Food Innovation Center

Collaborating for a healthier, hunger-free world.

Improving Nutrition from the Grocery Store to the Doctor’s Office

Christopher Taylor Strives to Increase Access to Nutritional Healthcare

How many cups worth of vegetables did you have for dinner last night? This is a typical question patients must often ponder when being assessed for a diet evaluation yet we don’t always think of our food in terms of cups or measurements.

Food Innovation Center member Chris Taylor.

Food Innovation Center Member Chris Taylor

In an effort to overhaul the way our healthcare system approaches nutrition and chronic diseases, Christopher Taylor, Food Innovation Center member and associate professor of medical dietetics and family medicine, saw the opportunity to create a novel approach to alleviate barriers associated with nutritional counseling.

"Obesity is our leading cause of life lost but it's taken for granted," says Taylor. "Do we eat for food or do we eat for health? Those are some of the issues that play into getting people motivated to change."

Weight-loss surgeries are expensive and may not be a viable solution for everyone. By simply changing dietary habits and engaging in a more active lifestyle, chronic diseases such as diabetes and obesity can be prevented for a lot less money. Patients may rely on their primary care physicians to advise them on dietary behaviors, but their primary care physician may not have the necessary training or time to provide proper counseling. Instead, patients may be referred to nutritional counseling services outside of the physician's office, creating additional transportation and financial burdens for the patient.

In Taylor’s seed grant project titled, “The impact of online dietary assessment to efficiency of nutrition counseling: a pilot,” Taylor and his research team are striving to maximize communication, convenience, and efficiency for patients, physicians, and registered dietitians.

Instead of struggling to recall how many cups of food eaten in the past 24 hours, patients are administered a user-friendly online dietary assessment developed by Viocare. Patients simply look at different pictures of portion sizes and select which best matches their food intake.  

Patient using Viocare’s visual assessment.

Patient using Viocare’s visual assessment.

“It’s a way of enhancing the assessment by helping us give better targeted tailored education and giving more time for education without being exceedingly expensive,” says Taylor.

By launching the pilot project at a shopping center which includes a clinic and a grocery store that employs registered dietitians, physicians can easily refer patients to the registered dietitians at the grocery store without causing additional transportation inconveniences.

“We’re trying to figure out how we can use the resources outside of the doctor’s office to promote healthy behaviors and how we can communicate that with technology to the physician,” Taylor explains.

This partnership between physician and dietitian helps to better understand the needs of the patient and ensure compliance with dietary recommendations.

Utilizing the Food Innovation Center’s wealth of members from diverse disciplines posed a perfect opportunity for Taylor to assemble a team that specifically fulfills the needs of his research project. 

“You have expertise across a broad continuum of food from clinic to table to Capitol Hill,” says Taylor. “When you put all that expertise together you can better tackle the problems we’re trying to face.”

Taylor’s project is currently underway and recently received a perfect score from the highly competitive National Institutes of Health (NIH) Small Business Innovation Research Grant (SBIR) to fund technological improvements.

Written by Chau-Sa Dang