7 Signs You're Getting Bad Nutrition Advice

There’s tons of nutrition information swirling around out there; how do you know what to believe? Look for these red flags to know when to be a skeptic.
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Bread with Caution Tape

Photo by: James Blinn

James Blinn

There's tons of nutrition information swirling around and oftentimes you're left wondering what or who you should believe. Here are 7 signs that you’re receiving bad (and sometimes even dangerous) nutrition advice.

#1: Lack of Significant Research

Nutrition advice should be based on significant scientific research that was conducted in peer-reviewed journals over months or even better, years. The majority of the research will back up a specific theory with a few straggler studies that may point at the other side. If you're being quoted a study, be sure what you are being told reflects all the research in that area. In addition, ask who sponsored the research as sponsored studies may be one sided. Oftentimes, this will raise a big red flag if someone hasn't done their homework.

#2: Lots of Persuasive Anecdotes

You may find a diet or a diet expert with tons of followers who all swear that the diet plan or advice is THE BEST they ever followed. These folks will tell you how they lost hundreds of pounds—and that you will too.

Although it may sound like you MUST try it, it's important to remember that every person is different and has individualized needs. Some diets or advice may be not be safe for folks on certain medications or with certain diseases (like Parkinson's or diabetes), so you need to check with your doctor before trying anything new. It's also important to make sure the science is also there to back the advice up -- just relying on anecdotes just isn’t enough.

#3: Major Elimination

If someone's advising you to eliminate lots of foods or major food groups, run the other way. Every food group contains certain nutrients which enable our bodies to function properly. Someone who tells you to cut all fat or eliminate all carbs usually doesn’t understand how the human body works.

#4: Over-Hyped Super Foods

One food doesn’t have the super powers to help you shed weight. Healthy weight loss has to do with including a variety of foods with a wide range of nutrients in your diet. If you're being told to eat lots of one food, the nutrition advice is unsound.

#5: Supplement Pushing

There's no magic pill or combo of pills that will solve your weight issues. If you're being told that emptying your wallet on a magic pill is the answer—be careful. First, the pills may react with your regular medications, which is potentially dangerous. Second, they're probably trying to make some money off of you, so beware.

#6: Extreme Defensiveness

Some hardcore diet pushers become extremely defensive when you try and tell them that you're not a believer. They'll tell you certain agencies don't want you to find out the "real truth" or "hidden secrets" because it'll prevent them from making money. Look for a professional who is credentialed and open to discussing various opinions.

#7: Miraculous Promises

If you're being promised quick weight loss (like 30 pounds in 2 weeks), be careful! These too-good-to-be-true promises can be a red flag for potentially dangerous weight loss efforts. According to the National Institute of Health, to healthfully lose weight you want to aim for 1 to 2 pounds per week. More than that is unsafe for your heart and folks tend to regain that weight just as quickly as they took it off.

Who Should You Listen To?

Many folks call themselves a nutritionist (it's not a regulated term) but haven't had the same in-depth education as someone with a master's degree in nutrition and hands-on clinical experience as a registered dietitian (RD). A RD can work in conjunction with your medical doctor to ensure the advice and diet plan you're receiving is in line with your medical history and any medications, vitamins or herbal supplements you're on. Many registered dietitians accept medical insurance too. To find a registered dietitian in your area, go to The Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics website and click on the green button that says "Find A Registered Dietitian."

Toby Amidor, MS, RD, CDN, is a registered dietitian and consultant who specializes in food safety and culinary nutrition. She is the author of The Greek Yogurt Kitchen: More Than 130 Delicious, Healthy Recipes for Every Meal of the Day.

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