If you’re a health junkie or on social media at all, you’ve probably seen these terms: registered dietitian, nutritionist, nutrition coach, food guru, etc.. With so much information flying around there’s a lot of confusion over what it all means and who to listen to when it comes to nutrition advice. My answer? It all depends! All of these titles embody a love of food but there are some big differences in who to look to for food advice. Let’s set the record straight.
Registered dietitians (RDs), also called registered dietitian nutritionists (RDNs), are recognized as experts of food and nutrition in the medical field. This is largely because of the many years these professionals spend studying the science behind food and how it affects the body. The government has regulations on who can call themselves a “registered dietitian”. This is to protect the public from people who present themselves as nutrition experts, but who have no formal training. For example, if someone with diabetes accepts nutrition advice from a nutritionist and it hurts them the nutritionist can not be held accountable. Registered dietitians, on the other hand, can lose their license or suffer fines for providing poor nutrition advice. This is because RDs go through extensive training before they can practice. As of 2017, RDs are required to complete the following:
- a bachelor’s or advanced degree in food science or human nutrition
- supervised training and internships
- pass the RD exam
After RDs are certified, they also have to complete annual training to maintain their credentials. This is my field of study and the past two years I’ve spent work toward a masters in this field has not been easy, but I’m so close to the finish line! From my studies, it seems RDs are excellent in a number of areas. They really understand how to help manage medical conditions and weight loss. They also can point out what diet trends are completely bogus with science.
Nutritionists/Nutrition Coach/Food Guru
Terms like nutritionist, nutrition coach and the like are not regulated. Anyone can use these labels. This isn’t to say they don’t have valuable nutrition knowledge. Many nutritionists have a wealth of nutrition knowledge from experience and self-study. Some of my favorite nutritionist on Facebook and Instagram provide excellent recipe ideas and encourage their followers to make healthy choices with amazing food photography. On the other hand, following nutrition advice from individuals not formally trained in food science can be dangerous. A nutritionist might not fully understand nutrition information or they may be misinformed. This can be dangerous if a nutritionist misinforms a large number of individuals, especially through social media platforms. Misinformation is particularly harmful when individuals are looking to receive information around serious medical conditions like diabetes and weight loss.
The next time you’re in search of food advice think about what you need! If you have a medical condition or you’re looking for advice on how to lose weight in a healthy way, you might want to look for advice from an RD. If you’re looking for meal prepping tips or fitness inspiration, a nutritionist can certainly help. There’s space for both in this food lovers community.