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Take the Fight out of Food: When Nutrition Facts and Fads get Fuzzy

March 22, 2017

This blog is part of NRC’s Nutrition Month, a Dietitians of Canada initiative, blog series. This year’s Nutrition Month theme is “Take the fight out of food! Spot the problems. Get the facts. Seek support.”

By Jessica Zupan

We’ve all heard it before: whether it’s eating too much dark chocolate or too many handfuls of almonds; even if it’s healthy, too much of anything is not a good thing. But, does the same thing hold true for nutrition information itself? Is knowing more nutrition information always beneficial? Is there such a thing as too much nutrition information? Let me help you determine if the all the science is serving you or just getting in your way.

We live in an era where more than ever before; we’re passionate about eating “right” and staying healthy. What’s more, nutrition information and scientific studies are abundant and available at our fingertips at all times. Given all the information available and our passion to be our healthiest selves, you would think we would all have perfect health. However, we know this is not the case.

Scientific studies providing promising results can easily provoke us. We often think that more information will lead to better decisions, but this is not necessarily true. Sometimes facts can get overwhelming and lead us astray. Although it’s important to have a basic understanding of healthy eating, sometimes the answers we really want cannot be answered in a scientific study. For example, all the internet searching in the world can’t make up for the loss of trust in our own body’s signals for hunger and fullness.

Of course, scientific studies have lead to many nutrition breakthroughs. Nutrition facts and scientific studies are important for making healthy choices and should not all be disregarded. However, if you find yourself constantly searching for studies and diets that consistently fail and leave you feeling defeated, this may not be serving you at all. Nutrition facts should be used as a tool, not a weapon. Eating should be joyful and not a source of everyday frustration and confusion.

If you find yourself struggling to untangle the useful nutrition facts from the questionable scientific studies or if you feel like you are suffocating in piles of nutrition facts, try these steps to determine if the facts are serving you:

1.  Spot the problem: Your problem may be, like many others, nutrition information overload, resulting in feelings like anxiety and stress.

2.  Get the facts: If your diet is causing you distress it may be time to start asking some questions about your current diet:

  • Is it promising a quick fix or miracle cure?
  • Who are the “experts” providing the nutrition information, are they missing credible qualifications? 
  • Are the “facts” coming from personal opinion without scientific evidence?
  • Are the claims based on a single study that may have drawn the wrong conclusions?
  • Does following these recommendations cause your mind to be consumed with thoughts of what foods are permitted and restricted?

If you answered yes to any of these questions, your diet may be based on some unreliable facts and it may be time to let go of this diet.

 3. Seek support: Consult with a regulated health care professional such as a Registered Dietitian. We are trained to critically analyze scientific studies and decipher fact from fiction. Registered Dietitians can help lead you in the right direction and empower you to make your own food choices that work for you right now and long term. We can help to provide you with an appropriate amount of information that allows you to continue to live your everyday life without being consumed with diet rules.

About Jessica Zupan: After graduating from dietetics, I spent several years working in a variety of family health teams in Ontario. Currently, I work in the diabetes education program at for the Taddle Creek Family Health Team in Toronto. I am a non-weight focused dietitian who incorporates intuitive eating and mindfulness into my practice.  As a dietitian, I am passionate abut helping people create a joyful and authentic relationship with food.


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