKA, “The Poop Habit Talk” to students. She stresses how things like cheese overload, shared living spaces, lots of white pasta and bread, and neglecting usual hydration and exercise habits makes for a “crappy study abroad experience!”
Bonnie Taub-Dix RDN recently spoke to dietitians who work (or want to work) in the media and culinary communications about “How to Be an Influencer with Credibility and Confidence." She inspired her audience with examples and actionable tips to help RDNs stand out from "influencers" who are popular because of their number of social media followers and not the degrees they earned in school.
When Betsy Ramirez RDN gives a nutrition talk to youngsters in school, she often dons a cape and mask, and teaches them how to “Eat Like a Superhero.” The kids get to make signs listing their favorite foods that give them superpowers, and “Zap” signs listing foods that zap your energy if eaten in excess.
A few other out-of-the-box topic ideas that RDNs have found to be popular with audiences include:
In her presentation titled “Nourishing Healthy Minds – Moving Upstream,” Janice Miles-Service RDN talks about how an optimally functioning brain depends on optimally functioning body. She explains how to move beyond symptoms and look at root causes for psychopathology, such as gut dysbiosis, insulin resistance, inflammation, nutrient deficiencies and/or toxicities.
Martha Huizar RDN teaches a health communications course, and one of her most popular, enlightening, and myth-busting sessions is on Food and Nutrition Literacy.
Nutrition for cancer is always a requested topic for a highly engaged audience. Jean LaMantia RD, specializes in oncology nutrition and presents on “Hot Topics in Cancer Nutrition: IV Vitamin C, Soy, and Sugar”, and “The Pros and Cons of Popular Diets for Cancer: Arming Dietitians with Answers.”
Finally, food demos are always a hit with audiences, especially if there’s tasting involved. If the thought is overwhelming, keep it simple. There’s no need to bring in a full kitchen.
My Novo Connections blogging colleague, Lisa Andrews RD works with community gardens in the Cincinnati area to present her version of Chopped. They tell her what they’re harvesting; she creates a simple recipe; prepares it at the garden on a camp stove and shares it with the group along with a nutrition talk about the health benefits of the star ingredient.
Finally, when I was recently asked to give a talk to a women’s church group about foods from the bible, I realized there are so many references to foods from the Mediterranean diet. I created a Mediterranean Lentil and Barley Salad with dried figs, apricots, pistachios, goat cheese, and a honey, lemon, olive oil dressing. Everything was prepped and measured out at home, and as I added ingredients to the bowl, I discussed the health benefits of each food for women, and how the Mediterranean diet has stood the test of time.
Bottom line – don’t fear the request for a nutrition talk. Embrace it, talk about what you know best, and highlight what your audience needs to know.