Hot Topics Among Today’s Dietitians

Ketchum RDs Maggie Michalczyk, Amber Wilson and Jaime Schwartz Cohen at the Today’s Dietitian Symposium in New Orleans.

Today’s Dietitian, the leading trade publication for nutrition professionals in the U.S., hosted their 4th annual Symposium last week in New Orleans, bringing together more than 600 dietitians and 40+ sponsors. Three Ketchum registered dietitians (RDs) were on site to report on the top-10 trends and emerging hot topics in food and nutrition that emerged from the symposium.

1. One Size Fits None
The importance of diversity – in our eating patterns, in our microbiome, in our soil, in agricultural methods – was a common theme throughout sessions and messages about the importance of different approaches, perspectives and practices were stressed.

2. A Focus on FODMAPs
First identified as a trend at October’s Food and Nutrition Conference and Expo, the nutrition community’s hunger for information and new research on FODMAPs (an acronym for highly fermentable carbohydrates that are commonly poorly absorbed and can trigger digestive discomfort) remains strong, and brands are not only formulating but also updating communications to specifically target the low FODMAP audience.

3. Reclaiming Buzzwords
A common theme among speakers was rallying credentialed professionals to reclaim terms that have lost their meaning in today’s hashtag culture, from detox (it’s the nutrients driving detoxification) to clean eating (which has become associated with specific food “rules”) to sustainable diet (nutrition experts need to be at the center of all food-related topics).

4. New Whole Grains on the Block
First, it was quinoa that opened the door to new whole grains. Now, spelt pasta, sorghum popcorn and muesli bars are emerging as new and tasty ways to follow MyPlate’s guidance to make half your plate whole grains.

5. Instagram-able Expo
From birthday cakes made with canned beets, to watermelon rind pickles, to mocktails and egg pops (hard boiled eggs on a stick with toppings like honey mustard and seasonings), exhibitors are sampling in nontraditional ways and inspiring new, creative uses for favorite foods with a focus on versatility and social sharing.

6. The Rejection of Diet Culture
Dietitians are moving away from “selling” weight loss and focusing on strategies for optimizing eating, exercise, sleep and other health-related habits that don’t involve numbers on a scale. Body positive messages that celebrate the journey over the destination are championed with personal happiness and life satisfaction becoming the new measurable goal.

7. Data-Driven Health
Nutrigenomics, the study of the interaction of nutrition and genes, was mentioned in a number of sessions as were new over-the-counter tests and service offerings focusing on personalized scientific wellness. Although it doesn’t appear many dietitians are incorporating nutrigenomics into practice currently, this is definitely an area to watch.

8. Plant-Based Blend
The reasons dietary guidance has shifted towards a more plant-based eating pattern – optimizing health, decreasing disease risk, sustainability – were punctuated throughout many sessions. Making small changes, like substituting ½ mushrooms for ½ meat in recipes (also known as “becoming a Blenditarian”), was the primary message for achieving the shift. Read more about this seismic shift in our eating behavior.

9. Irresistible Resistant Starch
A type of starch that is turned into short-chain fatty acids by intestinal bacteria rather than being fully broken down and absorbed, resistant starch was subtly yet constantly mentioned in topics ranging from gut health, to pre-diabetes prevention to food and mood, and also cited a few times in the expo hall.

10. Tell a Compelling Story
From video development, to podcast production, to iphoneography editing, to storytelling, dietitians are craving new skills and techniques to break through the cluttered food and nutrition conversation with science-based messages. Read more about making science digestible.

About Jaime Schwartz

Jaime Schwartz Cohen MS, RD, is SVP, Director of Nutrition, based in Ketchum’s New York office. When she’s not consuming food and nutrition news, she’s practicing portion control to satisfy her sweet tooth and finding balance with running and yoga. Jaime was a 2014 Ketchum Global Scholar, spending time with London, Amsterdam and Brussels colleagues and continues to support Ketchum teams around the world. In 2016, she launched Ketchum's Borderless Nutrition News, an e-newsletter reporting on insights and observations from the global nutrition community.