Poll: Whom Do You Trust for Nutrition Information?

By , SparkPeople Blogger
I've noticed a popular trend this year among friends who have children.  A common New Year's Resolution I heard other moms talking about was to feeding their families fewer processed foods.  This has been one of my goals for quite some time, but I know from experience that it's not very easy.  One reason it can be difficult to feed your kids healthier foods is that you get different recommendations about the "right" and "wrong" things to eat depending on where you look.  Your doctor says one thing. The doctor on TV says another. SparkPeople's dietitians recommend certain strategies. And those tips might conflict with what your best friend has tried successfully.
According to a new national survey, moms will be making changes to their food-buying decisions over the next year, and looking to more non-traditional sources for advice.  When it comes to food and nutrition, "Moms place higher priority on the opinions of bloggers and peers than that of experts like doctors and dietitians," according to the survey results. This stood out to me; it seems we trust one another more than the people we've been told to trust as "experts" all these years. So who do you trust more?

In the past few years, I've subscribed to various food blogs as a way to get recipes and information about what goes into the foods we eat.  Often they're written by other moms who share my goals and interests, sharing what works best for their families.  At the same time, I take the advice of physicians, dietitians, friends, family, and other reliable sources and sift through it all. But ultimately, I decide how to make the best food buying decisions.  I've determined that there is no single expert when it comes to healthy eating, and I just have to do my homework and decide for myself what's best.  I just try to use common sense when deciding what to believe.     
So how do you find helpful and trustworthy information when you're trying to decide what foods to feed your family—or even just to eat yourself?  Here are a few common sense tips to evaluate any nutrition claim:
  • If it sounds too good to be true, it probably is. No one food is going to give you all of the important nutrients you need in a day, and no single food can cause or cure any weight or health issue.  It takes a variety of foods to create a balanced diet that is good for your health.
  • Consider the source.  What do the companies or organizations involved have to gain by promoting this product?  Are the recommendations based on peer-reviewed, reliable research?  Not to say that you can’t get good information from more informal sources, but it’s just important to understand where the data comes from when making decisions about what to believe.
  • Beware of biased recommendations.  If a trainer at the gym says you need to take supplements in order to reach your goals, consider that they probably have financial incentive to get you to buy.  Be careful and do your homework. 
  •  Avoid the extremes.  You don’t need to give up certain food groups or eat huge volumes of specific foods in order to be healthy.  Your best bet is to develop a reasonable style of eating that you can live with for the rest of your life.  Although I try to avoid processed foods, I’m not going to say my kids and I never eat them.  That’s just not a realistic way for my family to live.   

So tell me: Who do YOU trust most when making decisions about food and nutrition? 

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I google things. A lot. Doctors are told to tell you certain things, as are nutritionists. I'd rather google it. Report
I think most institutional outlets are bound by the government recommendations and aren't willing to speak out against them even as the science is starting to show things like the food pyramid is seriously flawed. Report
Not for nothing--but the mistakes (if any) that mom's (& dad's) may make are way minor compared to the chemical laden, artificial , lack of nutritious ingredients in processed foods. Report
I trust eating whole foods for my body. I do my best to buy everything in it's unaltered state, preferably organic, but even then just because the label says organic doesn't mean it really is. I hate that. Report
The last people I would trust for nutritional information would be bloggers. I've read a lot of food blogs, and many of the ones I've seen are simply spouting the "miracle food cure du jour" are are trying to sell you something.

I'll do my own research, thank you. I'm not gullible enough to try something just because my best friend swears by it or read it on the internet. And I steer clear of any product that's endorsed by a TV personality doctor. Report
I know that even trusted government sites and trusted medical studies don't always agree and through the years, there are trends that come in and out. I read and listen to it all and try to do what seems sensible to me without going to any extremes.
Certainly common sense would tell us that mother's milk would be the best food for a baby, but many doctors didn't think that was true 50 years ago, or so. That is just an example of what I mean. Report
I usually try to get different advice from experts and those who have succeeded at weight loss. In the end I make decisions that are most appropriate for my needs. Someone else may have varying circumstances and need to find whats best for them. I heard some where that those that create their own diet specific to them acheive the most in weight loss and nutrition. Report
It's hard to trust anyone - there's too much money involved and unfortunately - it's not just the government and politics - what ever lobby group has the most power - but what expert gets the most endorsements to support a certain group. All people care about is the money and they will say what ever the money says they should. Report
I get my information from a variety of sources. I make sure that the information is grouded in sound scientific principles. At the same time, I recognize that most physicians and dietitians do not promote or even believe in the importance of eating organic, locally produced food. They often tell people that there is no benefit to eating organic.

I also see Spark People promoting processed, factory farmed foods often, both through their advertising and with the articles they publish. I wish that was not the case, but I suspect it will continue. Report
Everyone has different needs. Some of us have tried for thirty years to lose weight and always failed or succeeded and then put it back. Careful analysis of what has worked combined with reading all the available info not just what the elites say.
Also learning the truth behind alternatives. I personally eat low carb but I see articles every day that tell me low carb eliminates carbs even though not a single plan advocates that. I personally eat upwards to 10 cups of veggies a day and get 25 grams of fiber or more. In my humble opinion and careful research has told that any commercial diet or way of eating can be healthy if you eat real food associated with their recommendations. Cut sugar way down and processed foods way down and they can all work, but you have to see which one fits into your lifestyle and preferences the best Report
I studied some health science at University when I got my degree. I also researched on my own, read professional journals, both academic and lay articles plus opinions from successful individuals. Then I developed my own plan that works for me, ultimately that is all that matters and my health checkups verify that I'm making good choices for myself. I happen to believe that like designer drug treatments that focus more on biological, genetic and various other individual factors, diet and lifestyle plans also must be "designer lifestyles". Furthermore, I believe that the one who designed us will lead us to what that designer plan is if we ask Him. Just in case you are unaware of what I am speaking of, I believe that we are designed by our creator...God. Report
Like KTRIBE808, I also have degrees in biological sciences, and I have also found that the doctors, physicians, and dietitians I have spoken with do not understand a lot of the actual biology behind nutrition. Honestly, knowing how the human body works and what it really needs has been the best thing for me when it comes to judging opinions and so-called facts about nutrition, no matter where I get them from. Report
I am Type 1 diabetic using an insulin pump. I rely on my endocrinologist and my diabetic nutritionist to be sure that I get the required carbs and nutrients that I need to keep my blood sugar in check. Report
Sorry, but I have found that I easily know more about nutrition than most doctors. However to be fair, I do have degrees in biology and biochemistry. The fact remains that most doctors do not have significant training in nutrition. Report
I have taken nutrition twice in college & I keep up on the latest in magazines & Web sites like SP. I also watch a couple of TV shows that have nutrition in them. I've also seen a couple dietitions. Report
I am highly skeptical. I read a lot, but look for actual research info. I will never follow recommendations from anybody, "expert" or not, who says A causes B unless they can show me the research. I am so tired of confusion between correlations and causation. I am disillusioned by medical care I've received, so not particularly influenced by conventional medical providers. I also want to learn the funding of research, as this blogger pointed out, some folks will use funding to influence the outcome. I read blogs and other non-expert articles, but they mostly lead me to further research on my own, and I am grateful for their initial info. Report
i trust myself. ive studied nutrition and fitness for 11 years. i have an aunt who is a doctor and she answers any questions i have. i go to my own doctor when i dont know whats up and my aunt is really busy but honestly thats a rarity. i go in obviously for the checkups i need to get to stay healthy but my doctor has gotten used to me already know what i need to do. i have several medical issues that make losing weight nearly impossible. i havent quite worked out yet how to work with them since they started showing up recently but im getting there. found out i need to eat a large amount of protein. about the recommended amount for someone in their 50s. and im 23 lol. im overweight but i am healthy. everything i want to tone up and lose my stomach. i dont have much fat anywhere else so when i do lose fat it tends to come from my stomach. makes me happy. my waist is down 5 in and my hips are down 4. i went from wearing my 52 in belt to needing to wear my fiances 46 in belt. i wear it on the 2nd hole but it goes around me and makes me happy. Report
I do my own research in medical journals, etc, but find even those studies at times are not conducted appropriately, or the findings are inconclusive. I agree with the first person who posted in this blog (KARIEWILLIS) in that so many "studies" report correlation and not causation.

Unfortunately, most studies rely on people reporting their food consumption properly. Sorry, although a handful of people will do this, you and I know that most people will "forget" about the candy bars and french fries they eat if they know they are not supposed to eat this on the study.

I pay most attention to the articles/studies which can explain the science (i.e. the biochemical processes) of what happens in the body when things are consumed.

And...the average doctor knows next to nothing about nutrition. Ask a doctor you know how much training he/she has had in nutrition. Dieticians regularly complain about how little doctors know about the topic and how sometimes they give absolutely incorrect advice, and then the dietician has a heck of a time trying to explain to the patient what the correct diet plan should be without making the doctor look like an idiot. Report
Something I learned about experts is that they are not experts when it comes to MY body. Neither are my peers, blogs etc, but I do know that if I want to know something about my medical condition - Im going to ask someone who has it. Im not going to ask you. If I want to know something about what I notice you have knowledge about - I will ask you. And I will listen, and I will do more research and come to my own conclusion. It's the safest way for me. One thing that Ive learned here at SP is that truly knowledgeable/well informed Spark Friends are invaluable. It is up to you to decide which ones those are and how much you will listen to or be influenced by them. As long as you have a choice - you should use it. Not listening to every tom, dick and expert is one of those choices. Report
For nutrition advice I turn to primary, peer-reviewed, controlled clinical trials. I take a critical eye and analyze the research for the possibilities of bias and the strength of methodology. Beyond that I follow the advice from the ADA. I didn't used to trust it but trial and error have come to prove that their recommendations are accurate.
There is a documentary from the BBC where a guy takes some six different foods that have calorie information and he has them tested at a university lab and finds that they are off on all but SUBWAY on the veggie sandwich. He finds he is eating 550 calories per day more than he thought because he has gone by the labels. Really interesting. The VEGAN sandwich at a health food store was the worst with a label saying it had 240 calories when it had 540. Report
Experts' recommendations are the core of my nutrition plan and I'd not let opinions or other people's 'advice' turn me from what is sound.

I especially trusted my (late-she died in January...) dietician; she used reports of lab tests, reviewed printouts of what I'd tracked to see where changes could be made to increase my sodium and other nutrients that were deficient but do so in a healthy way within a calorie range. Cannot play games with health when you have health 'issues'! My medical personnel are on top of nutrition AND my needs; they know better than Jane Doe what's good for me.

I was 'malnourished' six years ago when I came to SP. After illness. My dietician sent me to this site, and the suggestions and recommendations here are mostly in sync with the nutrition plan she recommends for me (with a bit of tweaking here and there). So... when I see an article by Becky Hand, I read slowly and pay attention. Much more than I would pay heed to a message board post or a neighbor's claims. I go for the expert advice. Report
I trust my body. I take everything I hear or read with a grain of salt. I look deeper into everything to determine my own thoughts on it. And then I listen to my body. In listening to my body, I have found that 1)there is no way I could ever be vegan. No matter how healthy I eat as a vegan, it isn't optimal for me. I do *need* to eat a small amount of red meat; 2)low-fat is not good for me AT ALL. I NEED fat in order to not only be optimally healthy, but also in order to lose excess weight. Of course, those are healthy fats, which do include saturated fats (and not just the vegan variety from coconut oil, but saturated animal fats from PROPERLY raised animals). I've learned a lot more just listening to my own body as opposed to one health guru or another, including the dieticians on Spark. And I CERTAINLY do not trust what the USDA or the FDA or anyone funded by the government tells me, their credibility and integrity is shot to high hell when knowing they support Monsanto. Report
I listen to my body!! Really stopping to listen & figure out what it's trying to tell me never steers me wrong - even if I'm having cravings, stopping to figure out what exactly I'm craving will show me that I'm lacking something my body wants/needs... if I'm craving sweets, more often than not I need more protein or fats. If I'm craving carbs, I usually need more fiber. Report
Drs. Fuhrman and Amen have information that makes sense to me. I have seen them both on PBS seminars. I also like Deepak Chopra and Ayuvedic principles. Macrobiotics and food combining work well for me too. Report
I read about nutrition in a lot of so-called "women's magazines", and online, including here, but I make up my own mind about just how "far" to go trying to eat healthy. My husband quite frankly dislikes most "healthy" foods, meaning veggies mostly, so I give him daily doses of that, and he eats it, but won't choose more of it, either. I wish that healthy foods tasted better, if they did, we wouldn't have to nag or constantly BE Nagged!! And no, don't tell me spices help, because they don't really, not in real, daily, living. Report
I believe in balance. A balanced diet is one that doesn't exclude any one thing and eating all foods in moderation. This goes the same for information. Don't believe everything you hear or see, do your research and then use your common sense. Report
I'm retired, so that tells you how old I am. When I was in school we were taught "critical thinking". Part of that exercise was to find out the pros and cons of an idea/argument and then make a decision based on what makes the most sense to me. I've found that over time, some decisions I've made were not the best or not correct. Some because new information has come forth and some because I'm human. That said, I look at everything with a critical eye. I try to figure out what the TV doctor is trying to do (sell a product, entertain, educate, etc.) I want to know what the source of an article in the newspaper or on the net is. I want to know where a professional got their information and what they REALLY think about the advice they are giving (do they walk to talk or are they giving the "party line".) Then I look at my own experience and that of my family and friends (did Metrical work and for how long?, is she allergic or just intolerant?).
So who do I trust? Everyone and no one. Report
I never completely trust any source until I've checked out what they have to say and how it holds up to critique. I also never trust absolutism such as "no carbs" or "no gluten", etc. I read a lot from a variety of sources and if it parses with what I already know, then I incorporate it. Report
Have to say I trust my sister, then beyond that very few. I take bits and pieces here and there and try them out. When I find out new info, I look at Sparkpeople, Livestrong, Weight training sites, blogs, ask doctors, trainers, people I work out with, research journals and people at health food stores. Then after getting all that information, I sit down and decide if that nutritional information is related to me. There is no one size fits all but you do have to weed through the difference between claimed, what is potential true but inconclusive, and fact. If I ever have children, will do that too because you should customize it to the person and their lifestyle.

The gov't is okay as long as they deal with data and not emotions. The quick fix products that claim lose 10lbs in 1 wk, Never Diet Again, and All Natural wt loss are the ones to never believe. Also avoid tv drs who have a hidden agenda be it an advertiser or program host.

Well, I know who I *don't* trust, and that's the government.

Not because I'm paranoid - which I admit I am - but because they've just been proven wrong too many times. Their credibility is shot, in my opinion.

The groups and organizations telling us to eat this or that are most likely financially invested in whatever we decide to buy. I'm going to do my research, and make my decisions based on actual science (not this pretend science they like to do - if you don't know the difference between correlation and causation, you're not a scientist!). Report
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