Why did you set up the initiative in the first place?
As a group of Dietitians in training, we are attempting to Fight The Fads and debunk nutritional nonsense in the media and set the records straight with regular posts on Facebook, Instagram, Twitter (@fightthefads). Whilst we are lucky that once we graduate next year, our title ‘Dietitian’ is protected by law, the same is not true for nutritionists. We have seen a sharp rise in the popularity of wellness bloggers and self styled nutrition ‘gurus’, which is leading to confusion and inaccurate advice for people. The term Nutritionist is often taken at face value as being synonymous with an expertise on food and diet – but that is frequently far from the truth.
The advice these people give is unregulated and often plain wrong, so we decided we wanted to use our knowledge to put the right nutrition information out there – and make the term ‘Nutritionist’ a protected title to stop this conflicting, and sometimes dangerous, advice being taken as gospel.
"There is no such thing as the ‘perfect diet’."
Could you tell me about THE petition?
As the law currently stands, anyone can call themselves a nutritionist - regardless of whether they have any formal training. More worryingly, there are online courses available via the internet that claim to make you a ‘clean-eating guru’ and nutritionist in just three weeks.”
We launched the government petition to legally protect use of the title ‘Nutritionist’ - to help stop the surge of online ‘wellness’ experts and bloggers pushing false and often dangerous dietary information.
What are the dangers and health rises of these fad diets?
There has been an explosion of nutrition nonsense across social media. Even more worryingly, self-styled nutrition gurus are advocating extremely restrictive ‘clean eating’ programmes on Instagram. The problem with fad diets and restrictive eating regimens is that they are unsustainable, can lead to disordered eating and can put you at risk of certain nutritional deficiencies (unless you make suitable substitutions).
"No food is bad for you, it’s just important to eat less healthy foods in moderation."
WHAT IS BAD NUTRITIONAL ADVICE?
Diets that recommend cutting out entire staple food groups such as carbohydrates or dairy. These diets demonise specific food groups, create fear over food and without the incorporation of alternatives they can lead to dietary deficiencies and in extreme cases secondary diseases. Elimination diets can have a role in the management of certain diseases and with the assistance of registered dietitians can provide effective treatment.
‘Sugar-free’ alternatives that are still sugar! Agave nectar, manuka honey, date syrup have exactly the same amount of calories per gram as common table sugar. These sugar ‘alternatives’ are often used in ‘guilt-free’ dessert recipes. The problem is when someone feels they can eat more of the ‘sugar-free’ dessert as they believe it is a better option than a dessert using normal sugar, which can result in excess calorie intake. In addition to this, these alternatives are often promoted as better than table sugar as they contain minerals. If you’re getting a lot of minerals in your diet from agave nectar, you need to reconsider your diet.
Detox diets – Based on the premise that over time toxins build up in your body, and you must periodically ‘cleanse’ your system to remove them. If toxins were really allowed to build up in your body – you would become very sick. The liver and kidneys are extremely efficient at removing toxic products, and periodic detoxes are simply not needed.
Carbohydrates make you fat - gram for gram they actually have the lowest number of calories out of all the nutrients, plus wholegrain varieties contain fibre which keeps you full for longer, meaning you are less likely to overeat. Too much of anything will make you fat. You should eat more of ‘X’ because it’s a ‘superfood’- Superfood is a marketing term, all foods have a role in the context of a healthy, balanced diet. Unsurprisingly, ‘superfoods’ usually have a much higher price tag attached too!
Sweeteners and additives are harmful - any which are present in foods have undergone vigorous testing by the Food Standards agency (FSA) and been deemed safe for human consumption in the levels which they are present. To suggest that they are harmful creates unnecessary fear over food products.
Protein supplements are essential for anyone looking to build muscle. Almost all brits consume over the recommended protein requirements each day. Unless you are an elite athlete/body builder, it is likely that a glass of milk or high protein snack (i.e a chicken sandwich) will provide you with enough protein. The body cannot store huge amount of excess protein, and as a result you excrete excess protein in urine. In other words, you will essentially pee out £s…
I avoid gluten as I’ve heard it’s bad for me- unless you have a medically diagnoses disease (i.e. celiac disease which is an autoimmune condition), there is no reason to cut gluten – a protein found in wheat – out of your diet. Wholegrain wheat products offer a whole host of nutritional benefits, and if you don’t replace wheat products with a suitable alternative, you are putting yourself at risk of certain nutritional deficiencies.
So what should we be eating?
As a rule of thumb, at mealtimes, aim to fill about a third of your plate with a variety of fruit and vegetables, about a third which starchy carbohydrates for energy (things like pasta and bread- remember that brown varieties are better) and smaller amounts from low-fat dairy (yogurt/milk/cheese) and lean protein (i.e. eggs/meat/fish). No food is bad for you, it’s just important to eat less healthy foods in moderation. Eating a wide variety of food that will give you the nutrients you need to maintain your health and feel good. There is no such thing as the ‘perfect diet’.