On the web, everyone's a nutrition expert—unless, well, they're not. Here, four red flags that your favorite food blogger is giving you bogus health advice

By Bethany Gumper
May 08, 2015
Corbis Images

Food blogs can be a great source of inspiration and advice, but the whole "zero checks and balances" thing can be problematic. Case in point: the recent Food Babe backlash. Blogger Vani Hari got a lot of flack for making claims without the science to back them up. The former financial analyst, who isn't trained in nutrition or science, often calls out ingredients in foods and makes you very, very afraid of them. Recent posts include "There Might Be Dead Animal Parts In Your V8!" and "You Won't Believe Where Silly Putty Is Hiding In Your Food." Scientists and chemists have spoken out against her, saying that she's doing more harm than good with this sort of fear-mongering, even if she is trying to help people eat better.

It's not helpful to bash Food Babe and call it a day, though. The real takeaway? Be critical of who you trust with your health and nutrition advice. That's why we asked Marisa Moore, R.D., a dietitian with a private practice in Atlanta, Georgia, and spokesperson for the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics, for ways to make sure your favorite food blog is legit. She clued us in on four red flags to watch out for.

Missing Credentials

Check the "About" section. Anyone who makes specific dietary recommendations should have the proper accreditation. "Look for the registered dietitian/registered dietitian nutritionist credential, which means she has at least a nutrition-related bachelor's degree and has passed the national exam," recommends Moore. Although there are plenty of qualified nutritionists out there, the title isn't regulated, so anyone can technically call themselves a nutritionist. Eek.

Trend Hopping

Think twice before you heed the advice of blogs that throw around buzzwords (toxin, gluten-free, detox, clean eating, organic, and non-GMO are just a few) without looking at the research. "Blogging is a business, so chasing fads and trending topics can be a way to get page views and ad revenue," explains Moore. If a blogger calls every ingredient she can't pronounce a "toxin" (à la Food Babe), that doesn't inspire a lot of confidence. But if she takes a close look at unbiased studies in the process, then we're talkin'. (Speaking of food trends, you must see the Top Food Trends from the Fancy Food Show 2015.)

Big Promises

Watch out for quick fixes (especially when it comes to weight loss), promises that sound too good to be true, and recommendations based on preliminary research (especially studies only conducted on animals).

Product Schilling

Just look at Dr. Oz, who recently came under fire for questionable endorsement of products. (There was no evidence to back up 39 percent of his claims-and his advice was flat-out wrong for 15 percent of those claims, according to a recent BMJ study.) Be skeptical of product recommendations from bloggers too. Of course, some are genuine endorsements, but avoid any "expert" that says her advice will only work if you buy certain supplements or products. A good indicator of a sketchy advertising relationship: All the products she recommends are sold on her site.

And don't worry, there are blogs you can trust.

Kath Eats Real Food: She started blogging when she set out to lose 30 pounds in 2006, then became a registered dietitian. A self-described oatmeal addict, she has more than 60 twists on the breakfast classic.

Real Mom Nutrition: This busy mom and dietitian has all sorts of time-saving tricks for you; her frozen spinach-kale cubes are genius (instant smoothies!).

The Lean Green Bean: We love this registered dietitian and CrossFitter's Weekly Eats series, which serves up plenty of ways to eat right all week long. (Check out more of Our Favorite Healthy Food Blogs.)