How nutrition writers fail their audience

Does it feel like the “healthy” foods to eat change every 6 months?

If an article on nutrition has ever caught your eye on social media, it's probably been one of two types:
 

  1. “REJOICE. CHOCOLATE COVERED WINE IS NOW GREAT FOR YOUR HEART.”
  2. “YOU KNOW HOW ORANGES ARE HEALTHY? YEAH, WELL, TURNS OUT THEY CAUSE CANCER. SORRY ABOUT THAT.”

Healthy eating and evidence-based nutrition is viewed as such an unsexy topic by most publications that the few articles they publish need to make a bold, surprising claim right in the headline: one that either thrills your or frightens you. Bad food is good! Good food is bad!

This framing is so common that it's nearly impossible to begin coaching novice eaters without first undoing a bunch of half-truths and misunderstandings about fruit, meat, eggs, bread, and butter. Just to start.

Even well-intentioned articles add to the carnival of bullshit.

This article on nutrition myths (https://examine.com/nutrition/awful-nutrition-myths/) is rich with helpful information that counters a ton of conventional wisdom on carbs, fat, salt, and gluten, backed by the best-available current research.

If you read it closely, you will almost certainly learn something new and useful.

If you skim it, you will almost certainly hate food and dieting, assume that nutrition science is all bullshit, and decide not to give nutrition another thought (until you are prescribed statins in your early 50s).

That's because the article is formatted to highlight a set of bold, broad statements like 'Carbs are bad for you.' 'Fat is bad for you.' 'Protein is bad for you.' 'Bread is bad for you.'

Exactly the types of headlines that irresponsible publications use to shock their readers.

It's worsened by juxtaposing contradictory statements beside each other:

Myth: Foods are always superior to supplements.
Myth: Supplements are superior to foods.

Is that not infuriating?

Read quickly, the lay reader comes away with the impression that nothing is bad for them, everything they've read or heard so far has been inaccurate, and dieting is confusing and useless.

I dread articles like these, because they are both fundamentally correct and actively unhelpful to the people who many who need them most.

Responsible instructional writing needs to be clear, direct, and specific - not just in the small print, but in the headlines. ESPECIALLY in the headlines.

Here is a responsibly written article on how to drink alcohol while dieting: https://rippedbody.com/how-to-drink-beer-and-not-screw-up-…/. You'll see it:

1. Puts the important information up front
2. Uses headlines to denote topics and not make claims
3. Is clear about what to do, and not simply what to believe.

We need more of this in nutrition writing. And political. And financial. And, I dunno, automotive? I bet automotive writing is pretty fucked too.

Want a few more examples of straightforward, no-BS nutrition information? Start with the following articles: