SNEB Editorial: Nutrition Educator Competencies Require Reasonable Adventurers | Society for Nutrition Education and Behavior (SNEB)

SNEB Editorial: Nutrition Educator Competencies Require Reasonable Adventurers

Posted by: and on Monday August 15, 2022

SNEB members are familiar with the nutrition educator competencies adopted in 2016  that “articulate the foundational knowledge and performance skills nutrition educators need for the development, implementation and evaluation of effective nutrition education.”1 The ten theme areas delineate content and varied levels of performance expectations congruent with Bloom’s taxonomy.2 To achieve these competencies, an array of curricula, training protocols, and opinions are used to develop nutrition educators who are knowledgeable, industrious, and experienced. I suggest that competency achievement additionally requires the development of reasonable adventurers. Roy Heath coined this descriptor in 1964 from interviews conducted on a group of Princeton freshmen over 4 years. Heath’s findings have affected my thinking on what is needed for competence achievement. The group denoted as reasonable adventurers created opportunities for their own satisfaction and exhibited 6 attributes. These included intellectuality, ability to form close friendships, independence in value judgments, tolerance of ambiguity, breadth of interests, and a sense of humor.3 These are attributes not usually considered in formal training, classes, or workshops, but they are essential to be a nutrition educator.

Animating and operationalizing the nutrition educator competencies for the identification of competent nutrition educators is a focus of my tenure as president of SNEB. This requires accompanying attention on the attributes of the persons striving to be competent nutrition educators. How can this be done? Let’s look at examples of how each reasonable adventurer attribute could fit with competency attainment.

Intellectuality: Being alternately curious and critical when approaching a problem will better serve a nutrition educator when trying to describe the roles of government agencies in regulating food systems and the food supply (Competency 5.2) or learning to identify the primary dietary issues for each phase of the life cycle (Competency 2.1).

Close Friendships: The ability to form and maintain close friendships by sharing deep feelings will facilitate being able to describe ways to collaborate with other stakeholders to pro- mote policies supporting systems that produce healthy food (Competency 6.4).

Independence in Value Judgements: Using internal judgment or asking questions when experience doesn’t provide an answer is essential to advocate effectively for action-oriented nutrition education and healthy diets in various sectors and settings (Competency 9.4).

Tolerance of Ambiguity: The ability to suspend judgment when the basis for making a decision is not clear is needed to explain the relationships between natural resources (e.g., soil, water, biodiversity) and the quantity and quality of the food and water supply (Competency 6.3) or explain the dietary prevention of, and management approaches associated with, major diet-related public health issues (Competency 1.5).

Breadth of Interest: Finding uncommon interest in the common, integrating interests, and sustaining the study of an issue toward deep knowledge allows for the description of the potential sources of food contamination and the best practices associated with the safe handling of food (Competency 3.3) or to select the appropriate theoretical models or frameworks (Competency 8.4).

Sense of Humor: Fostering a sensitivity for others and good feelings from others will facilitate communication from and between clients, so they can express their beliefs and attitudes, define needs, and share experiences (Competency 9.2).

The nutrition educator competencies address and accommodate vital activities, but their potential for achievement seems greater when nutrition educators are reasonable adventurers.


  1. Society for Nutrition Education and Behavior. Nutrition Educator Compe- tencies. Society for Nutrition Education and Behavior. nutrition-educator-competencies-2/. Accessed June 7, 2022.
  2. Bloom’s Taxonomy of Measurable ment/new/Blooms%20Taxonomy%20-% 20Best.pdf. Accessed June 26, 2022.
  3. Heath R. The Reasonable Adventurer. University of Pittsburgh Press; 1964.