The internet is a wonderful thing; type a few words into a search engine and you have millions of resources at your fingertips. But how do we know we are getting reliable information? This question is relevant to any topic, but especially when it comes to nutrition and making healthy food choices. When you search, healthy eating, about 75 million results pop up in less than a second. So how do we know which of these sources will actually help us to make good choices when it comes to eating healthy? To ensure a source is reliable we can start by asking ourselves the five W’s.
WHO? Who created the website? Who contributes to the information being posted? More often than not, we read articles that are written by people who are not qualified to give nutrition advice. Many people hide behind the title of, nutritionist. In Canada, a nutritionist does not have the credentials to give nutrition advice, and may have no formal training at all. Even information presented by medical doctors may not always be reliable. No national standards exist for including nutrition education in medical schools; so many health care providers lack the education to give sound nutrition advice.
The most reliable source of nutrition information is a Registered Dietitian. Registered Dietitians in Canada have a Bachelors degree in Nutrition, have completed a clinical internship, and passed a national examination, making them qualified to give nutrition advice and create diet plans.
WHEN? Nutrition is a relatively new science and new discoveries are constantly being made, so verify that the website is updated frequently.
WHERE? Check what follows the dot of the web address. ca, edu, or org are generally reliable sources where as com reflects a commercial site and, depending on the businesses’ qualifications, may not provide reliable information.
WHY? Is the website providing a public service or is it attempting to sell a product? When commercial sites are motivated by making money off selling a product, their information may be biased and therefore inaccurate. Check to make sure the site is offering nothing other than information to benefit your health.
WHAT? Once we have answered the first four questions we have to determine what message is being presented and if that information lines up with other reliable sources? The best information is that which has been tried and tested over and over again. Because of this it can often be found in multiple places and from different sources. Comparing information from one site to another that is deemed reliable can help us make more informed food choices.
There are many websites that offer accurate and reliable information on making healthy food choices. Some places to start are the Dietitians of Canada (www.dietitians.ca), Health Canada (www.hc-sc.gc.ca), or the International Food Information Council (www.foodinsight.org), to name a few. The Dietitians of Canada’s webpage also provides a list of dietitians in your area that can help with your own personal nutrition.