Surfing the ‘Net for Helpful Advice

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Even though the holidays aren’t quite over, chances are you’re regretting having that extra glass of eggnog, the double scoop of mashed potatoes, or the few extra holiday cookies that somehow landed in your hands. With each new year come new resolutions to eat better, exercise more, lose a few pounds, or improve diabetes control. There’s nothing wrong with starting afresh. January is just as good a time as any to ring in healthful new habits and say goodbye to less desirable (notice I didn’t say “bad”!) behaviors.

Some of you might be thinking that you’d like to lose a few pounds and are wondering what to do or where to go for some advice. Being a dietitian, my first recommendation, of course, would be to meet with a dietitian for a realistic eating plan. But I realize that that’s not always possible or even helpful for some. It’s very likely, however, that you’ll turn to the Internet for advice. With that in mind, I’ve compiled some tips and a list of some of the more reliable Web sites for healthful eating and weight loss. Of course, is packed with information. But if you’re looking for more, hopefully I can be of help.

Be Choosy
Most regular Internet users are aware that not everything they come across is helpful, safe, or reliable. The same holds true for nutrition advice that you read on the Web. Just as anyone can write a book about, for example, how to lose weight while eating chocolate cake everyday, anyone can put up a Web site with information that’s completely unfounded, that’s trying to sell you some snake oil supplement, or that is even potentially dangerous. So how do you know a good nutrition Web site from a bad one? Here are some tips:

  • Steer clear of Web sites that are selling supplements or other gimmicks, or ones that want you to pay to subscribe to something (unless it’s an online commercial weight loss program such as Weight Watchers or Jenny Craig, for example). If a Web site promotes one particular vitamin or supplement, or claims that you’ll lose “x” number of pounds in “x” number of days, it’s probably too good to be true.
  • Check out the credentials. Look for a link that says “About Us” or “Who We Are.” When you click on that link, you should see at least a few names of credentialed experts (hopefully some that include a dietitian or two, with an “RD” after their name). It’s even better if you see a list of their affiliations, such as “Harvard Medical School,” “Mayo Clinic,” etc.
  • Read the content. You know enough about nutrition to judge whether it’s credible — look at the information on the Web site and look for accurate, practical advice, such as “eat at least 5 servings of fruits and vegetables each day” or “aim for 20 to 35 grams of fiber every day.”
  • Make sure physical activity is emphasized. You really can’t expect to lose weight and keep it off without doing some kind of exercise (at least 150 minutes per week). Avoid Web sites that tell you that you don’t have to do physical activity. It’s just not true.
  • Look for some kind of menu planning tool. It’s hard to lose weight unless you have a good idea of what you’ll be eating for meals and snacks. Reliable Web sites give sage advice on what kinds of foods to include and will put together or suggest at least a few meals for you.
  • Speaking of tools, look for other nutrition and fitness tools, such as a BMI (body-mass index) chart or a calorie/carbohydrate calculator, for example.
  • Check to see if there’s a way to ask questions or get assistance (i.e. a “contact us” link or a dialogue box to type in a question and receive a response).

Recommended Web sites
There are plenty of great nutrition-related Web sites out there — it’s just a matter of knowing what to look for (and using some common sense). Here are a few that are worth considering:

  • CalorieKing ( a practical, helpful Web site that provides a nutrient database free of charge, plus a safe, effective weight-loss program for very little money per year. Dietitians are part of the team.
  • Prevention ( Good recipes, helpful tools, practical tips. Prevention includes dietitians on their team.
  • WebMD ( This site is full of great nutrition and medical information, along with helpful nutrition and fitness tools, and cooking tips.
  • MyPyramid ( Yes, the government can actually be helpful! MyPyramid is a practical, basic nutrition site that provides factual information, a menu planner, and even advice for helping kids eat healthfully. Check it out!

This is just a sampling of what’s available. If you have any particular nutrition-related Web sites that you’ve found helpful, let us know!

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