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Is a Nutritionist Worth It?

Published on
Updated on
Is a Nutritionist Worth It?

Table of Contents

Key Takeaways

  • Registered dietitians must undergo a series of education and training to obtain their credentials, while “nutritionist” is not a regulated title in most states. 
  • Dietitians can help treat medical conditions through nutrition counseling called medical nutrition therapy (MNT) and give general advice to optimize your diet. 
  • When selecting a provider, consider their credentials, specialties, and nutrition philosophy to find the best fit for you.

If you have nutrition-related health concerns or need help balancing your diet, you may have considered working with a nutritionist.

Though often confused with dietitians, nutritionists are not credentialed providers. 

On the other hand, registered dietitians undergo extensive education and training and are qualified to provide evidence-based advice and medical nutrition therapy.

Dietitians are trained in many different specialties, like diabetes, weight management, eating disorders, and gut health. 

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What is a Nutritionist?

A nutritionist is a broad term for a food and nutrition expert.

Dietitians, nutrition specialists, and general nutritionists all fall under this umbrella.

However, nutrition professionals have a wide range of education, training, and qualifications, making it important to look at a provider’s credentials. 

Nutritionists work in various settings, from medical clinics, hospitals, and long-term care facilities to public health offices, schools, and universities. 

Most people who seek help from nutritionists are looking for outpatient nutrition counseling, which involves one-on-one advice for building healthy habits and meeting health-related goals. 

What's the Difference Between a Nutritionist and a Dietitian?

Though the terms “nutritionist” and “dietitian” are often used interchangeably, the two professions require different levels of education and training. 

Dietitians 

A dietitian, also called “registered dietitian (RD)” or “registered dietitian nutritionist (RDN),” must go through a series of steps to obtain and maintain their title.

All dietitians have either a bachelor’s or master’s degree from an accredited nutrition program. 

Following their degree, dietitians undergo at least 1,000 hours of supervised practice in the form of an internship and must then pass a national exam.

At this point, they are considered licensed by the national regulatory body for nutrition professionals, Commission on Dietetics Registration (CDR). 

To maintain their credential, dietitians participate in continuing education to stay current on the latest research and care recommendations. 

Nutritionists 

On the other hand, nutritionists typically do not have any formal education or training requirements. Though they may have a nutrition degree, it’s not required. 

The title is not protected by law, meaning anyone can call themselves a nutritionist. However, regulations vary by state; some states have a nutritionist certification

An important difference is that nutritionists are not qualified to give medical nutrition therapy (MNT), a type of nutrition counseling provided by dietitians to help treat various conditions like diabetes or high cholesterol. 

You may encounter a nutritionist offering online services or in physical locations like gyms or grocery stores, giving general healthy eating advice. 

What Can Nutritionists Help With?

Registered dietitian nutritionists have been trained in various specialty areas and can help with many nutrition-related concerns.

Anyone can benefit from working with a dietitian to optimize their diet for health and well-being. 

Medical Nutrition Therapy

One of the primary roles of an outpatient dietitian is to provide medical nutrition therapy (MNT), which involves using dietary interventions to prevent, treat, or improve symptoms of different disorders.

It’s important to remember that nutritionists without the RD or RDN credentials are not licensed to provide this type of care. 

Medical nutrition therapy may help improve: 

General Nutrition Advice

In addition to medical nutrition therapy for specific conditions, dietitians also offer insight into your overall nutrition habits and how these impact how you feel.

This may relate to the composition of your meals, how you eat, or food timing. 

Registered dietitian nutritionists can help address common nutrition concerns like: 

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Is a Nutritionist Worth It?

You may wonder if working with a registered dietitian is worth it, especially if your insurance does not cover nutrition services. 

A dietitian can be invaluable if you want to improve your health.

Nutrition counseling conducted by a dietitian has been linked with improved blood sugar, cholesterol, weight, and blood pressure. 

In addition, dietitians undergo training in motivational interviewing, a type of counseling that helps motivate you to take action on your goals.

This helps ensure long-term success and the maintenance of healthy behaviors. 

Benefits of Working with a Nutritionist

In addition to improving your overall health and well-being, a dietitian can help you create sustainable goals. 

Sustainable Goals

Many nutrition plans available online involve eliminating numerous foods for quick results, but this type of change is not sustainable for most people.

Dietitians work with you to make realistic changes for long-term results. 

Individualized Plan

A dietitian will work with you to create a personalized plan that considers your medical history, health goals, food preferences, dietary restrictions, lifestyle, and culture. 

Evidence-Based

Since dietitians receive extensive training in understanding research and must participate in ongoing continuing education, you’ll get the most up-to-date, evidence-based advice. 

Accountability

After creating an initial plan, ongoing visits with a dietitian can help you stay on track with your goals. They will also modify your plan to ensure it is still appropriate for your lifestyle and health status. 

Cost of Hiring a Nutritionist 

The cost of working with a nutrition professional varies greatly depending on their credentials, specialty certifications, and location. 

Many insurance plans cover registered dietitian services, especially for specific conditions like diabetes and kidney disease. Each plan is different, so be sure to check your insurance benefits before seeking nutrition care. 

Most insurance plans that cover nutrition services require the provider to be a registered dietitian, meaning the benefits don’t typically cover services from nutritionists. 

When your insurance plan does not pay for you to work with a registered dietitian, you can expect to pay between $100-200 per session in the United States.

If you are in a high-cost-of-living area and choose a provider with a specialty certification, like Certified Diabetes Care and Education Specialist (CDCES), you’ll likely encounter the high end of this range. 

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How to Choose the Right Nutritionist

It may feel overwhelming to find the right nutritionist.

The first step is to look at the credentials of available providers. The most qualified nutrition professional will have a registered dietitian (RD) or registered dietitian nutritionist (RDN) credential. 

Next, think about why you want to see a dietitian.

If you have a specific health condition, searching for providers specializing in that area can be helpful.

For example, dietitians can specialize in diabetes, weight management, and gastrointestinal disorders. 

Lastly, it’s important to find a dietitian you feel comfortable speaking with and whose personality is a good fit with yours. It may take a couple of tries to find the right match. 

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Questions to Ask When Seeking a Nutritionist

After selecting a dietitian, you may want to ask a few questions before scheduling your first appointment to ensure it will be a good fit. 

You may want to ask about any areas your dietitian specializes in, as well as their nutrition philosophy. If you’re looking for someone who practices a non-diet approach, be sure to clarify this in advance. 

It’s important to ask about insurance coverage and out-of-pocket costs so you understand any fees associated with the appointments.

You may also want to know whether appointments will be in person or virtual by phone or video. 

Takeaway

Not all nutrition professionals are created equal. In most states, anyone can call themselves a nutritionist, even without formal training.

Registered dietitians must have a nutrition degree, complete supervised practice hours, pass a national exam, and participate in ongoing continuing education. 

A dietitian can help you manage nutrition-related conditions like diabetes while offering practical advice to balance your diet and improve your relationship with food.

Choose the right provider by asking about their qualifications, specialties, and nutrition philosophy. 

Managing Your Health with Nourish

A dietitian can help improve your health by treating the root cause of your concerns for long-lasting improvements.

The right provider will create an evidence-based plan and motivate you to achieve your nutrition goals. 

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Frequently Asked Questions

Is a nutritionist worth it to lose weight?

A 2019 meta-analysis found that people who worked with a registered dietitian for weight management lost more weight than those who didn’t see an RD. Research also shows that dietitians can help minimize weight regain in the long term. 

In addition, many weight loss plans are highly restrictive and not sustainable in the long run. A dietitian can help create a realistic, evidence-based strategy to optimize your health and help you reach your goals. 

What are the benefits of having a nutritionist?

A qualified nutrition professional, like a registered dietitian (RD) or registered dietitian nutritionist (RDN), can provide medical nutrition therapy to help prevent and treat conditions like diabetes, heart disease, and digestive diseases. Dietitians also help you optimize what, how, and when you eat so you can feel your best.

Is a nutritionist worth it for weight gain?

A registered dietitian can offer evidence-based, realistic advice to help you gain weight in a safe, healthy way. Your plan may involve smaller, more frequent meals and the addition of high-calorie and high-protein foods.

References

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