Who Can You Trust for Nutrition Information?

Trustworthy Sources

Authoritative nutrition news is based on solid scientific evidence, supported by multiple studies, and published in peer-reviewed journals. You can obtain valid nutrition information from many reputable organizations, websites, and professionals, if you know where to look. Whatever the source of your nutrition news, remember to apply the criteria outlined previously in this unit to ensure the validity of the information presented. You can find many trustworthy sources that advocate good nutrition to promote health and prevent disease using evidence-based science.

A laptop sits open on a desk showing a website with a bowl of vegetables. The desk also contains a plant, a newspaper, and a glass of water.

Trusted Organizations Active in Nutrition Policy and Research

US Department of Agriculture Food and Nutrition Information Center. The USDA website has more than 2,500 links to information about diet, nutrition, disease, body weight and obesity, food safety, food labeling, packaging, dietary supplements, and consumer questions. Using this interactive site, you can find tips and resources on how to eat a healthy diet, nutritional information, and a food planner.

The Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics (AND). The AND promotes scientific, evidenced-based food and nutrition information. It is focused on informing the public about recent scientific studies, weight-loss concerns, food safety topics, nutrition issues, and disease prevention. This website also has lots of practical tips and suggestions on how to plan and prepare nutritious meals.

Department of Health and Human Services (HHS). The HHS website provides credible information about healthful lifestyles and the latest in health news. A variety of online tools are available to assist with food-planning, weight maintenance, physical activity, and dietary goals. You can also find healthful tips for all age groups, tips for preventing disease, and information on general health issues.

Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). The CDC provides up-to-date public health information and data on many nutrition-related topics, including healthful eating, cholesterol, high blood pressure, obesity, alcohol use, breastfeeding, infant and toddler nutrition, and food safety, as well as other public health issues like physical activity and tobacco usage. They also publish a monthly online newsletter called CDC Vital Signs that includes current data on the most pressing public health matters.

Many additional websites, organizations, and professionals provide valid health and nutrition information. Let’s take a look at some of these other resources.

Trusted Websites and Sources

Web domains can be an indicator of the reliability of a website.

  • Websites of government agencies end in .gov and are usually considered to be trustworthy sources of evidence-based health information.
  • University websites typically end in .edu, indicating the source is focused primarily on providing educational resources rather than seeking financial gain.
  • Many professional organizations and non-profit organizations use websites ending in .org, but this type of domain may also be used by special interest groups and biased groups promoting a specific agenda. Approach these websites with a critical eye, looking for the common signs of reliability.
  • Business and company websites typically end in .com, indicating that the primary focus of the website is to promote that particular company’s services and goods rather than to simply educate a consumer. News organizations also have .com websites, and while their primary mission is to inform readers, the same rules of discernment apply to make sure they’re delivering news objectively. Major news organizations or those with a science or health focus usually have reporters who specialize in these areas so have more background knowledge of the field, and they’re more likely to have a process for fact-checking an article.

 

Any of these types of web domains could contain credible information, but you must be a savvy consumer and use the knowledge gained in this unit to separate trusted sources from the more questionable options. Check out this list of websites as a starter kit for generally reliable, trusted sources for health and nutrition information.

GOVERNMENT WEBSITES

USDA Center for Nutrition Policy and Promotion

https://www.fns.usda.gov/cnpp

Food and Drug Administration

http://www.fda.gov/

Healthy People

https://www.healthypeople.gov/

Foodsafety.gov

https://www.foodsafety.gov/

Nutrition.gov

https://www.nutrition.gov/

ChooseMyPlate

https://www.choosemyplate.gov/

National Center for Complementary and Integrative Health

https://nccih.nih.gov/

National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute

https://www.nhlbi.nih.gov/health-topics

National Institutes of Health Office of Dietary Supplements

https://ods.od.nih.gov/

INTERNATIONAL WEBSITES

World Health Organization

https://www.who.int/

Food and Agricultural Organization of the United Nations

http://www.fao.org/

NON-GOVERNMENT WEBSITES

Harvard School of Public Health

https://www.hsph.harvard.edu/nutrition/

Mayo Clinic

https://www.mayoclinic.org/

Linus Pauling Institute

http://lpi.oregonstate.edu/

American Society for Nutrition

http://www.nutrition.org/

American Cancer Society

https://www.cancer.org/

American Heart Association

https://www.heart.org/

American Diabetes Association

http://www.diabetes.org/

Center for Science in the Public Interest

https://cspinet.org/

Food Allergy Research & Education

https://www.foodallergy.org/

Institute of Medicine: Food and Nutrition

http://nationalacademies.org/hmd/Global/Topics/Food-Nutrition.aspx

Table 2.2. Reliable websites that provide nutrition information.

Trusted Professionals

When looking for credible nutrition information, one of the most important aspects to consider is the expertise of the individual providing the information. Nutrition is a tricky field because the term “nutritionist” is not a legally-protected or regulated term, so it’s imperative to seek experts that are formally-educated and credentialed in nutrition. Look for professionals with the following degrees or backgrounds:

•Registered dietitian nutritionist (RD or RDN)

•Professional with advanced degree(s) in nutrition (MS or PhD)

•Physician (MD) with appropriate education and expertise in nutrition

Registered dietitians or professionals with advanced degrees in the field of nutrition are the most credible sources for sound nutrition advice. Be skeptical of other official-sounding credentials, like “holistic nutrition practitioner,” or even just “nutritionist.” There are no standards for what these titles mean, which means that anyone can call themselves a “nutritionist,” and you could be taking advice from a well-qualified individual or someone who just took an online course or got a mail-order certificate. Physicians can also be good sources for nutrition information, depending on their education and background. But be mindful that most medical schools include minimal or no education and training in nutrition so most physicians may have limited knowledge in this field unless they have sought out specific nutrition training on their own.

Careers in Nutrition

If you are considering a career in nutrition, it is important to understand the opportunities that may be available to you. Both dietitians and qualified nutritionists provide nutrition-related services to people in the private and public sectors. A dietitian is a healthcare professional who has registered credentials and can provide nutritional care in the areas of health and wellness for both individuals and groups. While registration isn’t required to use the term “nutritionist,” a qualified nutritionist will have an education similar to that of a dietitian, but most likely will not have completed an internship or passed a credentialing exam like a registered dietitian. People in both professions work to apply nutritional science, using evidence-based best practices, to help people nourish their bodies and improve their lives.

Becoming a registered dietitian requires a bachelor’s or master’s degree in dietetics (master’s degree will be required beginning in 2024), including courses in biology, chemistry, biochemistry, microbiology, anatomy and physiology, nutrition, and food service management. Other suggested courses include economics, business, statistics, computer science, psychology, and sociology. In addition, people who pursue this path must complete a dietetic internship (including 1200 hours of supervised practice), pass a national exam, and maintain their registration through ongoing continuing education. Many states also have licensure that requires additional forms and documentation. You can learn more about the path to becoming a registered dietitian by going to cdrnet.org/certifications.

Two women sit at a conference table. One woman is showing some printed materials to the other woman and they are talking together.

Dietitians and nutritionists plan food and nutrition programs, promote healthy eating habits, and recommend dietary modifications. But typically, to work in a clinical setting (like a hospital) or outpatient setting, the RD credential is required. For example, a dietitian might teach a patient with hypertension how to follow a lower-sodium diet. Nutrition-related careers can be extremely varied. Some individuals work in government settings, while others work in education or the private sector. Some jobs in nutrition focus on working with athletes, and others provide guidance to patients with long-term, life-threatening diseases. But no matter the circumstance or the clientele, working in the field of diet and nutrition focuses on helping people improve their dietary habits by translating nutritional science into food choices.

In the public sector, careers in nutrition span from government work to community outreach.

  • Nutritionists and dietitians who work for the government may be involved with federal food programs (WIC, SNAP, school meals, etc), communication campaigns, or creating and analyzing public policy.
  • On the local level, clinical careers include working in hospitals and nursing-care facilities. This requires creating meal plans and providing nutritional guidance to help patients restore their health or manage chronic conditions. Clinical dietitians consult with doctors and other health-care professionals to coordinate dietary recommendations with medical needs.
  • Nutrition jobs in the community often involve working in public health clinics, cooperative extension offices, and HMOs to prevent disease and promote the health of the local community.
  • Nutrition jobs in the nonprofit world involve anti-hunger organizations, public health organizations, and activist groups.

Nutritionists and dietitians can also find work in the private sector.

  • Increased public awareness of food, diet, and nutrition has led to employment opportunities in advertising, marketing, and food manufacturing. Dietitians working in these areas analyze foods, prepare marketing materials, or report on issues such as the impact of vitamins and herbal supplements.
  • Consultant careers can include working in wellness programs, supermarkets, physicians’ offices, gyms, and weight-loss clinics.
  • Consultants in private practice perform nutrition screenings for clients and use their findings to provide guidance on diet-related issues, such as weight reduction.
  • Nutrition careers in the corporate world include designing wellness strategies and nutrition components for companies, working as representatives for food or supplement companies, designing marketing and educational campaigns, and becoming lobbyists.
  • Others in the private sector work in food service management at health-care facilities or at company and school cafeterias.
  • Sustainable agricultural practices provide interesting private sector careers on farms and in food systems.

Whether you pursue nutrition as a career or simply work to improve your own dietary choices, what you are learning in this course can provide a solid foundation for the future. Remember, your ability to think clearly, communicate, hope, dream, go to school, gain knowledge, and earn a living are impacted by your health. Good health allows you to function normally and work hard to pursue your goals. Yet, achieving optimal health is a complex process, involving multiple dimensions of wellness, along with your physical or medical reality. It’s our hope that you use the knowledge gained in this class, not just to earn a good grade, but that you also apply it to make a difference in your life.

Self-Check:

Attributions:

  • University of Hawai‘i at Mānoa Food Science and Human Nutrition Program, “Careers in Nutrition,” CC BY-NC 4.0
  • Bureau of Labor Statistics, U.S. Department of Labor. (2019, September 4). Dietitians and Nutritionists. Occupational Outlook Handbook. https://www.bls.gov/ooh/healthcare/dietitians-and-nutritionists.htm

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Icon for the Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial 4.0 International License

Nutrition: Science and Everyday Application by Alice Callahan, PhD, Heather Leonard, MEd, RDN, and Tamberly Powell, MS, RDN is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial 4.0 International License, except where otherwise noted.

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