Section Navigation

Isobel R. Contento

Professional Background

Educational Background

B.Sc. (Hons), University of Edinburgh
M.A., Ph.D., University of California, Berkeley

Scholarly Interests

Behavioral aspects of nutrition; use of psychosocial theory to study factors influencing food choice, particularly among children and adolescents; the development and evaluation of school-based programs that link science education and behavioral nutrition through an examination of food choice and food systems; impacts of theory-based behaviorally focused interventions to reduce risk of overweight in youth by focusing on understanding of how the interactions among biology, personal behavior, and the food system affect eating patterns and weight and enhancing skills to make competent choices; use of theory and research evidence to design nutrition education programs; the intersection of education and policy to increase access and promote health in schools and communities.

Selected Publications


Nutrition Education: Linking Research, Theory and Practice, Jones & Bartlett, Second Edition, 2011

Selected Publications

Lee H, Contento IR, Koch PA. (2013). Process evaluation of a middle school obesity risk-reduction nutrition curriculum intervention: Choice, Control & Change. Journal of Nutrition Education & Behavior 45:105-109.

Tsurusaki BK, Calabrese Barton A. Tan E, Koch P, Contento IR. (2013). Using transformative boundary objects to create critical engagement in science. Science Education 97:1-31.

Contento IR. (2012). Improving the diets and eating patterns of children and adolescents: How can nutrition education help?  Adolescent Medicine 23; 471-492.

Mallya A, Mensah FM, Contento I, Koch PA, Calabrese Barton A. (2012). Extending science beyond the classroom door: Learning from students’ experiences with the Choice, Control & Change (C3) curriculum. Journal of Research in Science Teaching 49:244-269.

Contento IR, Koch P, Lee H, Abrams L, Mull L. (2012) Food, Health & Choices: Behaviorally based nutrition and science curriculum with wellness support obesity prevention program in fifth grade classes. Journal of Nutrition Education and Behavior, 44 (4S): S38. (Abstract)

Majumdar D, Koch PA, Lee H, Contento IR. (2012). Evaluation of “Creature-101”: A theory based virtual reality serious game for promoting healthy eating and physical activity behaviors among middle-school students.  International Society for Behavioral Nutrition and Physical Activity Abstracts, (Abstract).

Eto K, Koch P, Contento IR Miyuki A. (2011). Variables of the theory of planned behavior are associated with family meal frequency among adolescents. Journal of Nutrition Education & Behavior 43:525-530.

Schebendach JE, Mayer LE, Devlin MJ, Attia E, Contento IR, Wolf RL, Walsh BT. (2011). Food choice and diet variety in weight-restored patients with anorexia nervosa. Journal of the American Dietetic Association 111: 732-736

Contento, I.R., Koch, P.A., Lee, H., & Calabrese-Barton, A. (2010). Adolescents demonstrate improvement in obesity risk behaviors after completion of Choice, Control & Change (C3), a curriculum addressing personal agency and autonomous motivation. Journal of the American Dietetic Association 110, 1830-1839.

Ollberding N.J., Wolf R.L., & Contento I.R. (2010). Label use and its relationship to dietary intake among US adults. Journal of the American Dietetic Association, 110: 1233-1237.

Di Noia J, Contento IR (2010). Fruit and vegetable availability enables adolescent consumption that exceeds national average. Nutrition Research 30;396-402.

Di Noia J, Contento IR (2010). Behavioral predictors of low fat intake among economically disadvantaged African-American adolescents. American Journal of Health Promotion. 24:284-7.

Di Noia, J. & Contento I. R. (2009).Use of a brief food frequency questionnaire for estimating daily number of servings of fruits and vegetables in a minority adolescent population. Journal of the American Dietetic Association. 109:1785-9.

Di Noia, J. & Contento I. R. (2009). Criterion validity and user acceptability of a CD-ROM-mediated food record for measuring fruit and vegetable consumption among black adolescents.  Public Health Nutrition 12, 3-11.

Di Noia, J., Contento, I.R., Prochasks, J.O. (2008). Computer-mediated intervention tailored on Transtheoretical model stages and processes of change increases fruit and vegetable consumption among urban African-American adolescents. American Journal of Health Promotion. 22, 336-341.

Di Noia, J, Contento IR, Shinke SP. (2008). Fat avoidance and replacement behaviors predict low-fat intake among urban African- American adolescents. Nutrition Research 28, 358-363.

Contento IR. (2008) Nutrition education: Linking research, theory and practice. Asian Pacific Journal of Clinical Nutrition 17: 176-179


Koch P, Calabrese-Barton A, Contento IR, Crabtree M. (2008). Farm to table and beyond: Helping students make sense of the global food system. Science Scope 31(9), 36-39.

Di Noia J, Contento IR. (2007). Dietary fat intake among urban, African American adolescents. Eating Behaviors 9:251-256.

Contento IR, Koch PA, Lee HW, Sauberli W, Calabrese-Barton A. (2007). Enhancing personal agency and competence in eating and moving: Formative evaluation of a middle school curriculum, Choice, Control, and Change. Journal of Nutrition Education & Behavior 39:S179-S186

Di Noia J, Contento IR, Schinke SP (2007). Criterion validity of the Healthy Eating Self-monitoring Tool (HEST) for black adolescents. Journal of the American Dietetic Association. 107:321-4.

Hagiwara S, Calabrese-Barton A, Contento I. (2007). Culture, food, and language: Perspectives from immigrant mothers in school science. Cultural Studies of Science Education 2:475-499.

Contento IR, Williams SS, Michela JL, Franklin AB. (2006). Understanding the food choice process of adolescents in the context of family and friends. Journal of Adolescent Health 38:575-582.

Rubenstein H, Calabrese Barton A, Koch P, and Contento, IR. (2006). From garden to table: rural or urban?  Two effective strategies that teach students about where food really comes from.  Science & Children 43(6): 30-33.

Calabrese-Barton A, Koch PA, Contento IR, Trudeau M, Yang K, Hindin TJ, Hagiwara, S. (2005). From global sustainability to inclusive education: Understanding urban children’s ideas about food production. International Journal of Science Education 27: 1163-1186.

Contento IR, Zybert PA, Williams SS. (2005). Relationship of cognitive restraint of eating and disinhibition to the quality of food choices of Latina women and their young children. Preventive Medicine. 40: 326-336.

Hindin TJ, Contento IR, Gussow JD  (2004). A media literacy nutrition education curriculum for Head Start parents about the effects of television advertising on their children’s food requests. Journal of the American Dietetic Association.104: 164-169.

Contento IR, Basch, CE, Zybert P.  (2003). Body image, weight, and food choices of Latina women and their young children. Journal of Nutrition Education & Behavior. 35:236-48.

Contento IR, Randell JS, Basch CE. (2002).  Review and analysis of evaluation measures used in nutrition education intervention research. Journal of Nutrition Education & Behavior 34: 2-25.

Calabrese-Barton A, Hinden T, Contento IR, Treadeau M, Yang K.  (2001). Underprivileged urban mothers’ views of science and nutrition literacies. Journal of Research in Science Teaching 38: 688-711.

Liou D. & Contento IR. (2001). Usefulness of psychosocial theory variables in explaining fat-related dietary behavior in Chinese Americans: Association with degree of acculturation. Journal of Nutrition Education, 33:322-331.

Bissonnette, M.M. & Contento I.R. (2001). Adolescents’ perspectives and food choice behaviors in relation to the environmental impacts of food production practices. Journal of Nutrition Education, 33:72-82.

da Cunha Z, Contento IR, Morin K. (2000). A case study of a curriculum development process in nutrition education using empowerment as organizational policy.  Ecology of Food and Nutrition, 39:417-435.

Liquori T. Koch PD, Contento IR, Castle J. (1998). The Cookshop Program: Outcome evaluation of nutrition education program linking lunchroom food experiences with classroom cooking experiences. Journal of Nutrition Education, 30:302-313.

Contento, I. R., Senior author. (1995). The effectiveness of nutrition education and implications for nutrition education policy, programs and research. A review of research. Journal of Nutrition Education, 27:279-418.


current research

Dr Contento’s current research, conducted with collaborators, focuses on several areas: •Linking childhood obesity prevention to food system education - examples include an intervention study with middle school students, Choice, Control & Change, that seeks to reduce the risk of overweight in youth by an emphasis on personal agency and autonomous motivation in healthful food and activity choices within an obesigenic environment, and Creature 101, a serious educational game for middle school youth to increase healthful behaviors.  •The interactions of education and policy - an example is Food, Health & Choices, a study with fifth graders that examines the impact of classroom education and wellness policy separately and together to achieve healthful choices and obesity risk reduction. •Evaluation of after-school programs to promote healthful plant-based cooking and eating. •Factors influencing adoption of a variety of modes of nutrition education in schools, including gardening, and their policy implications.

curriculum vitae

Faculty Fellow in Biology and Nutrition, Johnston College, University of Redlands, CA; Associate Professor, Professor, Program in Nutrition, Teachers College, Columbia University, and Mary Swartz Rose Professor of Nutrition and Education, Program in Nutrition, Department of Health and Behavior Studies, Teachers College Columbia University.

biographical information

Isobel R Contento is the Mary Swartz Rose Professor of Nutrition and Education, and Coordinator of the Nutrition Program at Teachers College Columbia University. She has spoken on nutrition education at many national and international conferences and has been involved in numerous nutrition education development and evaluation projects and intervention research in this country and abroad, including Mexico, El Salvador, Israel, Japan, Taiwan, Portugal. She has been a member of several national advisory committees including the American Cancer Society, Centers for Disease Control, and the Institute of Medicine committee that produced Nutritional Standards for Food in Schools that was used to inform legislation, and the Nutrition Education Technical Expert Collaborative of the Nutrition Evidence Library, USDA Center for Nutrition Policy and Promotion. She has received research grants from the US National Institute of Child Health and Human Development, National Institutes of Health, Department of Agriculture, and other sources. She has also been active in the Society for Nutrition Education for many years, serving on various committees including the Journal Committee, Board of Directors, and Board of Trustees. She was the recipient of that society’s Excellence in Nutrition Education Award. She has served on the editorial boards of several journals. She works with graduate students in field settings and provides workshops for practitioners on nutrition education. She has published numerous articles and book chapters, and has served on the editorial boards of several journals. The second edition of her textbook, Nutrition Education, Linking Research, Theory and Practice was published in 2011.

HBSV 4010: Food, nutrition and behavior

For nonmajors and majors. A study of physiological, psychological, and socio-cultural factors that affect eating behaviors and the development of individual and cultural food patterns. Topics include the chemical senses, why we like sweet, salt, and fat; self-regulation of what and how much we eat; effect of early experiences with food; food and mood; interaction of food and culture through history; eating, cooking, and time use trends; meat meanings; psychosocial and cultural factors in food choice.

HBSV 5013: Strategies for nutrition education and health behavior change

Understanding and application of theoretical frameworks from the behavioral sciences and education to design and deliver food and nutrition education and physical activity promotion to various groups and to facilitate the adoption of healthful behaviors. Includes both didactic and field practice components.

HBSV 5513: Seminar in nutrition education: Theory and applications

An in-depth examination of the use of current theories and research in the design, implementation, and evaluation of nutrition education interventions. Course is designed to supplement topics covered in HBSV 5013. Required of nutrition education masters and doctoral students. Students may register for more than one semester.

HBSV 6550: Research seminar in nutrition

Required of all Ed.M. and Ed.D. candidates. Discussion of current research issues and student projects. Stu-dents may register for more than one semester.

HBSE 6901: Research and independent study: Special Education

Permission required.

HBSV 8900: Dissertation advisement in nutrition

Advisement on doctoral dissertations. Fee to equal 3 points at current tuition rate for each term. For requirements, see catalog on continuous registration for Ed.D. degree.

Isobel R. Contento appeared in the following articles:

Nutrition Conference Overview (2/25/2013)

Partnering to Make a Difference (2/25/2013)

Weighing in on Whole Foods Coming to Harlem (10/19/2012)

Koch and Contento: Questioning the Questions About Food Deserts (4/26/2012)

Gut Check: Can the U.S. Meet a Public Health Challenge More Complex Than Smoking? (11/3/2011)

TC to Host "Food Day" Activities on Monday (10/21/2011)

Getting in Their Kitchen (5/11/2011)

Research highlights (5/11/2011)

Staff news (3/29/2011)

Eat, Play, Live (11/17/2010)

Eating Well--and Talking About It (11/17/2010)

TC Campus News (6/24/2010)

A Focus on Just Food (5/10/2010)

Testing Obesity Prevention with New York City Fifth Graders (5/10/2010)

Putting the "Academic" in Academic Festival (5/4/2010)

Academic Festival at TC: Pulling Out all the Stops on April 24th (4/13/2010)

Testing Obesity Prevention with NYC Fifth Graders (3/29/2010)

Shaping Education around the World (7/15/2009)

Scott Stringer Leads Call at TC for Nutrition Changes (4/6/2009)

A Call to Serve...Better Food (3/23/2009)

Beyond Cupcakes: Children in the Kitchen (12/8/2008)

Do you want your children to try new foods? Try keeping them in the kitchen. (9/15/2008)

Research Highlights (5/21/2008)

TC Faculty in Print (10/3/2007)

Thought for Food (5/8/2007)

Thought for Food (4/30/2007)

Eating Out With The Kids (2/1/2006)

Linking Food & the Environment (LiFE) (3/22/2005)

Professor Isobel Contento (3/15/2005)

Continuing to Repair the World (8/28/2002)

Dependent on the Food Industry (6/22/2000)

The Science and the Practice of Plant-based Diets at TC (6/1/2000)

Teachers College: A Leader in Educating Leaders (1/1/2000)

Professor Isobel Contento Named Rose Chair (6/1/1999)