There are a lot of misconceptions when it comes to the nutrition and health industry.
The internet is filled with people who claim they are qualified enough to give people dietary advice and nutrition plans.
This article breaks down the differences between a Registered Dietitian, Nutritionist, and/or Health Coach.
Registered Dietitian (RD):
A registered dietitian is someone who has completed AT LEAST a bachelor's degree from a university accredited with the Accreditation Council for Education in Nutrition and Dietetics (ACEND). They then participated in a 1200 + hour internship under a registered dietitian and then sat for the national exam to be an RD. After completing the test, they have to apply for licensure in their practicing state. Every 5 years after, they must complete continuing education in order to keep their title.
A registered dietitian is the most qualified person you can work with when it comes to nutrition, and is considered a nutrition expert. They can provide medical nutrition therapy for patients in institutions such as hospitals and nursing care facilities. They can also assess patients’ nutritional needs, develop and implement nutrition programs and evaluate and report the results. They are also able to develop nutrition programs designed to prevent disease and promote health, targeting particular groups of people.
A nutritionist is a common term used as a label for someone working in the nutrition field. Anyone can hold this title, and it is not protected by licensure. This means that no education is required in order for a person to call themself a “nutritionist”.
In some cases, a nutritionist may have some education to back up their work in the nutrition field. However, they are not considered an expert like a dietitian is. They can provide general advice for nutrition and dietary trends, however they cannot provide personalized advice or meal plans that are individualized. This title works for those who are providing minimal advice and are not working with clients individually.
A health coach is an individual who provides support, accountability, and education to others in order to create behavior and lifestyle changes that result in a positive impact on their health. Some certification programs use the term wellness coach instead of a health coach. An online certification that takes about a year is a common requirement for the title. A health coach is not considered an expert, and is very limited in their practices.
A health coach can utilize tactics like motivational interviewing to identify barriers and encourage behavior change. They can also provide unbiased, research-supported information on a variety of health topics or trends, and aid in SMART goal setting. This position can be great for people who want to encourage lifestyle changes in individuals.
A last bit of advice!!!
Working with people that fall into each of these labels can be beneficial in their own ways. It’s important to know exactly what you want to get from your meetings, and find people who are qualified to do so. Make sure to check qualifications and licenses before meeting with someone. If the individuals are serious professionals, they will be sure to work inside their boundaries.