Ok, so I’m now guilty of it too. I used the new, fine art of creating a very catchy title to get you to “click” on the link so that this article can result in tons of impressions. But that’s not what I’m really interested in. What I really want to ” impress” on you, is that click-bait for nutrition articles just may be hazardous to your health.
Understanding and using nutrition information is not as simple as reading “The 7 Foods You Should Never Eat” type of piece. You simply can’t boil down the complex subject of wellness into simple sentences. We can all probably agree that attention spans have become shorter, but this should be no excuse to disseminate nutrition advice that’s not particularly effective and may even be harmful.
Remember such a thing called an “expert”? When I had some eating issues early in my life, my mother promptly took me right to the source for help. Back in those days, we didn’t have the proliferation of information we have now. But a lot of the information we have today is actually misinformation. Fortunately the real experts do exist and I had an opportunity to interview several outstanding professionals who can guide us towards learning about nutrition the right way.
Nutrition Is A Complex Subject
“Quick click-bait articles are often filled with big nutrition claims covered with very little detail. The science of nutrition is actually very complex, and there aren’t really“ quick fixes” that we read so much about”, says Amber Ketchum, MDS, RD.
She goes on to say that these days it’s very common for non-nutrition professionals to write nutrition articles that are either not scientifically based or cover a trendy topic from only one side, often leaving out important details that can impact peoples’ health.
“Oversimplifying nutrition can lead people into making drastic changes to their eating plan. Many people end up cutting out entire food groups or adding expensive supplements after reading general articles on why one thing is bad for us or that something major is missing from our diets. This can cause confusion and even lead to missing out on essential nutrients from the elimination of important, nutrient-dense foods. If an article makes something too simple or too extreme, it’s probably not giving the all of the details and should not be enough to justify major changes in diet.”
Takeaway: Be wary of articles that don’t tell the whole picture. Share the article with a professional for their expert opinion.
Why “Health Coaches” May Do Harm
Heather Mason, MS, RD believes that who you trust for your health data is paramount. “Everywhere you look, health and wellness “professionals” are popping up-at the gym, at the supermarket, on even on your Facebook news feed. Many of these so-called professionals are “Health Coaches”. But what is a Health Coach and should you trust them for diet and nutrition advice?”
She says that there are a few questions to ask yourself before working with a Health Coach:
- Are they pushing supplements or other products? Think weight loss shakes, protein powders, or silly, ineffective exercise equipment.
- What is their educational background? Do they have a Bachelors or Master’s degree in a health related field? Do they have a degree in anything at all?
- Do they have other credentials, for example, are they a Registered Dietitian, Registered Nurse, or Certified Personal trainer?
She explains,”If your Health Coach is pushing supplements or doesn’t have a proper educational background you definitely should not trust this person with your money or your health! There are some Health Coaches who are qualified professionals, like dietitians and exercise scientists, but it is important to ask questions first. If you are looking for sound nutrition advice a Registered Dietitian Nutritionist is always a good place to start. Dietitians are required to have a 4-year degree in a science field, complete a dietetic internship, and pass a national exam. Dietitians are trained to give evidence-based nutrition advice and create a diet based on your personal needs.”
Takeaway: You wouldn’t let a plumber operate on you, so make sure you seek only a qualified professional for your health needs.
No Two People Are The Same
Ever get frustrated that it took you weeks to lose 2 pounds while your office mate lost the same amount in a few days? Well that’s the reality of humankind-no two people are the same. What will work for your friend may not work at all for you. There are many paths to health, so while you might read that the Paleo diet is the only way to eat, it simply might not be the right plan for you.
“A cookie-cutter approach is not appropriate or helpful when it comes to meeting our nutritional needs. No two people have the exact same nutritional needs. Our nutritional needs are unique and any good plan needs to be individualized”, says Vandana Sheth, RDN, CDE and spokesperson for the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics. She explains that gender, age, activity level, metabolic rate, and many other lifestyle factors play a role in determining your exact nutritional needs. “It is important to keep this in mind when you read or hear about a magic fix. Someone like a registered dietitian nutritionist can help by creating a customized nutritional plan that is just right for you.”
Takeaway: Everyone has their own special nutrition needs. Be cautious of following advice that has not been tailored for you.
4. Facts Have To Be Verified
Probably the biggest offender with a click-bait article is that most of the time there are no references, footnotes or anything else to back up the claims being made. When I was completing my masters thesis, the amount of documentation I needed to provide made my head spin. That same volume of research needs to be available for nutrition articles as well.
Natalie Rizzo, MS, RD says that nutrition is a science, rooted in evidenced-based material. “When writing about nutrition, it is imperative to provide evidence-based
Takeaway: Make sure that the claims being made can be researched. Be cautious when reading the terms “causes” and “can prevent”
Sure, common sense does play a role in making nutrition choices. We don’t necessarily need an expert to tell us we should be eating an apple instead of potato chips. But the days of simple choices are somewhat gone. There is a morass of allegations out there and by thinking critically before you click might just improve your health.
Robyn Webb, MS
Award winning cookbook author, nutritionist, culinary instructor, Paris Writer, Food Editor, Diabetes Forecast Magazine, Health and Wellness Editor, The Daily Basics