Say "no" to food fads – going forward from #NutritionMonth

Let’s face it. Not everything we read online is true. And while many of us know that, it’s still easy to be taken in by popular ideas we see online or hear from friends. (Who doesn’t know someone who’s tried the Atkins Diet, the Grapefruit Diet, the Master Cleanse "Lemonade" Diet, the Paleo Diet, or the Alkaline Diet?)

A fad diet is a diet that promises quick weight loss through what is usually an unhealthy and unbalanced diet.

While some popular diet plans may have merit, most fad diets are simply just that: fads. So, how can we really separate food fact from fiction?

Misinformation affects almost all of us at one point or another. Luckily, there are ways to spot your problem and seek reliable facts to solve it.

I’m going to walk you through an example of a three-step problem-solving approach that was developed for Dietitians of Canada’s Nutrition Month 2017 campaign Take the Fight out of Food, which works quite well for nutritional concerns.

Let’s say you were struggling to make sense of some nutrition advice you read online and wanted nutrition facts you could trust.

1. Spot the problem: There is so much nutrition information online that it’s often hard to tell what to trust.

2. Get the facts: As we all know, some websites are more reliable than others. Although this is sometimes obvious, we all get tripped up occasionally – I know I've personally been guilty of missing the sarcasm in satirical news articles! We need to be critical of what we read, and this is particularly true in the world of food and nutrition. Here are some helpful questions you can ask yourself when reading a website that provides this information:

  • Is the website promising a quick fix or a miracle cure?
  • Do I have reasons to mistrust the person, organization, or company that runs the website?
  • Are they trying to sell me something instead of educating me?
  • Are the website writers unqualified to be giving me nutrition information? Do they have credentials such as Registered Dietitian (R.D.)? (If the writer hasn’t listed any credentials, they may just be the average Joe spouting their opinion!)
  • Do they have facts that sound too good to be true? (Eating nothing but chocolate and losing 10 pounds per week? Sounds great to me!!)
  • Does the information come from personal opinions rather than scientific evidence?
  • Is the content missing reviews or verification by medical experts?
  • Are the website claims based on a single study that may draw the wrong conclusion?

If the answer to most of these questions is “yes”, the website may not be reliable.

3. Seek support: In general, we need to be careful not to trust everyone who has an opinion about food and nutrition. We need to look for sites that aren’t trying to sell something and choose those that rely on science rather than opinions. Check writers’ credentials, and looks for sites written by regulated health professionals whose work is reviewed by other experts.

If you feel like you’re drowning in advice, or have dietary issues you’d like a professional opinion on, check out www.dietitians.ca/find to find a Registered Dietitian. You can also visit the following sites, which are sources of reliable information:

One last word: remember that old adage, “Everything in moderation”? Barring specific dietary concerns, this is one piece of popular nutrition advice you can generally believe. So, don’t be afraid to have dessert now and then – as long as you’re eating your vegetables too!

 

Adapted from the Dietitians of Canada’s Nutrition Month campaign materials.
Find more information about Nutrition Month at: www.nutritionmonth2017.ca