Getting smart nutrition advice for your family

Nutrition is always in the news. Here’s how to know if you can trust what you read or hear.

Does it seem like nutrition is always in the news? How do we know if what we read or hear is trustworthy?

Smart nutrition advice is based on good science. In general, information we can trust comes from reliable sources, like county health departments/WIC Clinics, hospitals or health clinics, government sources, universities and qualified nutrition experts, such as, registered dietitians or University Extension educators.

We should be discriminating consumers when reviewing nutrition claims. First, we need to look at whether they offer their assertions as part of an overall healthy way of eating. Then we can examine whether or not the claims apply to us or our children and family and not people whose age or health conditions differ from ours. And most importantly, we should determine whether information is included about scientific studies from qualified research-based professionals that support the claims that are made. It’s essential to know what experts say about nutrition news before we follow the advice or change our family’s way of eating.

There are some warning signs to look for. Beware of nutritional advice that:

  • Promises quick, easy benefits
  • Sounds too easy or too good to be true
  • Uses words like “secret,” “miracle” or “magical”
  • Appeals to emotions
  • Describes foods as “good” or “bad”
  • Tries to scare people
  • Offers advice from people who aren’t really experts
  • Tries to sell something
  • Ignores advice from qualified nutrition experts
  • Gives information from just one study
  • Places attention on just one food or one type of food

Sometimes weight loss scams are disguised and advertised as nutritional truths. Be wary of false statements such as:

  • Claim: “Lose weight without diet or exercise!”
    Truth: No way! We should eat a variety of foods and find an exercise style that suits us.
  • Claim: “Lose weight no matter how much you eat of your favorite fast foods.”
    Truth: Nope! Most fast foods are not healthy choices. We need to continue to make sensible selections when eating out.
  • Claim: “Lose weight permanently and never diet again!”
    Truth: Don’t we wish! Permanent weight loss requires permanent changes in lifestyle choices.
  • Claim: "Block the absorption of fats, carbs and calories.”
    Truth: Sorry, but there is simply no magical way to do this.
  • Claim: “Lose weight with our miracle diet patch or Cream."
    Truth: There is nothing we can wear or rub into our skin that will alter metabolism.

For more information on how to spot health fraud and false nutrition claims, visit U.S. Food and Drug Administration. For sound nutrition information, including surveys, reports, and research, visit the Food and Information Center at the USDA Natural Agriculture Library.

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