Psychology and Nutrition


To obtain knowledge about human behaviour relevant to the practice of Clinical Nutrition and Community Nutrition/ Public Health. Overall, the CU aims to develop: (1) knowledge about health psychology, with a focus on eating behaviours: the normal-pathological continuum and the integration of neurobiological and psychosocial models; (2) understanding the person in health and disease contexts, along with socio-cultural determinants of behaviour; (3) general attitudes, knowledge and skills related to counselling and behavioural change, with a focus on basic skills interviewing and communication in Clinical Nutrition; and (4) basic knowledge of the mental disorders which are most related to eating behaviours.
The CU also aims to enhance basic skills necessary for nutritionists (therapeutic relationship, autonomy, team work abilities, research and communication of results).

General characterization





Responsible teacher

Prof. Doutor Jaime Manuel Novo Grácio


Weekly - Available soon

Total - Available soon

Teaching language





• D. Marks, M. Murray, B. Evans, E.V. Estacio: Health Psychology – Theory, Research and Practice (chapter 7: Food, diets and obesity pp 154-192). London, Sage, 2015. ISBN 978-1-4462-9507-6

• Ayers S, de Visser R (2018). Psychology for Medicine and Healthcare. 2nd ed. Sage. ISBN: 9781473969285.
• Gable J. (2007). Counseling Skills for Dietitians. 2nd ed. Malden, Blackwell Publishing. ISBN 978-1-4051-4727-9
• van Teijlingen, E., & Humphris, G. M. (2019). Psychology and Sociology Applied to Medicine: An Illustrated Colour Text. 4th ed. Churchill Livingstone, Elsevier. ISBN 9780702062988

Teaching method

Weekly, each student will have 2.5 hours of learning activity through seminars.
The seminars will include expository learning, as an introduction to the selected reading/ main bibliography, and practical application of the theoretical topics. These topics will be further explored, using case studies/ examples, problem-solving and films/ other teaching materials. Some seminars will introduce the students to interviewing techniques/ clinical communication, using role-play. The remaining seminars will include supervision in order to prepare one assignment to be presented at the end of the semester.

Note on the exceptional scenario of adapting teaching methodologies as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic
In view of the exceptional situation determined by the need to adapt the pedagogical plan to a new contingency plan, in the face of the pandemic crisis of COVID-19, the following measures will be adopted in this Curricular Unit:
• Specific weeks will be defined to teach the practical contents of the UC with the definition of core practical classes corresponding to the weeks 27th, 28th, 30th  and 31st;
• Seminars that include mainly theoretical contents (all classes except core practical classes) will be taught at a distance, ensuring the security measures imposed by the FCM / NMS contingency plan;
• The core practical classes will assume, from the beginning, both formats: the face-to-face format; and a distance learning modality (e.g. face-to-face classes for small groups of students interchanged with real-time streaming for the other students who are attending at a distance). In the event of being impossible to teach the core practical classes face-to-face, the entire teaching will be at a distance. In this case, further information will be delivered regarding this procedure.

Evaluation method

The student must attend at least 2/3 of the seminars.
The evaluation will include a written exam and an assignment on a specific theme, to be discussed in public. The final grade is the arithmetic mean of the written exam and the assignment.

Subject matter

1) Contributions of Psychology for Clinical Nutrition and Community Nutrition/ Public Health;
2) Introduction to mental functioning (models), cognitive functions, personality;
3) Human development/ life cycle;
4) Family, occupational and sociocultural factors in human behaviour; 
5) Stress and coping in health/ disease;
6) Psychosocial and cultural determinants of eating behaviour. Eating styles. Acquisition of eating habits throughout the life cycle. Learning, cognitions and emotions in eating behaviour. Psychological factors in obesity;
7) Psychological adaptation to disease e.g. metabolic problems. Reactions to hospitalization and terminal illness;
8) Changing eating behaviours: stages and strategies;
9) Basic techniques of communication and counselling in Clinical Nutrition. Motivational interviewing and treatment adherence. Common factors in therapeutic relationships. Difficult situations;
10) Mental disorders as related to altered eating behaviour (e.g. eating disorders, depression).


Programs where the course is taught: