Food Companies and Dietitians: Who Should You Trust?

If you’ve struggled with where to find reliable nutrition information, you’ll want to read this guide.

Recently, the Kraft Foods Company and the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics (AND) teamed up to put a “Kids Eat Right” label on Kraft Singles packages. Stated another way, a food company paid a nutrition authority to endorse it.

The Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics (AND) claims that their vision is “advancing public health and nutrition utilizing the expertise of Registered Dietitian Nutritionists.” Registered Dietitians, such as me, are supposed to be evidence-based nutrition experts free from bias.

Kraft Foods is a publicly traded company with a clear mission of making profit. This isn’t a bad thing. Companies are expected to stay above competitors and make a lot of money for management and shareholders. However, when an organization dedicated to being a non-biased, science-based food authority takes money from a company to endorse its product as healthy for kids, there is a fundamental problem.

Oh, and other sponsors of the AND include Coca-Cola, Pepsi, and the National Dairy Council.

Consumers Beware

Never mind the fact that Kraft Singles are a cheese “product” so pounded into submission with heat and emulsifiers that not even bacteria will eat it. The main issue is, as a consumer, who do you trust?

“The Internet is a great thing, but it also opens up a lot of issues related to credibility and deception.”

As a Registered Dietitian (RD), I am a proud non-member of the AND. I do not give my money to them and do not want to be affiliated with the recent sponsorships that do not align with their mission. There are also many great RDs out there who are completely evidenced based, smart, and progressive. But if someone ever defends him or herself to you by saying “because I am a dietitian,” it’s time to go find someone else to listen to. There are a ton of excellent nutrition coaches out there who are not RDs.

Where to Look And What to Look For

On a public health level, it is hard to know where the money is influencing decisions. While this is frustrating, we can enact change on an individual level. Show your support with your grocery money. For information on making wiser choices, let’s look at how to find a nutrition coach, blog, and other sources to follow. Some of them may not pertain to you specifically, but might be useful for someone you love.

nutrition, food labels, nutrition information

For medical issues such as renal issues, diabetes, and cardiac complications, a Registered Dietitian is the best way to go. Not just any RD, but someone who specializes in that area. There are often additional certifications an RD can pursue, which involve experience hours and additional coursework. Click here for great information on these certifications. These professionals are often referred by your doctor, fully insured, and are able to work with your medical team on the best course of care.

“The main issue is, as a consumer, who do you trust?”

For non-serious medical conditions and general health, things get a bit tricky. The Internet is a great thing, but it also opens up a lot of issues related to credibility and deception. A referral from someone you trust is a great start. If that person experienced great results and you liked the approach they took, the professional (or group) they relied on may be worth looking into. This is especially true if you have specific athletic or bodybuilding goals.

Qualities to look for:

  • Being open minded and willing to meet you where you are. Habitry is the best source I know for helping people do something they want to achieve by using what they already know.
  • Openness about what they do not know. Knowing limitations and when to refer out is a necessity to being a true professional.
  • An understanding of how science works. You can look for this in a person’s writings if discussing a study. Giving pros and cons or acknowledging study limitations is a good sign. Many gurus will cherry-pick information from studies to make their argument sound more solid.

nutrition, food labels, nutrition information

Things to watch out for:

  • Selling supplement or food products. This isn’t always a bad thing. Sometimes a professional really believes in a product or helped design it. Trustworthy dietitians will disclose that they make money off of sales and will be open to help even if you are not interested in that particular product. If they are not, go find someone else.
  • Eliminating certain food groups, no matter what. There is a time and place for eliminating things, such as an entire food group. However, everyone is different and has different needs. A dietitian having the either/or mindset is a sure way to know you should find somewhere else to go.
  • Making bold health claims. Be smart here, and if it sounds too good to be true, it is. I’m sure if a penis enlargement regimen actually works, GNC would be all over it (and if they aren’t, then how come?)

“A good question to ask a professional is: How many people were you not able to help?”

Other things to help guide you include looking at a blog or online publication from the person in question. Look how that person responds to comments. Do you want someone argumentative or courteous? Testimonials are important, but not everything. A good question to ask a professional is, “How many people were you not able to help?” I certainly think about those people more than the people I have helped.

Do you know a great coach or group that makes a difference without sacrificing their integrity? Give them a shout out in the comments section!

Read more about finding nutrition information:

Photos courtesy of Shutterstock.