Combing Through the Clutter: How to Identify Credible Nutrition Information

These days, eating well is trendy (and we couldn’t be happier about it!). Whether your goal is losing weight, boosting energy, obtaining that elusive “glow,” or living longer with fewer ailments, most people will agree that what you eat can have an impact. The challenge is, with so many varying opinions — from the woman pressing your morning green juice to your personal trainer or that guy on the internet who lost three pant sizes on the latest trendy diet — it can be hard to decipher between sound advice and a total time waster. (Not to mention, wallet buster.) But, before you throw up your hands up in defeat, know that there are a few simple ways to weed out the good advice from the stuff you should ignore.

First,  grab your best Sherlock Holmes hat and start investigating credentials. You want to look for those with RDN (for registered dietitian nutritionist) or RD (for registered dietitian) after their names — they’re the same thing. Both mean they have completed specific coursework and clinical training. They also keep up with the latest evidence with required continuing education. Beware: Not every “nutritionist” is a dietitian, but many dietitians will also call themselves a nutritionist. While RDNs are your best bet for individual dietary recommendations, doctors (MD or DO) and those with a Ph.D. in a related field are good resources for general advice.

Now that you’ve narrowed your search to relevant professionals, ask yourself the following questions:

  1. Does this advice make sense?
  2. Does it sound too good to be true? If it does, it probably is.
  3. Is the advice-giver providing scientific evidence to back it up? If not, take the advice with a grain of salt.
  4. Is it quality research? If the article is about a new study, look up a few details such as the size of the study, how it was conducted, and how long it lasted. Bigger, longer studies that controlled for confounding factors such as gender, pre-existing conditions or diseases, and whether or not participants smoke should carry more weight than smaller, shorter studies.
  5. Is this a sustainable choice? Meaning, can you follow this advice for more than a few days or weeks?
  6. Are they trying to sell you a specific “miracle” product or food? If yes, walk (no, run) away (and see #2).

Read beyond the headlines, too. Did you know that in many cases the person writing the headline isn’t the same person that wrote the article? Headlines are meant to grab your attention, but often don’t tell the full story. In an era where it’s normal to have multiple tabs open (multitasking, right?) and we’re all moving quickly from one thing to another, stopping to dig a little deeper may not come easy. But a few minutes will be worth it.

Nutrition is not one size fits all and you know yourself best. General recommendations from the media can be useful, but seeking out qualified professionals and being a slightly skeptical consumer can go a long way.