The title sounds absurd, right? Then why do I encounter, at least once a week, a patient or friend telling me about the amazing, eye-opening, life changing diet advice they received from their general physician or, my favorite, the personal trainer, masseuse, or chiropractor?
Many tell me they don’t know the difference between a Registered Dietitian and everyone else offering nutrition counseling. Allow me to clear the air.
RDs dedicate their undergraduate education and post-graduate careers to nutrition. In order to become an RD, one must complete an undergraduate program in nutrition or food science and then complete a 10-12 month Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics accredited supervised practice internship before being allowed to sit for the RD board exam. Certainly, not all RDs are created equal. But we are, in broad terms, the most well equipped and appropriate venue for nutrition counseling and, most importantly, the only legal source for medical nutrition therapy. RDs use scientific and practice based evidence to drive their practice, are required to maintain licensing and education requirements, and adhere to ethical boundaries in order to continue to use the RD credential.
Physicians, chiropractors, massage therapists, nutrition specialists, athletic trainers, nutrition counselors, and nutrition certified advisors.
Physicians receive less than eight hours of nutrition-based lecture during their MD training, yet many assume the role of a nutrition specialist. Although commonly harmless, in complex or specialized situations, this can be a disaster in the making. Even worse, chiropractors, wellness coaches, and personal trainers often have fewer than 8-12 hours of nutrition-based lecture exposure and often zero supervised practice hours before becoming “nutrition certified.” Eyebrows often go up when I explain that the “nutrition specialist” paid an online fee, completed one workbook, and took an online quiz in order to obtain their title. Furthermore, these “nutrition specialists” or “nutrition certified” advisors are legally prevented by Maryland Licensure law from providing medical nutrition therapy.
A good physician or support therapist (chiropractor, masseuse, and personal trainer) will refer you to a dietitian who specializes in your area of need; that’s when you know you’ve found a trustworthy provider.
A steadfast rule to follow is to do your due research before paying for and taking advice from someone- anyone, on any topic. Type their credential into a search engine and see what comes up. If you find that you can sign up for and complete the requirements for such credential in a matter of hours, days, or weeks, proceed with caution.