In a recent survey by the International Food Information Foundation (IFIC) on food and health, a remarkable 78 percent of consumers reported that they encounter a lot of conflicting information about what to eat and avoid.

Of those people, more than half agree that the confusing information makes them doubt the choices they are making. There is no surprise on the confusion considering 77 percent rely on friends and family for nutrition information, yet a handful trust these sources. In addition, the constant bombardment of the latest trend and faux nutrition experts touting the next miracle quick fix for weight loss can distort anyone’s views of what is sound advice for nutrition and health.

So to help you navigate this sea of information as well as misinformation, you can identify a diet as a sham when…

  • It promises you the moon, the stars, and a body like Giselle, but has no strong research to support it. One small study should not decide what you eat or don’t eat.
  • It contains tall tales – like when your neighbor tells you that her best friend lost 20 pounds in 2 months just by eating like a caveman. You may want to smile and walk away. Someone’s personal experience or perception is not necessarily science. In addition, ignore debates on whether a high protein or low fat or high carb diet is the way to go. Instead focus on getting nutrition from all varieties of whole foods. Avoid eliminating entire foods groups. In addition, no single food is the “best” food; it is the overall eating pattern that counts.
  • It requires you to buy miracle lotions and potions. You do not need to spend money on pills, powders, bars, etc. to successfully lose weight. Save your hard earned money to buy fresh produce instead.
  • It makes unrealistic statements. “Lose weight without ever exercising” or “eat all the sweets you want.” Once again, the focus should be on a healthy lifestyle, not empty promises.  

Trust your gut—literally.

You don’t have to know or even understand the research to know how to eat well. Good nutrition should not feel overwhelming or complicated. Concentrate on evidence-based healthy diet patterns of minimally processed plant foods, high in whole foods, such as fruits, vegetables, whole grains, and legumes, and low in saturated fats, sodium, added sugars, and refined grains. This along with certain habits, such as being active, getting enough sleep, managing stress, drinking water, and avoiding alcohol and tobacco are what helps you approach healthier living.

What you eat should be a lifestyle, not a diet you follow for a few days and give up in frustration. You deserve more in terms of enjoying food and meals without stressing about every bite you take. I dislike the word “diet” as it is misused to represent a quick fix. Let me tell you, there is no magic trick here. Anything worth having takes time, effort, and perseverance. Eating well and physical activity is what gets you to your goals along with behavior modification and overall life balance.

As they saying goes: If something sounds too good to be true, it probably is, so don’t get hoodwinked in your quest for perfection. Be realistic. Set realistic goals. Strive for good health, not weight loss. That added benefit will come if you are living a healthier lifestyle. I promise you. 

Lela Iliopoulos is a Registered Dietitian and Certified Diabetes Educator and an expert in nutrition therapy, health promotion, and education. She is passionate about impacting nutritional health through the practical application of science-based information.