There are SO many different diets out there today and NO ONE can tell you what works best for you, except YOU! and a good nutritionist or dietician. Here’s the thing, you may have health issues that you have no idea are related to what you’re eating, or not eating. You may have no known health issues but struggled to lose weight as soon as you hit 35. Maybe your doc has been keeping an eye on your cholesterol or blood sugar that has slowly been creeping up over the last few years. There are so many diets out there and they all say they will improve your health. So how do you choose the right one? The tricky part is that just because it’s what you’ve been doing for years or others have been doing for years, doesn’t mean it works for you. You/they could be surviving, but not thriving. It is my goal for my clients to live optimally and enjoy life, not just barely slide by in the low normal ranges. Without some experimentation and careful evaluation, not even you will know what’s right for your body. So where do you start?
Instead of trying the latest fad diet, how about seeking out a knowledgeable practitioner who can guide you through a personalized approach to better health? Check out my 5 tips to ensure quality advice from a nutrition practitioner.
1. Check for a Biography. If they have a website, they should most definitely have a biography. This bio should include info about where they got their education to be able to give advice on the specific topic they are providing services for as well as any certifications or licensing they have acquired. It should also mention how long they’ve been practicing for and in what type of environment. For example: If someone is advertising nutrition services and has a degree in Business and a Personal Training Certification, be weary. If you are just looking for some general guidelines and this person’s beliefs seem to align with yours, they may be a good fit. But if you are having health issues or want to know about specific amounts of foods you should be eating or supplements to take, you should seek out someone who is an expert in nutrition. If they don’t have a biography at all and you don’t know them personally, you can try reaching out and asking for them to tell you what their experience is. If they can not give you all of the above info, you should move on.
2. Check for credentials. In almost half of the 50 states of the USA, there is a strict law saying that it is illegal to give any specified personalized nutrition or supplemental advice unless it comes from a Licensed Nutritionist, Licensed Dietician, or Registered Dietician. Some MDs, NPs and Chiropractors are also exempt in these states if they have completed the required additional nutrition coursework. In order to achieve the credentials listed prior, candidates must have first completed a Masters in Nutrition, over 1000 clinical practice hours, and the passing of a nationally recognized exam. Check here to see if you live in a Red or Orange State which are the ones with the more strict laws. Taken directly from the Center for Nutrition Advocacy’s website, “[In an Orange state] This law licenses dietitians and nutritionists and there is a non-RD pathway to licensure. Only a licensed dietitian or a licensed nutritionist can provide therapeutic nutrition care including: assessment, goal setting, counseling, or evaluating nutrient-drug interaction.”
If you live in the Southern Mid-West to West Coast, you most likely reside in a yellow or green state which opens up nutrition consulting to pretty much anyone. This is great in that it allows for more people who are passionate about making a change to help others do just that. There are definitely people in this world who have self-educated themselves, are very knowledgeable and are here to help not just make a buck. Unfortunately, the problem that arises in this situation is that anyone can call themselves an expert without having any education or credentials to back it up. Some of these people may unintentionally cause more harm in others, while some just flat out take advantage of people.
If you live in a Yellow or Green State and can not find an RD, I suggest seeking out someone who has one of the below certifications which all involve in-depth curriculums that take at least 6 months to complete:
I DO NOT recommend trusting your life (even the smallest changes in diet can sometimes greatly affect someone’s life and well being) to someone who only has a nutrition certification that was administered after a weekend course. There are many organizations out there who began by creating personal training certifications and have evolved to include certifications on many other aspects of health. A weekend course does not allow anyone to truly understand the science of the human body, how a lack of certain nutrients can affect the body, or how to properly counsel someone through making dietary changes. It most certainly does not teach anyone how to make personalized nutritional changes specific to disease state.
3. Does their information seem biased? If you read their blog or follow them on social media, are they always dissing a certain diet and saying that their way is the best? There are lots of nutritionists who have a special niche and focus only on helping individuals in their niche, but it should not include constantly bashing other ways of eating just for the heck of it. Now, if there is scientific evidence or enough anecdotal evidence, in my opinion, this is enough to bring about an educational discussion. But in the end, your nutritionist should be open to meeting you where you are and personalizing the information they give you. Don’t give in to a cookie cutter plan just because it worked for others.
4. Do they have testimonials with people’s names or pictures attached? Do the words seem personal or generic? Do they talk about specific results achieved, struggles the person overcame, or programs that were used to achieve results? Not everyone may have testimonials on their website, but they should be eager to share the contact information of a past client with whom they worked closely in case you would like to contact them.
5. Does the nutritionist have a niche? Do you fit into it? If not, do they have clinical experience working with similar cases to yours? For example, if you want to lose body fat and maintain or build muscle, a nutritionist who works with cancer patients may not be the best fit as they are typically helping those people to keep weight on.
Maybe you feel super tired all the time, have a stressful job or home life, and have been restricting calories and just can’t seem to lose those pesky 10 lbs. It probably would not be the best fit for you to work with someone who specializes in bodybuilders or Bikini diets. While those people are losing lots of fat, it is putting immense amounts of stress on their bodies and wreaking havoc on their hormones. I don’t know about you but that does not sound like the way to go to me.