It’s so easy to get wrapped up in the headlines – the latest diet book, social media trend, or something your BFF told you – BUT before you try something new, it’s so important to TALK THROUGH the pros + cons, risks + benefits with a credible nutrition expert.
Registered Dietitian vs Social Media Blogger
Over the past few years, thousands of ordinary people have positioned themselves to wear the label of online expert, and I’ve often asked myself, “how are there so many nutrition experts all of a sudden?” It’s interesting because other professions don’t suffer the same fate as dietitians. I don’t see people on social media trying to give advice like a doctor, speech therapist, or financial advisor. But nutrition is different because everyone participates in it, and everyone is an expert of their OWN diet.
On social media, anybody can call themselves a wellness blogger, expert, or nutritionist – there aren’t any rules or regulations on what someone can say or do. When you’re deep into an Instagram blogger’s profile, I see how it’s easy to buy into whatever they’re selling. But here’s the thing…although most mean well, they likely don’t have any professional nutrition training, qualifications or credentials. It can be dangerous when people make blanket recommendations without understanding the science behind certain diets. Just because somebody says something, doesn’t mean it’s true. Only a RD has met the comprehensive, stringent standards established by the Commission on Dietetic Registration.
Individualized Nutrition Doesn’t Happen on Social Media
As a RD, it’s My Job to help you cut through ALL the clutter of confusing, biased nutrition advice and help you arrive at a safe and healthy decision. Tailoring a plan to you, your lifestyle and your goals is what I do. A thorough review of a person’s medical history and lifestyle is important before handing out nutrition recommendations. This is a crucial aspect totally missed on social media. There are so many conditions and medications affected by diet, so it’s best to consult with a registered dietitian when you want to make a big change to your diet.
If you have an uncomfortable symptom that doesn’t feel right after trying a new eating pattern, diet plan or even food product promoted by an Insta blogger...please stop! In the end, your best bet is to seek out a Registered Dietitian’s personalized services.
An Influencer’s Experience
I think it’s great people want to encourage others on social media to eat healthier and exercise, and some of the recipes look appetizing and usually encourage eating more veggies and fiber. Just keep in mind, if an Instagram influencer posts information about their diet, supplement preferences or workout routine, this is just one person sharing what works for them. Their approach may not work for you. Nutrition is individualized, and the personalization is what's missing with many social media nutrition "programs."
Using the ABC’s to Identify Trustworthy Nutrition Sources
How do you know if the nutrition recommendations and information you’re getting are credible? Try following the ABC’s:
A – Does the information have Authority? Accurate nutrition information comes from experts on that particular health and nutrition topic, and someone with a lot of experience. Also look for reputable organizations or publications that specialize in nutrition. Look for references with what you read and consider the quality of the studies.
B – Is there Bias in the information? Bias can be blatant or can creep into our information sources unintentionally. It’s quite possible there’s a “slant” – when someone’s trying to sell you something, you’ll hear about the positive research supporting the slant, but you likely won’t hear about opposing studies.
The funding source also brings in bias. Knowing who is behind a website, social media platform, or magazine, and what their agenda is, can help you filter the information they choose to present.
C – Is the information Complete and Current? Look for experts and articles that provide the whole picture. If something offers a quick fix or seems too good to be true, it’s probably more hype than helpful.
What Does It Take to Become A Registered Dietitian Nutritionist?
I don’t have a life changing diet story to tell people, but I do have evidence-based science, training and professional credentials. To become a registered dietitian, you must have a 4-year college degree in nutrition, dietetics, public health or a science-related field from a well-respected, accredited university.
After you’ve received your 4-year college degree, you apply for a one-year internship, which is an extensive supervised training program. Applying for an internship is an extremely competitive process – only about 50% of applicants are actually accepted into dietetic internships.
Once you complete your internship, you must pass the Registered Dietitian exam. Once you’re credentialed as a RDN, you need to complete 75 hours of continuing education (CEUs) every five years in order to maintain your RD status.
Dietitians are committed and required to stay on top of emerging research, skills and techniques. In fact, if I don't adhere to specific standards of conduct, performance and ethics, I can be banned from practicing.
PSA: talk to a Registered Dietitian before trying any extreme diet or weight loss plan or implementing supplements.
Kelly Harrington, your reliable Dietitian
Ensuring the right nutritional messages are getting out there.
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