Nutrition advice: Where do you go?

We are constantly looking for answers to questions. Questions of all kinds. Thousands of people are interested in expanding their nutrition knowledge, but where are they turning for the answers to their questions? According to the American Dietetic Association (ADA), most people get their nutrition information from the media: Television, magazines, the Internet, and newspapers. However, these popular sources of information are among the least credible, according to the ADA.

Many people are now going to the Internet first: Google and other search engines, WebMd, Wikipedia, personal blogs, etc. Can you trust the answers? Take for example Wikipedia…this is a free encyclopedia that anyone can edit…no expertise or qualifications needed. Do you really want to trust that information?

Sometimes the text on a page, or the well-meaning advice you received from a coworker, just won’t cut it.  And when this advice fails, more consumers are seeking guidance from experts who can answer their questions, provide personalized feedback, and offer individualized advice. But who is qualified to provide these answers? We want to trust our physicians, but the truth is 80% of physicians have not had even one course in nutrition. The most credible sources for your nutritional needs are registered dietitians.

Buyer beware  – Do your homework

One of the most accessible locations claiming to offer such services is local fitness centers. However, you must do your homework before signing up. Just as I have warned you about personal trainers, not all nutrition specialists are created equal. Some local fitness centers allow trainers to call themselves ‘Certified Nutritionists,’ well aware of how deceptive that is.

Unfortunately, the definition and meaning of the term “nutritionist” may vary greatly from one facility to another. This makes it difficult and confusing for you, the consumer. In many states, anyone can call themselves a nutritionist, even without a college degree or any formal training in the science of nutrition. Although some states regulate the title of “nutritionist,” other similar sounding titles, such as “nutrition consultant” can still be freely used with no defined meaning. However, this is not always the case. In fact, using the title Certified Nutritionist, as some do, actually disregards legislation (s. 448.76) which states:

A person who is not a certified dietitian may not designate himself or herself as a dietitian, claim to provide dietetic services or use any title or initials that represent or may tend to represent the person as certified or licensed as a dietitian or as certified or licensed in a nutrition-related field.[Emphasis Added]

Clarifying the background and credentials of the person you meet with is important because nutrition is a complex science that requires years of training and continuing education. Receiving incorrect information from an untrained or poorly-trained individual could result in worsening your health. Here’s a breakdown of the credentials:

Registered Dietitian (R.D.). The R.D. credential is granted by the ADA and ensures that this individual has graduated with at least a bachelor of science degree in nutrition or dietetics from an accredited program, finished a 900-hour supervised internship that includes clinical experience, passed a national board examination, and completes at least 75 hours of continuing education every five years. R.D.s have more formal training in nutrition science than any other health professional.

Licensed Dietitian/Nutritionist (L.D. or sometimes L.D./N.). Currently, 30 states require nutrition practitioners to apply to the state to become licensed as a dietitian or nutritionist (similar to physicians, nurses, physical therapists, etc.). State licensing ensures that an individual has met educational and training requirements. In addition, states can penalize individuals who operate unsafely or unethically, including revoking their license to practice.

The bottomline

Seek out a R.D. or L.D. if you have any medical conditions, including type 2 diabetes, high-blood pressure, high cholesterol, polycystic ovary syndrome, food allergies, or digestive problems. Check with your insurance company to see if they will cover your visit or reimburse your out-of-pocket expense. And if you are generally healthy (no medical conditions), consider taking a group nutrition class taught by a R.D.

If you’re meeting with anyone other than a R.D. or L.D./N. – such as a nutritional consultant or a personal trainer who is not also a R.D. – expect to receive only general nutrition education and advice. Fitness professionals have some nutrition training, but not enough to provide individualized nutrition assessments and counseling. They can, however, provide basic but important nutrition information, which may include explaining the basic food groups, teaching you how to read food labels, or answering general nutrition questions.

So, be careful who you take advice from. Each body is different. We know this. And just as each person should look for customized workouts, each person should seek out the diet and nutrition specific to their body type and lifestyle!

Enough said for today!

References

American Dietetic Association, www.eatright..org

Wisconsin Administrative Code, Retrieved from: http://nxt.legis.state.wi.us/nxt/gateway.dll?f=templates&fn=default.htm&d=stats&jd=448.76.

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It’s not a diet; it’s a lifestyle

For many of us, it’s not about what we eat; but rather, HOW MUCH we eat. How many times have you heard someone tell you that he/she eats healthy but can’t achieve the desired fat loss? The chances are this person is either not eating enough or eating too much, maybe even too much of a good thing. fit in gym

Do you know how many grapes make a serving? Is that monstrous bagel or banana you bought 1 serving? There are various tips or tricks that can help you ‘eyeball’ appropriate serving sizes. Here is a guide to serving sizes.

Serving sizes are deceiving. When eating out in restaurants, it’s hard to miss that portion sizes have gotten larger. The trend has also spilled over into the grocery store and vending machines, where bagel sizes have doubled and an ‘individual’ bag of chips can easily feed more than one. Research reported that people unintentionally consume more calories when faced with larger portions (Brzycki, 2008; Geier, Rozin, & Doros, 2006). This can mean significant excess calorie intake, especially when eating high-calorie foods.

When eating out. Many restaurants serve more food than one person needs at one meal. Take control of the amount of food that ends up on your plate by splitting an entrée with a friend. Or, ask the wait person for a “to-go” box and wrap up half your meal as soon as it’s brought to the table.

When eating in. To minimize the temptation of second and third helpings when eating at home, serve the food on individual plates, instead of putting the serving dishes on the table. Keeping the excess food out of reach may discourage overeating. Using smaller plates and bowls will also decrease the likelihood of overeating (Brzycki, 2008).

When eating or snacking in front of the TV, put the amount that you plan to eat into a bowl or container instead of eating straight from the package. It’s easy to overeat when your attention is focused on something else.

It’s ok to snack. We learned as children not to snack before a meal for fear of spoiling our dinners. It’s time to forget that old rule. If you feel hungry between meals, eat a healthy snack, like a small piece of fruit or some nuts, to avoid overeating during your next meal.

Be aware of large packages. The larger the package, the more people consume from it without realizing it (Brzycki, 2008; Geier, Rozin, & Doros, 2006). To minimize this effect:

  • Divide up the contents of one large package into several smaller containers.
  • Don’t eat straight from the package. Instead, serve the food in a small bowl or container.

Out of sight, out of mind. People tend to consume more when they have easy access to food. Make your home a “portion friendly zone.”

  • Replace the candy dish/cookie jar with a fruit bowl.
  • Store especially tempting foods, like cookies, chips, or ice cream, out of immediate eyesight, like on a high shelf or at the back of the freezer. Move the healthier food to the front at eye level.
  • When buying in bulk, store the excess in a place that’s not convenient to get to, such as a high cabinet or at the back of the pantry.

The bottomline

The emphasis is portion control and the philosophy that you can have everything in moderation. You will have cake at the birthday party and a glass of wine with dinner.  You cannot live life on the countless diets out there. Forget restrictions that will diminish your results!

Not sure where to start? I can offer this basic knowledge and my own experiences, but that is limited. If you are committed and determined to changing your life, consult a registered dietitian – NOT a nutritionist or ‘nutrition consultant’. A balanced meal plan is sustainable and can become a lifestyle to take you long into the future. Forget the gimmicks and fad diets. Give yourself a plan that will help you lose the unwanted fat and keep that fat off.

References

Brzycki, M. (2008). Portion distribution: Size does matter!. Coach & Athletic Director, 77(7), 52-58.

Geier, A., Rozin, P., & Doros, G. (2006). Unit bias. Psychological Science, 17(6), 521-525.