Every year 7000 people die from obesity and another 13 000 people die by wrong diets in The Netherlands. Part of this problem can be solved when the communication between general practitioners (GPs) and patients about nutrition and diets improves. There are four activities that can contribute greatly to the communication between GPs and their patients. (1) GPs can ask nonjudgemental questions that help to understand their patients' perspective on the illness, its causes and possible treatments. (2) GPs can listen carefully to their patients' replies and try to pick up clues to their understanding as well as their ability to adhere to a recommended treatment. (3) GPs can work with patients and family members to set realistic and achievable goals for behavioural change. (4) GPs can involve their patients in active problem solving. The role that practitioners play in changing patients' behaviour to healthy lifestyles is more similar to a coach. They should be along the sideline, empowering patients, helping them develop their own healthy lifestyles. When GPs apply these principles in daily practice, they will find out that they can effectively influence the nutrition patterns of their patients. © 2005 Nature Publishing Group. All rights reserved.