The Good Stuff

My Account

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

Nutrition Month

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.

 

2 comments

Mar 22, 2017 • Posted by Melissa Baker

Hi Deborah, Thanks for your comment. I am glad the article was helpful! You can use the Canadian information without hesitation. Regarding canola oil, I would use it in your baking vs coconut oil. The coconut oil will impart a flavour that might not be ideal. For those that avoid GMOs, they would have to use an organic oil. But the conventional is ok as well. Canola oil is a source of omega 3’s — so that is a bonus. I usually recommend having a variety of oils in the house to use. Canola is good for cooking or baking, extra virgin olive oil is great for salads (and some low-medium heat cooking too), flaxseed oil is good in salads as well (for more omega 3s!), grapeseed and avocado oil can be used for higher heat cooking and so on. Using a variety of oils will be more beneficial than just sticking with one. Hope that is helpful!

Melissa

Mar 22, 2017 • Posted by Deborah Reek

All the sites you mentioned above are in Canada. I am in the United States. Does that make ANY difference at all – probably not one iota! Just thought I’d check. One question I ran into yesterday and got two diametrically opposed answers on the Internet: is canola oil, organic or not, good or bad for you? May I substitute in a vegan “blueberry muffin” recipe organic virgin coconut oil for the canola oil or substitute anything else IF the canola oil is bad for you – I have seen and read both good and very bad review for canola oil. HELP! Thank you SO much!

Also, many thanks for all the information above you provided. You can be sure I will be using it! I most definitely have run into a variety of “opinions”.

Leave a comment