Top 5 Ways to Identify Fad from Fact when it comes to Nutrition

Do you find yourself scratching your head feeling confused about nutrition? From social media, magazines, and news articles to the word on the street, we are bombarded with nutrition information so it's no wonder you're often left feeling perplexed and unsure what to put on your plate for dinner each night. While the wealth of information does give everyone a voice that can be heard anywhere and everywhere, sometimes this freedom creates legitimacy out of false information, especially when it come to our health. How easy it is now to find new and exciting trends that will forever change the way you eat, the way you look or the way you even think about food? This blog will provide you with practical advice for identifying fad from fact when it comes to nutrition so you can be rest assured the advice you follow is legit.

1 - The Source

One of the first ways to identify fad from fiction in the world of nutrition is to carefully consider where you are getting your information from: the source. Although there are many valuable sources of information online and in print, not all of them are reliable. A reliable, trustworthy source is what we like to call credible. Credible sources are sources of true information written by authors respected in their field of study.1 Any credible source will clearly provide the name of the person relaying the information, so look for sources written by healthcare professionals and seek reviewed scientific journals and government run pages. While surfing the net, any reliable health related website should make it easy for you to learn who is responsible for the site.2 For example, look for web addresses ending in “.edu” that indicate they’re run by an educational institution and “.gov” indicating a government sponsored site. For additional information on credibility, seek the “About Us” page to learn more about who runs the site: is it a branch of the government, a non-profit institution, a professional organization, a health system, a commercial organization or an individual?3

2 - The Basis of Information

So you’ve navigated the source and believe it to be credible so you continue reading on the nutrition topic of interest. The information provided always comes directly from the [credible] source, right? Wrong, many health/medical sites that appear credible post information collected from other, unreliable, sources. To help determine the accuracy of information provided, look for the original source – it should be clearly identified.2 This information may be found in “quotations”, italicised or provided as a reference list at the bottom of the page. This collection of information should provide evidence in the form of medical journals and research to support the nutrition topic of interest.2

You may also come across sources of information that at first glance may not appear credible (e.g. magazines, blogs, or news articles). Often, reporters will base their information on information provided to them from health professionals. For instance, health reporters often contact dietitians to interview them about the latest food or nutrition trend. Finding that the information originated from a credible source is a good indication that the information given is indeed, fact.

3 - Reader beware: Nutrition Quackery

Let’s say you continue surfing the net and come across a website with some really interesting insights and solutions to solve your nutrition question or concern. If it sounds too good it be true, it usually is. Listen to your spidey-sense or else you may fall prey to nutrition quackery. Nutrition quackery is the promotion of treatments, services, plans, or products that claim to alter a human condition but have not been proven to be safe or effective.4 Use quackery caution when consulting opinion-based sources such as blogs and social media as they may be biased (based on financial gain of the nutrition related product or service they are promoting), offer no supporting evidence, or promise unrealistic results that may cause danger to your health. For example, the information may use first person language such as “I recommend this product for everyone…” or “My experience has proven…” Take a moment to evaluate the information using steps #1 and #2 we previously learned about, does the information pass steps #1 and #2 above? If not, this may be a clear sign that the information given is indeed, fad.

4 - The Date

The fourth way to rule out bogus information is to check the date. The date is usually found at the bottom of a webpage, beneath the articles title or displayed near the author’s name. The science of nutrition is continuously evolving so information about nutrition and health older than 5 years may be outdated. Older information may have proven to be false in the latest research findings.2 Even if the information has not changed in a long time, look for some indication that the information has since been looked over in the last 5 years to make sure that the information is still in fact, fact.2 For instance, suppose that you come across a nutrition factsheet tucked in a recipe book you haven’t used for some time - you notice that it’s from your local Public Health agency, a credible source (step #1). When you also notice that it’s dated back 10 years ago, you know that it’s better to look up a more current source (step #4). When you keep updated on nutritional information you find most important to you, you’ll be amazed at how much you learn!

5 - The One Size Fits All

Feeling overwhelmed? You’re not alone. Nutrition is an essential part of our health and wellbeing but with all the information out there demanding us to learn and take control of it, where do you begin? The last step for identifying fad from fact when it comes to nutrition is to understand that there is no One Size Fits All approach to health and nutrition. Every body is different and requires its own unique nutritional care. So the next time you read that article in the magazine promising quick results, or typing in all your nutrition questions into the search bar, carefully consider the source and discuss the information with your healthcare provider or consult a Registered Dietitian.

What’s the bottom line? Being healthy isn’t a fad, it’s a lifestyle.

At Craving Health, we offer nutrition counselling sessions as an opportunity to hone in on your burning nutrition issues that keep you up at night or scrolling Google for hours. When you consult with a dietitian to learn about nutrition, you can count on getting trustworthy advice that is customized to your needs.


You can check out our Facebook page for regular tips, recipes, and credible information about the latest food and nutrition trends.

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About the Author:  Shelbi Link, BASc (Craving Health Volunteer)

Shelbi is a recent graduate of the Applied Human Nutrition Bachelor degree program at the University of Guelph. For as long as she can remember, she’s always loved food and learning about nutrition. Since graduating, Shelbi is continuing on the journey to become a Registered Dietitian. In her free time, she enjoys reading and writing, traveling, sharing adventures with friends and family and staying active in every way possible!


1. “Using research and Evidence.” The Purdue OWL, 2016.

2. “How to evaluate health information on the Internet.” National Institutes of Health, 24 June 2011. n_on_the_Internet_Questions_and_Answers.aspx

3. “Medline Plus Guide to Healthy Web Searching.” MedlinePlus, 20 April 2015.

4. Sizer, Whitney, & Piche (2014). Nutrition: Concepts and Controversies (3rd ed.). Nelson Education.