Proceedings of the Nutrition Society

Meeting Report

Can nutrition counselling be more behavioural? Lessons learned from dietary management of cystic fibrosis

Lori J. Starka1 c1

a1 Cincinnati Children's Hospital Medical Centre and University of Cincinnati College of Medicine, Division of Psychology, MLCD3015, 3333 Burnet Avenue, Cincinnati, OH 45229, USA


Cystic fibrosis (CF) is a genetically-inherited disorder that results in energy imbalance. Undernutrition is common in children with CF and associated with poor health outcomes. To ensure optimal growth and nutrition, children with CF are recommended to consume 120–150% of the recommended daily allowance (RDA) for energy, but most studies show they typically are only able to achieve 100% of the RDA. While biological factors clearly contribute to poor dietary adherence, recent studies have documented behavioural and environmental barriers to adherence that includes parent-child interaction at mealtimes. While not ‘abnormal’, parent behaviours such as paying increased attention to the child in the form of coaxing, commanding and feeding when the child is engaged in behaviours incompatible with eating (food refusal, talking, leaving the meal) may serve to reinforce these child non-eating behaviours. Thus, dietary counselling alone, albeit necessary, is typically insufficient because of failure to specifically address these behavioural and environmental barriers to dietary treatment. Behavioural intervention that targets both nutrition education and behavioural management has been found to be effective in achieving an average increased energy intake of 4200 kJ (1000)kcal/d and weight gain of 1·48 kg over 9 weeks in children with CF. This intervention utilizes self-monitoring, goal setting and shaping to structure the delivery of treatment. It also teaches parents to utilize child behaviour-management techniques to motivate children to increase their energy intake. These behavioural strategies include differential attention (praising and ignoring), contingency management and behavioural contracting. The potential application of these techniques to dietary counselling is suggested.


c1 Corresponding author: Professor Lori Stark, fax +1 513 636 3677,