Dietitian, nutritionist, qualified nutritionist, registered nutritionist, nutritional therapist – what’s the deal with all this and who should I trust to give nutritional advice?
Registered Dietitians (RD) work principally in the NHS and are regulated by the Health and Care Professions Council (HCPC). Their professional body is the British Dietetic Association (BDA). A Dietitian uses the science of nutrition to devise eating plans for patients to treat medical conditions. They also work to promote good health by helping to facilitate a positive change in food choices amongst individuals, groups and communities.
RD would typically hold at least a BSc Hons in dietetics, or a related science degree with a postgraduate diploma or higher degree in dietetics.
Registered Nutritionists provide evidence-based information and guidance about the impacts of food and nutrition on the health and well-being of humans (at an individual or population level) or animals. Registered Nutritionists have a good understanding of the scientific basis of nutrition and work in a range of settings, including research, education and in policy development.
They should have at least a three-year university degree in nutrition and be members of the government-approved Association for Nutrition (AFN).
Registered Nutritional Therapists
Registered Nutritional Therapists apply nutrition science in order to promote health, peak performance and individual care. They, too, use evidence-based information to identify potential nutritional imbalances and understand how these may contribute to people’s health concerns.
Registered Nutritional Therapists should have obtained a three to four year diploma or undergraduate degree in nutritional therapy accredited by either the British Association for Nutrition and Lifestyle Medicine (BANT), Complementary and Natural Healthcare Council (CNHC) or General Regulatory Council for Complimentary Therapies (GTCCT).
Note that only Dietitians and Registered Nutritional Therapists are trained in clinical practice to give one-on-one personal health advice. Both groups must practise with full professional indemnity insurance.
Also note that anyone working with eating disorder clients should have further qualifications in that field.
Nutritionists, qualified nutritionists, certified nutritionists etc.
“Nutritionist” isn’t a legally protected title so anyone could call themselves a “nutritionist”. Some people have done a module on nutrition as part of a fitness training, some have just done an online course for a minimal fee. You could ultimately pay to have a nutrition certificate in a matter of a few hours.
Diet gurus, health bloggers, beautiful Instagrammers and celebrities
Their only qualifications could boil down to a lifetime of eating (or dieting).
It’s always great to hear about people who have changed their diet and lifestyle and who are now feeling much better. It’s great that these people encourage others to eat better, but do bear in mind that what has worked for them may not work for you.
Self-proclaimed nutrition experts are not authorities on nutrition and could, unintentionally, do more harm than good.
Remember also that a lot of what you see on social media isn’t real: Do these people really eat what they say they eat? Are they always that glowing? Are they healthy? How many of them suffer from disordered eating themselves? The hashtag ‘healthy eating’ often features alongside ‘weight loss’, ‘detox’, ‘clean eating’ and ‘fit fam’ promoting what sounds more like restriction than health. So do be careful who you follow.
To conclude, if it was me, I’d choose someone who is registered and doesn’t make too many claims. Your life won’t be fixed by eating the perfect diet – oh and by the way, the perfect diet is different for everyone.