Despite widespread dissemination of evidence-based Nutrition and food consumption advice in Australia through the Australian Dietary Guidelines, Dietetics practise and Public Health initiatives, Public incidence of diet-related Non-Communicable Disease states continues to increase annually. In this study, we examine public attitudes to food, nutrition and wellbeing through the dual information filters of populist gastronomy (Nigella Lawson) and traditional nutrition science communication on middle-class/professional adults residing in a low SEI area of semi-rural NSW exhibiting greater than average diet-related morbidity.
Using a community based voluntary participatory research approach, we conducted a qualitative, research study with 6 catered, audio-recorded focus group amongst adults (n=47) who self-identified as their own or one of their family’s primary food providers (age = 18-78 years [15 male, 32 female]). The focus group topics were perceptions of current Dietetic or Government nutrition advice, the relative importance of flavour vs. health concerns in food choices, immediate neurogastronomical perceptions of a Nigella Lawson meal that conforms to current dietary recommendations, and the effects of hedonic vs scientific narrative on food choices, menu planning and consumption. Pre and post-prandial satiety was evaluated via Likert scale. A small team of investigators analysed all transcripts in full before reducing data to codes through consensus. Broader themes were created to encompass multiple codes.
Results show that participants retain a robust understanding of evidence-based dietary guidelines, and exhibit similar perspectives on broader narrative influences on food consumption. We identified six themes consistent among all participants: Solid understanding of current evidence-based nutritional recommendations, frustration, anger and scepticism arising from scientific language paradigms and perceived fickleness of message in Nutrition professionals and Dieticians, emotional/hedonic texts are more broadly engaging, “junk foods”, “food trends” and “chemicals” have supplanted healthy, “natural”, “traditional” foods and food practises common to remembered childhood and family traditions, “healthy” and “hedonistic” are perceived by the majority and antithetical terms, and a primary barrier to consumption of healthy food is the hedonic experience –both actual and linguistic. Placing nutrition in Lithgow within a broader context of sociocultural and gastronomic identity and a struggle to harmonize different lifestyles, media influences and worldviews, we propose how an alternative communication framework for nutrition can harmonize scientific perspectives with semi-rural Australian food culture and perceptions.
Our study demonstrates how hedonic gastronomic narrative influences and enhances public food understanding and dietary practises in educated Australian adults in semi-rural NSW.
Catherine Lockley, Nutritionist, Scrumptious Science
When: In session Wednesday 19th February, 9:30am-10:30am