Nutritionist. Food Coach. How Good Is Their Diet Advice?

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If you feel the need for professional help with your eating habits or diet, you may assume a nutritionist is the person to talk to. As it turns out, that’s not a particularly specific or useful term—a point driven home by recent advice published in a magazine from a “nutritionist” who claimed weight loss is aided by eating carbs and protein at separate meals, a notion not supported by science.

By no means is everyone calling herself a nutritionist (or a nutritional consultant, food coach, or weight-loss specialist) dispensing hogwash. But for consumers attempting to make an informed choice, the titles are meaningless; they don’t capture the possessor’s education, experience, or credentials. And those are all important when it comes to seeking eating advice, given the proliferation of fad diets and quick weight-loss schemes. “I can’t think of a field that has more quackery than nutrition,” says Lisa Sasson, a clinical associate professor of nutrition and food studies at New York University.

One specific title to look for: registered dietitian. In order to call himself an R.D., a person must have an undergraduate degree in nutrition or dietetics—or the equivalent in coursework—from an accredited institution, says Dee Sandquist, an R.D. and spokesperson for the American Dietetic Association, the professional organization that credentials R.D.’s (through the Commission on Dietetic Registration). On top of that, R.D.’s have to complete a yearlong, supervised internship and pass a national exam. And they must get credits in continuing education on an ongoing basis. Anyone calling herself simply a dietitian is also legally supposed to be an R.D.

The American College of Nutrition also issues C.N.S. (certified nutrition specialist) credentials for people with advanced degrees—master’s, doctorate, M.D.—in nutrition or related areas. They, too, have to sit for an exam and also earn continuing education credits, says Madelyn Fernstrom, director of the nutrition and weight management program at the University of Pittsburgh Medical Center and author of The Real You Diet. Either an R.D. or C.N.S. designation means the holder has relevant education and experience, has passed an exam, and will make evidence-based recommendations, says Fernstrom.


Read more about how to become a nutritionist


About brookemiggs

Brooke Miggs is a housewife, mother of 4 lovely children, passionate about novels, cooking and kids. The thing that her kids love the most is Disney Cartoons. This fact made her family visit all the Disney Resorts and create this website that offers information and great reviews about the Disney Land Hotels.
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