Although nutrition has always been essential to our well-being, it's been elevated to cool status as wellness has become more mainstream over the years. There are pros and cons to this. Pro: More people are educating themselves on the topic. Con: There's an abundance of great and not-so-great nutrition advice available everywhere (online, books, podcasts, social media), which is why it's essential to know the nutrition basics to be able to differentiate what's hype and what's actually good advice.
To assess how nutrition savvy you are, check out the nutrition IQ test, which evaluates your knowledge of nutrition facts. Spoiler alert: The quiz is tough, and that's coming from someone who makes a living interviewing nutrition experts and writing about it.
The good news is that no matter your score, there's always room for improvement. Once you take the short 10-minute nutrition IQ test (it's free!), proceed to read an RD's tips on how to raise your nutrition IQ and, most importantly, how to implement those learnings to reap their benefits.
An RD's tips on how to improve your nutrition IQ test score
Pick your sources wisely
From influencers to trainers to health and wellness professionals, there is a lot of noise in the nutrition space, especially online. For this reason, Amy Shapiro, MS, RD, CDN, founder, and director of Real Nutrition, strongly advises looking for sources that rely on evidence-based research, meaning when they share nutrition information, they reference or link to studies that back up their comments.
If reading is your learning style, Shapiro suggests reading science-backed books and articles from reputable online resources such as Healthline, Pubmed, or Well+Good (shameless plug). Podcasts are another great way to digest (no pun intended) nutrition knowledge while doing other things, and the same advice applies here. "Listen to those who interview credentialed individuals who are working with evidence and facts instead of off of theory," Shapiro says.
And across the board, "avoid [sources] who are selling a product and promising quick results/fixes," Shapiro says, which usually don't work in the long term.
Know your goals
Everyone's body is different, and all nutrition advice is not one size fits all. For example, a gluten-free diet may be beneficial for people with a gluten allergy, but that doesn't mean it's suitable for everyone. This is why Shapiro emphasizes the importance of knowing your body, symptoms, and goals. Don't feel like you have to jump on the latest nutrition trend or hot topic just because everyone else is doing it. As a rule of thumb, Shapiro says advice that asks you to remove an entire food group or to drink/consume their specific product every day likely won't be the best for you.
Work with a professional
When in doubt, it's always best to get customized nutrition advice from a pro based on your specific symptoms and goals. While anyone online can call themselves a nutritionist, Shapiro notes that registered dietitians go through years of training, help with your nutrition based on evidence and science, have a license, and must do continuing education to maintain their license. "They can interpret your labs, sift through your symptoms, and help you to build a program that supports your goals healthfully, making sure you stay well and feel your best throughout the process," she says of RDs. So be sure to do your research to find a qualified professional.
Shapiro also recommends getting your blood labs taken, which can help guide your nutritional needs. "Ask your doctor for all the labs including hormone panel, thyroid panel, inflammation markers, blood glucose, cholesterol, [and] triglycerides," she says. Again, it’s all about finding the nutritional intel that will be beneficial for you specifically.
How to implement nutrition knowledge
Nutrition IQ aside, implementing nutrition learnings to improve your overall well-being is what matters. As with making any type of change though, it's not always easy. The solution: Implement one change at a time. "Do not try to change your whole life, diet, and habits at the same time," Shapiro says. "Start one thing, let that stick, and build on top of that. Healthy habits often breed other healthy habits."
Another pro tip: Pair the new habit you want to incorporate with the one you already do, aka habit stacking. For instance, Shapiro says, if your goal is to start taking vitamins, putting your vitamins next to your toothbrush will serve as a reminder. Or, if you want to drink more water before your morning coffee, put a water bottle or glass next to your coffee maker. These minor tweaks can set you up for success.
And, most importantly, be consistent. "You will not see any results even from the most promising items [or] programs unless you are consistent," Shapiro says. Her advice? Commit to three months of implementing the changes and reassess at the end. Remember that change takes time, she adds, and consistency is what moves the needle.
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