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How To Choose A Nutritionist Or Dietitian


When looking for a nutritionist or dietitian, consider the following:

  • If licensing is required in your state, is the person licensed? To learn about whether there is a law in your state, see the website of the Commission on Dietetic Registration offsite link. Click on "State Licensure." If licensing is required, check with your state licensing agency to find out whether the person is licensed. Contact information for the licensing agency is on the Commission's website.
  • Is the person a Registered Dietitian (RD) or a Licensed Dietitian (LD or LDN) or both? Registered and Licensed Dietitians have completed required coursework, passed a professional qualifying examination, and maintain registration via regular yearly studies verified by the Americian Dietetic Association the state in which they live. You can learn if a particular person is accredited by going to the website of the Commission on Dietetic Registration offsite link and clicking on "RD, RDN, DTR and Board Certified Specialists".  You will need the person's registration number.
  • The person's experience working as a nutrition specialist. Has the person worked with people with your particular condition? With what approach? With what results?
  • The basis for the person's recommendations. For example, many practitioners base their recommendations on the federal government's latest dietary guidelines or on the published guidelines developed for a specific illness. If a recommendation is based on a study, you can ask to see a copy of the study.
  • How comfortable you feel with the person. Ideally, your nutritionist or dietitian, like any other member of your healthcare team, will be someone that you feel comfortable with and with whom you feel comfortable talking. In the less than ideal world, ask whether the person can provide the information you need and, if so, whether you can cope with the person's personality.
  • Whether the person offers "cures." A reputable person will not offer a "miracle cure" for a health condition.
  • Is the person willing to provide references? You can ask for contact information for clients he or she has helped. All situations are different and a reference may not be a good predictor of the experience you will have. However, the person's willingness to provide references may be a valuable test. If he or she is not willing to provide references, there is reason for healthy skepticism about how effective his or her advice may be.
  • The person's method of working. Does the person:
    • Ask a lot of questions about your eating habits, medical history including current condition, and life-style?
    • Ask you to keep a diary of your eating experience?
    • Formuliaze an individual diet plan?
    • Provide moral support?
  • Does the person sell the products he or she recommends? If the person does sell the products, it doesn't necessarily mean the advice or the products are bad. However, the potential conflict of interest should be taken into account.
  • Of course, fees.
    • A reputable nutritionist or dietitian will charge a reasonable fee for services.
    • Don't hesitate to do some comparison shopping to determine what the standard rate is for your local area.
    • Check to see if your health insurance policy will cover the services of a nutritionist or dietitian if prescribed by your doctor. If so, does the person fit within the insurance company's parameters for coverage?

Your doctor and/or his or her staff are good sources for locating a nutritionist that fits your needs. Other sources are a nonprofit association or the Academy of Nutrition and Dietitics (formerly the American Dietetic Association.)

How To Find A Nutritionist/Dietitian

Alternatives for locating a nutritionist include:

  • Your primary care physician or specialist and his or her staff are good places to start looking for a nutritionist. Simply ask for a referral to a nutritionist or dietician familiar with your health condition.
  • Contact The American Dietetic Association  You can call the ADA in Chicago at 800.877.1600 or visit the ADA's website: offsite link
  • Your state health department may be a source of information if nutritionists are required to be licensed in your state. To locate your state health department, see: offsite link 
  • Contact your local disease specific nonprofit association.
  • Check out  websites such as offsite link

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