5 Tips to Choosing a Dietitian
Nutritionist? Dietitian? Wellness Coach? Nutrition Specialist?
When it comes to nutrition; what to eat and how to fuel your body for health, it seems like everyone is an expert. This is far from the truth. To provide some clarity, I'm going to explain a bit about what a dietitian is and how to pick the right one.
A registered dietitian may go by many names (health educator, nutritionist, dietitian), however these other names cannot claim to be a registered dietitian. Confusing, I know. So what to look for? Make sure your nutritionist has the credentials 'RD' or 'RDN' after his or her name. This means the person has completed at least a Bachelor Degree in the field of diet/food/nutrition AND has gone through a multidiscipline internship lasting 6-12 months AND has passed a national examination to practice nutrition. A dietitian's education does not stop there! They are required to complete ongoing continuing education and after hours of practice hours in a devoted field, can take another nationally accredited exam to become a specialist in a field.
A person with these credentials has the experience and education to dispense proper nutrition advice. They understand how to read scientific studies and translate research into practical application.
Unfortunately, with social media platforms, too many unqualified persons are dispensing nutrition advice. Looking at food/fitness photos that inspire are one thing, but getting actual coaching and health advice from these is ill advised.
If the person has only a 'certification' in health/nutrition, they do not have the knowledge to be assisting others. Think about how valuable your health is! Do you really want to trust your needs, goals, time, money to someone who has nothing to back their words but 'passion' and an online 3 month (or less! eek! ) course?! No thank you.
Here are my 5 tips to choosing the right dietitian:
1) Read above. Find an actual dietitian that has the credentials that support your personal needs. For example, if you need diabetic care, look for a RD that has a certification in diabetic management. If you're looking for wellness & sports performance, seek out a CSSD (like me!) someone who is board certified to educated on that specific topic.
2) Skip the newbies! Sorry new dietitians, but simply graduating and passing the RD exam is NOT enough to become a personal nutrition consult/counselor. Learning to navigate nutrition issues, having a well-rounded background, and being experienced in patient care is HUGE. Always ask how long your dietitian has been practicing and know their background before signing up with them.
3) Beware of gimmicks. While this is less common in credentialed, registered dietitians, it does still occur. Make sure your dietitian isn’t pushing some crazy diet brand or sketchy supplement. You do not want to pay for generalized, even dangerous recommendations! You want someone who will provide the guidance for your individual needs regardless of their brand/ product affiliations.
4) Find the right fit. Not every dietitian is right for every client. Make sure the dietitian is upfront with areas they specialize in and are able to make referrals if your needs are outside their comfort zone. Email or phone the dietitian prior to buying a consult to ask any questions you may have to determine if they will be right for you. Social media stalk them! See if they promote a healthful image that is inline with your goals. Find articles or posts the professional has written to determine if you agree with their words and respect their opinion and position on the things that are important to you.
5) Make sure the dietitian practices what they preach. Seriously. Find them on social media or contact directly to ask questions about their favorite meals/ products to make sure your dietitian is honest and believes in what they are selling. Make sure to look for any red flags that contradicts what they say and what you're looking for. You want someone who walks the walk and has passion to back up their practice.