What is “Junk Nutrition”?

If you’ve turned on your computer, radio or television, picked up a magazine or newspaper, or chatted with a neighbor or family member, chances are you got a dose of nutrition advice. It’s just one of those hot topics. If you’re lucky, it’s reliable. The majority of the time, though, it’s what I refer to as Junk Nutrition. And just like junk food, it is here, there, and everywhere.

What exactly is Junk Nutrition? It’s nutrition advice that is not scientifically based. Some call it Junk Science. Junk Nutrition usually promises to prevent or cure a disease or offers a quick fix for losing weight. It often makes false claims about a food being the end-all or be-all for whatever ails you, and may even promise to keep you living forever. It is obvious that the amount of diet advice out there can be overwhelming. The weight loss industry, especially, has an endless amount of information, along with foods or supplements to purchase. Approximately 22 billion dollars is spent on supplements annually, and about half of Americans use them. Unfortunately, much of this nutrition advice leaves many people wondering what to eat. For people with diabetes, who are already careful with the foods they allow themselves, it’s even more confusing. Daily, my patients tell me that they don’t know what they are supposed to eat. Planning, preparing, and eating meals and snacks has become a burden for many, taking the pleasure out of eating.  There really aren’t “good” or “bad” foods, but many people think that there are. And yes, eating should be enjoyable!

What can you do? Be informed as best as you can. Ask your healthcare provider about foods or supplements before spending money on them. When it sounds way too good to be true, it probably is. Become a nutrition detective and search for data that supports any of the latest claims. Here’s a list of red flags (warning signs) to look out for that was made by The Food and Nutrition Alliance (FANSA), a partnership of four nationally recognized and respected health organizations.  Be on the lookout for these claims:

What could be Junk Nutrition?

  1. Advice that promises a quick fix
  2. Claims that sound too good to be true
  3. Simple conclusions from a complex study
  4. Advice based upon just one study
  5. Dramatic statements that are disproved by a reputable scientific organization
  6. Advice based on studies without peer review
  7. Advice based on studies that ignore differences among individuals or groups
  8. A strong warning of danger about a single product
  9. Lists of “good” and “bad” foods
  10. Advice made to help sell a product

For more information on healthy eating check out our book, Too Busy to Diet (

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