Nutritional Anthropology

What is Nutritional Anthropology?

Nutritional anthropology is “fundamentally concerned with understanding the interrelationships of biological and social forces in shaping human food use and the nutritional status of individuals and populations” ~Pelto, Goodman, and Dufour (2012:1-2)

Nutritional Anthropologists study a people and their culture, and how food is not only nutritionally significant, but culturally significant as well. They also study how diet and nutrition affects the body and its development. Nutritional anthropologists at the university I attended have an on-going data collection program in Costa Rica, where they are working with the local government to see how Western diet influences have affected nutrition and body development.

I became interested in this career field while watching Alton Brown’s TV show “Good Eats.” At the time, I was ignorant of what this profession truly entailed. The portrayal on the show was more food historian, in my opinion, than anthropologist.

This past semester (Spring 2016) I had the opportunity to take a class in Nutritional Anthropology at a local University. I learned a lot in this class and it gave me some new perspectives to think on, i.e. food insecurity by way of our Food Diary assignment where we couldn’t spend more than $45.00 that week on food. I also learned that this was not a career path I was truly interested in, just fascinated by. Being a food historian and knows the background of what we eat is what speaks to me.

This was a fascinating subject and I’m glad I took this class. I have a Master’s degree in Library Science, and have no plans to go for another Master’s or Ph.D. I took this class purely for the fun of it (much to the chagrin of some of my classmates who HAD to take this class for their degrees).

I would like to encourage everyone to take advantage of classes that interest you, regardless of the degree/career potential. I have added the assigned reading list below and an Amazon link with other helpful books. It helps you grow as a person.

© Cori Large 11 May 2016

Nutritional Anthropology Books

Assigned Readings List:

Anderson, E. N. (1997).  Traditional Medical Values of Food.  In Food and Culture: A Reader.  Carole Counihan and Penny Van Esterik, (eds).  Pp. 80-91.  New York, NY: Routledge.

Barthes, Roland. (1961). Towards a Psychosociology of Contemporary Food Consumption. In Food andCulture: A Reader.  Carole Counihan and Penny Van Esterik, (eds).  Pp. 23-30.  New York, NY: Routledge.

Clark, Dylan. (2004). The Raw and the Rotten: Punk Cuisine. In Food and Culture: A Reader.  Carole Counihan and Penny Van Esterik, (eds).  Pp. 232-242.  New York, NY: Routledge.
De Garine, Igor. (2003). Anthropology of Food and Pluridisciplinarity in “Researching Food Habits:Methods and Problems,” MacBeth Helen and MacClancey Jeremy (eds.). Pp.15-28. New York, NY: Berghahn Books.

Himmelgreen, David A. and Crooks, Deborah L. (2005).  Nutritional Anthropology and Its Application to Nutritional Issues and Problems. In “Applied Anthropology: Domains of Application,” Kedia Satish and van Willigan John (eds.).  Pp.  149-188. Westport, CT, Praeger.

Himmelgreen DA, N. Romero Daza, E. Amador, and C. Pace. (2012) in press. Tourism, Economic Insecurity, and Nutritional Health in Rural Costa Rica: Using Syndemic Theory to Understand the Impact of the Globalizing Economy at the Local Level. Annals of Anthropological Practice

Hubert, Annie. (2003) Qualitative Research in the Anthropology of Food: A Comprehensive
Qualitative/Quantitative Approach in “Researching Food Habits: Methods and Problems,”
MacBeth Helen and MacClancey Jeremy (eds.). Pp. 41-54.  New York, NY:  Berghahn Books.

Krebs, John R.  (2009). The Gourmet Ape: Evolution and Human Food Preferences.  In The American Journal of Clinical Nutrition. 90(3), 7075-7115.

Mintz, Sydney W. (1979). Time, Sugar, and Sweetness. In Food and Culture: A Reader.  Carole Counihan and Penny Van Esterik, (eds).  Pp. 91-106.  New York, NY: Routledge.

Mintz, Sydney W. & Christine M. Du Bois. (2002). The Anthropology of Food and Eating. Annual Review Anthropology 31:99-119.

Swenson, Rebecca. (2009). Domestic Divo? Televised Treatments of Masculinity, Femininity, and Food.In Food and Culture: A Reader.  Carole Counihan and Penny Van Esterik, (eds).  Pp. 138-153. New York, NY: Routledge.

Turner, Bethany L., Maes, Kenneth, Sweeney, Jennifer, and Armelagos, George J. (2008).  Human evolution, diet and nutrition: Where the body meets the buffet. In Evolutionary Medicine and Health: New Perspectives. Trevathan, et. al *eds).  Pp.55-71. New York, NY: Oxford University Press.

Weisberg-Shapiro, P. & C. M. Devine. (2015). “Because we missed the way that we eat at the middle ofthe day:” Dietary acculturation and food routines among Dominican Women. Appetite 95:293-302.


Redoing College

How many of you got a degree in something that you weren’t 100% passionate about?

My bachelor’s degree is in General Business Administration, focusing in Accounting and Management. The knowledge I gain from this degree has helped me in the real world, but recently I found myself fantasizing about what degree or career I would have pursued if I wasn’t so worried about the paycheck that came with it.

I came up with four other potential careers or degree programs that I would have like to have pursued if I hadn’t chickened out and gone for the security blanket degree:

  1. Financial Advisor-career
  2. Research Assistant-career
  3. Creative Writing-degree program
  4. Nutritional Anthropologist-degree program/career

Each of these will get its own post, going into detail about the education requirements, potential job placement and income, and why this career/degree program interests me.

If you could go back to college or go to college in the first place, if future earning and job opportunities weren’t a worry, what degree and/or career would you pursue? Please leave you answer in the comments.

© Cori Large October 29, 2015