Nutrition Education: Definition and Features
While there may be no international standard deﬁnition, the Society
for Nutrition Education and Behavior adopted a definition of nutrition education as:
“any combination of educational strategies, accompanied by environmental supports, designed to facilitate voluntary adoption of food choices and other food and nutrition related behaviors conducive to health and well-being and delivered through multiple venues, involving activities at the individual, institutional, community, and policy levels."
Table 1. Actionable, modifiable dietary and feeding-related behaviors associated with healthy growth during the first 1,000 days
Adjust energy intake/expenditure to achieve recommended weight gain during pregnancy
Consume a nutrient-dense diet during pregnancy and lactation
Breastfeed the infant
Offer nutritious complementary foods and beverages at the infant/toddler’s appropriate developmental stage
Utilize responsive feeding practices and foster healthy eating behaviors through shared family meals/mealtime routines
Provide the infant/toddler opportunities for physical activity; limit TV and screen viewing time
Ensure that the infant/toddler has adequate sleep via establishment of sleep hygiene routines
”. Embedded within is the explicit distinction that nutrition education is not synonymous with the provision of nutrition information. Instead, comprehensive nutrition education strategies require actionable behaviors that individuals readily choose to achieve an intended effect.
Components of Interventions for Healthy Growth
Consistent with a Nutrition Education Approach
Factors associated with healthy growth of infants and young children have previously been identified . In addition to optimizing maternal health and lifestyle in preparation for pregnancy, some modifiable and actionable dietary and feeding-related behaviors have been included in a limited number of interventions (Table 1). Assessment of behavioral mediators, defined as underlying determinants that precede adoption of behaviors, is critical to nutrition education intervention success. Often, the resultant potential mediators included attitudes, beliefs, self-efficacy, social norms, skills, knowledge, and environmental constraints that influ-ence whether or not a target behavior is adopted.
Evidence indicates that nutrition education strategies and interventions, likely to benefit participants, are guided by a theory of healthy behavior. The most frequently reported theories utilized with success include: Social Cognitive Theory, including promotion of self-efficacy, Theory of Planned Behavior, and the Health Belief Model. An educational approach rooted within anticipatory guidance, as a method to proactively deliver components of culturally appropriate behavioral messages to par-ents/caregivers during the period just prior to when the issue would be developmentally relevant to the infant or child has a strong theoretical rationale.
For maximum scalability, consideration of the delivery format of nutrition education interventions requires careful assessment. At present, randomized clinical trials that have included multiple intervention components during the first 1,000 days with outcomes related to growth of infants or young children are primarily clinic- or home-based. Although mHealth or digital interventions document encouraging results, results from multicomponent intervention trials with infants or young children addressing the prevention of excess weight gain, healthy growth, or measures of adiposity in scale-up interventions are limited.
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