Qualifications of Nutrition Coaches and Registered Dietitians

ByAlyson R. Briggs

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Nutrition, health, and wellness are a priority for many. If you’re here, they’re likely a priority for you, too. As the demand for nutrition coaches has increased so has the supply. You see nutrition coaching and programs advertised on TV, social media, and many places in between.

Unfortunately, not all nutrition coaches are qualified to help you achieve your goals. It can be hard to know which nutrition coaches and nutrition programs are credible.

Confusion is inevitable when sifting through all the nutrition programs and coaches out there.

As a Registered Dietitian, I have developed a strong base of nutrition knowledge and counseling skills through years of education, hands-on training, and experience working with clients. I want you to find a nutrition coach who is also trained and ready to help you reach your goals, whatever they may be. 

In this article, I’ll help eliminate any confusion you are feeling by teaching you what qualifications to look for in a nutrition coach so you can confidently choose the right nutrition coach for you.

What Do Nutrition Coaches Do?

First and foremost, nutrition coaches help you improve your eating habits by teaching you how to eat foods that fuel your body, address any medical concerns you have, build a positive relationship with food, and more.

Nutrition coaches also often work with you on other lifestyle factors including your exercise, sleep, stress, and mental health to help you build healthy habits throughout all areas of your life. 

Most nutrition coaches work in one-on-one or group settings. These nutrition coaching sessions may take place online or in person. Nutrition coaches may also offer you support via messaging services that allow you to chat between sessions or apps that allow you to share food logs and other information directly with them.

Registered Dietitian vs. Nutrition Coach

A Registered Dietitian and a nutrition coach may provide very similar services. In fact, Registered Dietitians are nutrition coaches. However, not all nutrition coaches are Registered Dietitians.

Nutrition coaches’ credentials and qualifications vary greatly. With that being said, finding a qualified nutrition professional can make or break your health and wellness journey.

What Is A Registered Dietitian?

Some nutrition coaches are Registered Dietitians (RD), also referred to as Registered Dietitian Nutritionists (RDN). These nutrition coaches are the most highly trained nutrition professionals and are considered experts in the field of nutrition.

Outside of being a Registered Dietitian there is no clear definition of what a nutrition coach is.

What Is A Nutrition Coach?

The term nutrition coach, as well as the term nutritionist, are not regulated titles. This means that individuals may market themselves by these titles without having any formal training or education in nutrition.

Nutrition coaches vary from individuals who have completed degrees in nutrition, to individuals who have completed online nutrition certifications, to self-proclaimed nutrition experts with no real education or training. 

This does not mean that all nutrition coaches and nutritionists who are not Registered Dietitians are not qualified. However, it does mean that it is extremely important to make sure the nutrition coach you are considering working with is qualified.

Registered Dietitian Qualifications

Registered Dietitians are considered food and nutrition experts. Becoming a Registered Dietitian requires formal education, hands-on training, and passing a national exam.

How Dietitians Become Dietitians

There is one main path to becoming a Registered Dietitian.

This process requires at least five years of education or training, which includes four years of formal education and one year of hands-on supervised practice.

Many Registered Dietitians also hold master’s degrees in nutrition or other related fields. Some Registered Dietitians choose to pursue specialty training as well. Specialty trainings available to dietitians include:

  • Obesity and Weight Management
  • Sports Dietetics 
  • Oncology Nutrition
  • Gerontological Nutrition
  • Renal Nutrition
  • Pediatric Nutrition
  • Pediatric Critical Care Nutrition

Registered Dietitians are also required to complete continuing education credits regularly to maintain their credentials throughout their careers.

Nutrition Coach Qualifications

As I mentioned before, nutrition coaches who are not Registered Dietitians have a wide variety of qualifications ranging from years of formal training and education to being entirely self-taught.

How Nutrition Coaches Become Nutrition Coaches 

There are many potential pathways to becoming a nutrition coach. Some of the more formal pathways include:

  • Completing a bachelor’s degree in nutrition
  • Completing a master’s degree in nutrition
  • Completing a training program that provides a certification

There are many nutrition coach training programs available that provide individuals with certifications. However, the quality of these programs and the training they provide varies greatly.

Some programs boast they can be completed in as little as six months, or even fewer than 99 days. Many are completed entirely online via self-study modules. Most allow you to take your certification exam at home where you can use your materials to check your answers.

The bottom line is: you don’t always know what you’re going to get when it comes to a nutrition coach. 

Questions to Ask a Potential Nutrition Coach

I do not by any means want you to think nutrition coaches cannot be qualified nutrition professionals who deliver you the results you want. However, I do want you to find someone who is properly educated and trained to help you reach your goals. I’m sure that’s what you want, too!

If you are interested in working with a nutrition coach who is not a Registered Dietitian, asking the right questions can go a long way in picking the right person for you. Be sure to ask these questions:

  • Do you have a degree in nutrition?
  • Where is your degree from? 
  • Do you have any certifications?
  • Where are your certifications from?
  • How long was your training program?
  • What did your training program consist of?
  • Did you complete any hands-on training with clients?
  • Do you specialize in any type of client?
  • Have you worked with other clients like me?
  • Have your clients like me achieved their goals?

What’s Next

Choosing a nutrition coach to help you achieve your goals can be tricky. However, now you know what to look out for and what questions to ask to find a qualified professional to get you to your goals.

If you are looking for someone who is a nutrition expert, a Registered Dietitian is your best bet.

If you are looking for a nutrition coach, be sure to ask the right questions to ensure the person you are talking to is qualified so you can get the most your of your investment. 

At OnPoint Nutrition, our team is highly qualified. Every single one of our nutrition coaches has at least a bachelor’s degree in nutrition, most are Registered Dietitians. Collectively, we have helped hundreds of people just like you reach their nutrition, health, and wellness goals through our virtual nutrition counseling programs.

If you are interested in working with one of our qualified nutrition professionals schedule a free consultation today.

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