Should You Include Nutritional Information with Recipes?
by Shelby Kinnaird (aka Diabetic Foodie )
Sometimes readers ask for nutrition counts. You want to make your readers happy, but doing all of that math sure sounds like a lot of work. And couldn't you get into trouble legally if your numbers aren't 100% accurate? Let's explore the topic of whether or not to include nutritional information with your recipes.
Why do people request nutritional information?
Lots of folks read nutrition labels and those people like to have the same type of information available as they consider recipes to cook at home. A person with diabetes needs to understand how many carbohydrates a meal or a snack contains in order to keep their blood glucose under control. A person with high blood pressure needs to know how much sodium is in a dish. Someone with heart disease may be tracking how much fat is in a recipe. Someone who is trying to lose weight probably wants to know how many calories a serving contains so they can adjust the amount they eat accordingly.
Why might I want to provide nutritional information?
Many people who want nutritional information don't get all of their recipes from "diet" or "health" sources. As a person with diabetes, I scour all types of blogs looking for recipes I can modify to suit my particular dietary requirements. If a recipe I'm considering doesn't include nutritional information, I am forced to choose whether to calculate the information myself or find a similar recipe elsewhere that provides it. (I probably don't have to tell you which route I normally go.)
There are more than 29 million people in the U.S. with diabetes, 70 million with high blood pressure and 43 million women with heart disease. Not to mention, an estimated 45 million people in the U.S. diet every year. That doesn't include those eating Gluten Free. That's a lot of potential readers.
What's the downside?
Calculating nutritional information takes some time and it does require a little bit of math. You can do it by hand using a technique like the one outlined at Worth the Whisk or by using a resource such as Corinne T. Netzer's The Complete Book of Food Counts. You can also do it by using any one of the many online calculators such as the ones at myfitnesspal.com, nutritiondata.com or sparkpeople.com.
Just type "online recipe nutrition calculator" into any search engine to see other options. It will take some time to figure out how certain ingredients are listed in the database (e.g. "raw garlic" or "fresh garlic"). Keep in mind that any nutritional information calculated like this is only an ESTIMATE. For example, if you use 1/2 cup of oil to fry something, you won't be consuming all of that oil (some will be left in the pan). If someone uses a different brand of yogurt than you did, their numbers will be slightly different. There are also concerns that some of the online calculators aren't terribly accurate. If you decide to provide nutritional information with your recipes, you should include a disclaimer about how the information was calculated and language stating that your numbers are estimates only.
Is there a way to make my readers happy without having to calculate the nutritional information myself?
Whether or not you include nutritional information with your recipes is a purely personal decision. If someone asks for nutrition counts, you can always point them to the online recipe calculators mentioned above. That way, they can enter the exact product brands they use and their estimates will be more accurate.