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Making Sense of Nutritional Information: Ask the Experts from Brenner FIT

Written by Melissa Dellinger, RD, LDN

Q: Everywhere I look, there is a new superfood that I should be eating or feeding to my family. I am so confused and overwhelmed. How do I know what to believe when I see conflicting nutrition information everywhere I turn? 

A: We hear conflicting nutrition information. And decoding the truth is hard. Truthfully, no magic food or supplement supplies your body with everything it needs. Because we are all different, a “one-size fits all diet” just does not work. And if a diet sounds too good to be true, be aware. Diets promoting quick weight loss are short-lived. Once we go off the diet and resume our normal eating habits, we tend to gain that weight right back. But don’t throw your hands up in defeat. Follow these few steps to understand conflicting nutritional messages: 

Identify the source. Nutrition messages are posted on social media, advertised on TV and promoted by friends and family. Trusted sources have ties to well-established organizations so look for the author’s credentials and links to supporting information. 

Filter out the information that seems too good to be true. Diets claiming rapid weight loss are not sustainable. A magic pill that works without changing eating and activity habits is not realistic. Often, these claims are used to get you to buy a product using flashy words or celebrity endorsements.      

Be cautious of recommendations to eliminate entire food groups. Unless you have specific allergies, avoid eliminating entire groups of food. Your body needs the nutrients from a balanced diet of all food groups.

Recognize restriction. There are many “never vs. always” food lists. And, they never seem to say the same thing. There are no bad foods or good foods. All foods fit into healthy eating habits.

Take caution of breaking news quotes. Look for up-to-date information validated by multiple health studies. Also, pay attention to who the health studies investigated, a specific population or the general population. 

Ask yourself these questions as you make sense of nutrition information: 

  • Is this advertisement selling a “magic” pill or a “quick” fix?
  • Does this information promote the balanced-plate approach?
  • Is this new emerging science or is there a consensus from multiple research sources about this advice?
  • Is this evidence gathered from a specific group of people?
  • When was this information last updated?  

Our bodies need a balance of nutrients from all food groups. This helps us to absorb nutrients, have energy and feel satisfied after eating. We have different traditions, taste preferences, medical conditions and nutritional needs. Finding the right balance for you and your family is the key when deciding what to offer at meal and snack times in your house. 

This article was written by staff who are apart of Brenner FIT (Families in Training). Brenner FIT is a pediatric weight management program at Brenner Children’s Hospital that helps families create healthier lifestyles together. Brenner FIT offers free cooking, nutrition and parenting classes. Visit BrennerChildrens.org/BrennerFit for our current class listing.