Jackie is a student at Utah State University where she competes with their track and cross country team. Her future endeavors with dietetics include interests in clinical dietetics and/or humanitarian dietetics. She also loves wool socks, creating healthy desserts, and baby cows! If you don't immediately Google baby cows after reading that as I did, I highly recommend it!
Ever wonder how RD's are using food photography in their practice? We have so much wonderful technology available to us (when it works), and so many ways to communicate with our clients and patients that we have the opportunity to effect outcomes even more so than before.
Measuring Food Intake
One of the jobs of a RD includes counseling people to change from one eating lifestyle to another. Knowing the eating background of the client is vital to this process. RD’s use many methods to get an understanding of the client’s individual background, some of which include: 24-hour recalls, food records, and food frequency questionnaires. These are all self-reported methods, which create a certain level of bias when evaluating diets. Clients may over-report or under-report their caloric intake. A more accurate and inventive way to measure a diet may be through computer software programs that use food photography as a means to eliminate bias in reporting. Most everyone has access to a camera, usually through a smartphone. One smartphone app, called the “Food Photography Application” has users send in before and after photos of their meal. By using the before and after photos, the application can then determine the portion and caloric content of food intake of the user. This method has been proven to be accurate and reliable, with adults and children alike (3).
Measuring food intake through photographs can expand to other areas of research beyond the client/counselor setting. School lunch programs have used before and after photos of lunch trays to determine what the children actually ingest (4). This can become valuable information when assessing the effectiveness of healthy food initiatives, such as the “Food Dudes” program (increasing fruit and vegetable consumption), in a school lunch setting.
As a RD, it is a responsibility to promote healthy foods, accurate nutrition messages, and appropriate dietary recommendations. The general population looks to any source (credible or not) for this information through mediums such as blogs, Pinterest, Instagram, and other social media sites. Much of what draws people to these sites is the visual appeal of the food/media presented. Quality food photography plays an essential role in creating visual appeal. RD’s can learn to use quality food photography to bring visual appeal to their sites. Increasing traffic to blogs and social media sites led by RDs will help promote accurate health and nutrition guidelines among the general population (1).
It’s not enough to tell someone how to eat; you need to show them (2). Registered Dieticians are the food experts of the world. How you eat is a reflection of the knowledge and opinions that you have as a health and nutrition professional. Just as young athletes follow the Olympians on social media, current and prospective clients alike will look at your social site to learn how to model their own diets. A picture speaks a thousand words. Not only will it be easier to teach proper dietary habits through quality food photography, but it will also be easier to sell your business if you have quality pictures representing it.
1. Amidor, T. Calling All Food Bloggers. Calling All Food Bloggers. 2013. Available at: http://www.todaysdietitian.com/newarchives/060113p22.shtml. Accessed 2016.
2. Geiser, M. How Food Photography Impacts Business for Dietitians & Nutritionists. YouTube. 2015. Available at: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=kke53qwz3dk. Accessed 2016.
3. Martin C. K., Nicklas T., Gunturk B., Correa J. B., Allen H. R. & Champagne C. (2013) Measuring food intake with digital photography. J Hum Nutr Diet. 27 (Suppl. 1), 72–81 doi:10.1111/jhn.12014
4. Wolf R, Ammeter T, Koch P, et al. Challenges in Measuring School Lunch Consumption Using Digital Photography in Urban Elementary School Students. Journal of Nutrition Education and Behavior.