Since there are no strict guidelines as to what constitutes this position, it’s important to be selective when you hire a nutritionist. A good tip is to look for someone who has earned a Certified Nutritionist designation. This requires a minimum level of related education and also requires licensing and continued coursework over time. While these requirements are much less than those of a registered dietician, they do indicate someone with a sincere interest and background in the field, which may be quite adequate for your needs.
Experts in the health field also recommend steering clear of any nutritionists who seem focused on selling you lots of supplements, rather than on working with you to review your diet and help to streamline it, as this can be a sign they just want your money but may not be able to give you real expertise.
A Registered Dietician must complete more extensive schooling than a nutritionist to hold this title. Although the licensing and registration requirements vary from state to state, generally a dietician must have a degree in dietetics from an accredited undergraduate program and is also required to perform a one-year internship to receive on-the-job training.
Dieticians must have an understanding of basic science principles so that they can understand the way nutrition works. They also must complete classes in food science and preparation so they can make practical recommendations to their clients that will work in the real-world setting. In addition, he or she must pass various licensing tests, depending on the state, and must participate in continuing education efforts to stay up on the latest research and trends.
Finding The Right Fit
With a wide range of people who specialize in nutrition to choose from, you may wonder how in the world to choose the right fit for you. You can look in your local phone book, do a search online, ask your doctor for a referral or ask family and friends for recommendations. Once you have some names to consider, narrow down the list by calling each one and getting a feel for how he or she works.
Keep in mind that you want to find someone who will be a good fit for your style. You need to be able to talk about your eating habits, and feel you can be honest about your weaknesses without being judged by whomever you pick.
You should also seek someone who is willing to work within your specific eating preferences. For instance, it you are a vegetarian, you will find that many dieticians stress a well-rounded diet that includes meat, so you need to find someone willing to think more broadly to come up with some appropriate alternatives for you. In addition, if you eat very large portions and high-fat food, you may not be able to change your habits overnight. Therefore, you need someone who can help you make small, lasting changes that can be expanded on over time.