Credibility, recipes, references help food blogs improve eating habits

(Reuters Health) – Consumers like healthy eating blogs written by nutritionists that seem credible and engage with their readers, a small study in Canada has found.

Researchers examined which properties of a food blog are most likely to encourage readers to make healthy changes in their eating behavior. They also found that references and links to additional information boosted both credibility and usefulness.

“Health professionals and lay people alike frequently use blogs as a way to provide dietary advice or tell their story. But the internet is a vortex of conflicting — and often wildly inaccurate — information, especially when it comes to healthy eating,” said New Jersey-based independent nutritionist Felicia Stoler, who did not participate. in the study.

“Blogs can provide a great reference for inspiration and motivation,” said Stoler, who holds a doctorate in clinical nutrition from Rutgers University. “But you have to look for credible sources. Preferably a registered dietitian. It is not uncommon for doctors, chiropractors and chefs to position themselves as nutritionists. Unfortunately, these people do not necessarily have the adequate knowledge or training to properly advise individuals on their diet.

Sophie Desroches of the Institute of Nutrition and Functional Foods at Laval University in Quebec City and her colleagues recruited a group of women to evaluate four healthy eating blogs written by French-Canadian dietitians.

The thirty-three participants answered questions and provided feedback on the usefulness and ease of use of each of the blogs.

Desroches, who did not respond to a request for comment, and his colleagues found that certain types of content and design features in a blog received the highest scores for usefulness. Of these, recipes, hyperlinks and references were the most important.

Hyperlinks provided an easier way to direct readers to additional resources while references, including blogger biographies, improved users’ sense that the blogger is a credible source, according to Journal of the Academy findings. of Nutrition and Dietetics.

Study participants also assumed that the recipes presented were nutritionally sound, which made them more likely to incorporate these recipes into their own diets.

Interaction between bloggers and blog readers improved usability and facilitated a sense of connection between content creators and readers, the researchers also found. This connection made readers more likely to improve their eating behaviors.

One of the surprising findings, the study team notes, was that users preferred a storytelling approach to personal food-related experiences beyond direct expert advice – as long as the storytelling came from a credible source.

Many users found the videos to be irrelevant unless they showcased specific cooking techniques, and on average, women felt the videos were way too long. Users tended to like bright colors, eye-catching photos, and well-organized text with captions.

The researchers acknowledge in their report that they studied only a small sample of healthy eating blogs on the Internet, and that their group of reviewers may not represent all French-Canadian users.

Stoler advises readers of healthy eating blogs to maintain some skepticism and ask themselves some questions. Could this blogger get paid to promote a certain program? Does he or she disclose conflicts of interest? Does the blogger have a bias in favor of what they are promoting?

THE SOURCE: Journal of the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics, online October 26, 2017.

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