I am starting to see more and more restaurants or individuals promoting healthy eating and lifestyles. While this is ok, they get very specific where they do not have an education or the credentials to make such substantial claims. What are your thoughts around these trends?
The good news is that at least there is trend that is growing regarding healthy eating and lifestyles - and while specific diets and eating plans should be advised by a registered dietician or certified nutritionist, the bottom line is that a healthy meal should help make you feel better, energized, and ready to take on the day. If a person notices that they feel better eating a Paleo diet verses a Mediterranean diet at a certain restaurant, then so be it.
Although it is good that a trend towards health and wellness is growing we have to be careful where the information and claims come from. They information should come from Naturopathic doctors, nutritionists with a PhD and registered , lisenced Dietitians. We should also look at what the medical community thinks of those claims and if the ones making them have peer reviewed papers. Unfortunately consumers will not look at this and businesses often don't want this if the claims help them. At this point we can only fight back through social media to debunk false claims.
I hear you, Anthony. As an RDN myself, I also have mixed feelings on this subject.
On one hand, it is great to see more people interested in health and searching for ways to take steps to make changes. I feel restaurants and the influx of social media 'health experts' wouldn't be there if there was not a demand. Therefore, I see this as a positive marker that there is increased awareness of wellness in our society.
On the other hand, this opens up a space where anyone can be the 'expert'. We see this over and over again with Fad Diets. The good thing is that once people find out that something doesn't work for them, they are quick to move on.... and that is where I believe the science will take over. It is extremely frustrating and often times scary to see what people will do based on marketing, yet it is up to us professionals to stay strong & consistent in our beliefs as well as messaging so that people will eventually see the science as fact. Media is powerful but I believe that people are beginning to get tired of being fed lies.
We can not change what is being said about health & wellness, but we can stand strong and make the scientific-based facts available to those who, when ready to listen, want to make a real change.
Better nutritional choices is a very positive trend. However, these should not remain unregulated. Prior to listing healthy menu choices, restaurants should be required to retain the services of scientifically trained Registered Dietitians and other Health Professionals/Experts and to list these sources and links to their academic/professional qualifications on their menu's.
In the age of social media with fad diets and self appointed "experts" without credentials, great care and scrutiny are required to ensure that these "consulting specialists" are licensed professionals using scientific and peer reviewed nutritional standards in their claims. While this will be a difficult task, restaurant owners and their experts must be legally accountable for their claims as consumers do not generally have the ability to distinguish fad from fact. Most countries already have laws to protect consumers and food labeling standards already exist so enforcement of these scientifically based standards is required. The fear of litigation for unsubstantiated claims can be a powerful tool for transparency and accuracy of any/all claims.
While far from ideal, this could be one step forward to keeping them honest. Diet and Health Professionals and their professional societies will have a significant role to play in the process of providing facts over opinions. The political will to enforce existing national standards in any country cannot be overstated. Extensive advocacy, messaging and lobbying campaigns will be required to educate the public and to demand appropriate government oversight. This includes the willingness to use punitive measures to achieve compliance. Social media marketing can cut both ways and be used as a tool against any restaurant or restaurant chain making claims that do not comply with evidence based science.
Separating fact from opinion will not be easy but educating consumers with simple and straightforward factual information is necessary and it needs to begin now. If these opinions can harm the health and wellness of consumers, trained professionals have an obligation to act. Action that can negatively affect any restaurants bogus claims financially will be a powerful motivator of change.
I can't eat what most restaurants list on their 'healthy menu' as for me it is not. Love seeing 'paleo menu' or 'gluten-free' or 'vegan' items on menus so maybe that is what they should be listing instead of 'healthy" which has no definition for all people. It is a big issue for those on strict diets to be able to be social & a move in the right direction.
As far as who can give advice. Our current Western Medicine healthcare system is lost curing nothing, bought & paid for by big pharma leaving many searching for answers elsewhere. Consider requiring 'advisors' making 'recommendations' who give disclaimers 'to always consult a practitioner' to have heavy education may be adding limiting beliefs slowing progress forward. There are many remarkable individuals (think Einstein) who had no education. Many of these 'advisors' are those who have heal themselves when Western Medicine abandoned them as they have me on many occasions, bringing them a real life education point of view. Do we really want to silence these people? Most new ideas start with ridicule then move to acceptance as many new approaches & ideas gaining full support research & become scientifically sound.