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Is Online Nutrition Information Reliable? Ask These 8 Questions to Find Out

Is Online Nutrition Information Reliable? Ask These 8 Questions to Find Out

 Guest post by Melissa Baker

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. How can we really separate food fact from fiction?

Misinformation affects many of my clients and usually results in wasted time, energy, and money. However, there is a way 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 well for nutritional concerns.

Let’s call this client Raven. She was struggling to make sense of the nutrition advice she read online and wanted nutrition facts she could trust.

Cherries

1. Spot the problem

There is so much nutrition information online and Raven is not sure how to tell if something is a fad! She just doesn’t know what to believe anymore.

2. Get the facts (The 8 Questions)

Raven learns that some websites are more reliable than others. She needs to be more critical and ask herself these questions when she’s reading a website: 

  1. Is the website promising a quick fix or a miracle cure?
  2. Do I have reasons to mistrust the person, organisation, or company that runs the website?
  3. Are they trying to sell me something instead of educating me?
  4. Are the website writers unqualified to be giving me nutrition information?
  5. Do they have facts that sound too good to be true?
  6. Does the information come from personal opinions rather than scientific evidence?
  7. Is the content missing reviews or verification by medical experts?
  8. Are the website claims based on a single study that may draw the wrong conclusion? 

Now Raven knows that if she answers “yes” to most of these questions, the website may not be reliable. 

3. Seek support

Raven learned that she should not trust everyone who has an opinion about food and nutrition. Instead, she will look for sites that aren’t trying to sell her something and that rely on science rather than opinions. She will check the credentials of the writers, and looks for sites written by regulated health professionals whose work is reviewed by other experts.

Do you sometimes feel like you are drowning in misinformation, too? Find a local dietitian at www.dietitians.ca/find for advice. You can also visit these sites, which are filled with reliable information:

 

Do you have a food fight that you struggle with? Try the three-step approach to Take the Fight out of Food and make your commitment official at www.nutritionmonth2017.ca.

Lastly, if you are part of the UBC community, come take part in Nutrition Month events on campus!

Melissa Baker 

About the author:

Melissa is currently the Manager, Nutrition and Wellbeing for UBC Student Housing and Hospitality Services. She also writes for the Huffington Post, her personal blog (upbeet.ca), and volunteers for the Dietitians of Canada Board of Directors. She is a true food lover and was named “Canada’s Food.ee of the Year” in 2015 by vacay.ca.