There are many people out there that need nutrition help. Some need someone else to help them on their weight loss or healthy lifestyle journey. But these services all take money. How much does a nutritionist cost? I think it depends on the person. But you should be looking for registered dietitians, not nutritionists. Anyone can claim to be a nutritionist, but those who attended school for dietetics, completed a dietetics internship and DPD program are the real experts on nutrition. But I’ve seen anywhere from $60-$200/hr, and insurance typically will not cover it unless you have diabetes, kidney disease, or a kidney transplant (and even then, coverage is sparse).
You Want a Dietitian Not a Nutritionist
An MD will not refer to themselves as a Nutritionist but a Chiropractor can and often do refer to themselves as Nutritionist in the state of NJ. I work at a very large multinational food company and work in a group doing Nutrition work with a lot of Registered Dietitians and they go through great lengths to get to be RD’s. Not to say that a Nutritionist is bad, but people should check their credentials before they start following their advice. I know personal trainers who also pass themselves off as nutritionists because they can, and frequently successfully help their clients lose weight by following their programs and meal plans, however they are usually just providing a way to cut, not necessarily a way to live a healthy lifestyle.
Becoming a Registered Dietitian requires a degree in nutrition from an accredited university as well as a dietetic internship, which is completed either during the semester as apart of coursework or separately (meaning after you’ve graduated). If it’s the latter then you’ll have to apply to an internship separately. Once you’ve completed both the necessary coursework and completed a 1200 hour supervised practice, then you’re eligible for the RD exam, in which the credentials are contingent upon your successful completion of the exam.
What It Takes to Become a Dietitian
In order to call your self a dietitian, you must complete the required undergraduate coursework usually through a Dietetics related major (called DPD classes). These must be completed in order to apply for Dietetic Internships and include most Pre-Med sciences up to Ochem excluding genetics in addition to nutrition courses on Medical Nutrition therapy, clinical nutrition, lifecycle nutrition, food procurement and management (so basically how to run a food service establishment, menu planning, and the management skills needed to do that), nutrition policy, and public health classes. So you see the course load is heavy and wide-ranging.
The internships are VERY competitive and the matching process is similar to medical school residency assignments, except 50% of people don’t get internships rather than just not getting the one they want. The internships are 10 month long programs where you shadow dietitians and participate in supervised practice. The rotations involve every type of situation where a dietitian may be needed so hospital in-patient, out-patient or community dietitian who works for WIC or other subsidy programs, government school dietitians who work for local public schools, wellness opportunities, weight loss, diabetes, dialysis, some even have sports nutrition opportunities. MOST IMPORTANTLY, the internship and the undergraduate work focus on utilizing evidence-based practice, which means there is true scientific evidence coming from credible sources that backs up the claims being made by the dietitian. There is a comprehensive amount of information that is learned during this time that allows the future RD to be prepared for any scenario they may be needed.
Once you finish your internship, you must then sit for the RD exam that tests you on that comprehensible knowledge ranging from clinical lab values all the way to appropriate questions to ask when interviewing someone to which flour is best for bread making. THEN if you pass, you can call yourself a dietitian. And even then, some states require licensure, so in addition to all that work, you have to apply to be licensed as well!!!
So to answer your question, there is no regulation on who can call themselves a nutritionist. The term Registered Dietitian (RD), or Registered Dietitian Nutritionist (RDN) is common terminology now, is certified as the nutrition expert. Meaning they are more likely to use evidence-based practice and they also have more access to credible nutrition sources. Even though there may be those who have high credentials like a Master’s degree or a PhD who most likely have good research skills, unless they have those credentials, they cannot be considered a nutrition expert. For example, all of my professors that had PhD’s in nutrition were Registered Dietitians first.
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It may not seem like a big deal, but to dietitians, the distinction is incredibly important. Like it was said earlier, someone who does their own research with little background in nutrition can call themselves a nutritionist and take advantage of people who may not know the difference. This demeans the work of those who studied for so long to genuinely help people be healthy through real science that has been proven over and over again to work.
You Really Don’t Have to Pay For Good Nutrition Information
There are so many free nutrition services online. Unless you really have unique situation there is probably a solution that you can find for free online.