Many ask questions about the difference between nutritionists and dietitians and whether or not nutritionists are legit. Certified nutritionists hold a master’s degree in nutrition. In the United States, CNSs have legal standing to treat health conditions in most states. For example, they can see clients who have thyroid issues, IBS, or IBD.
Over a dozen states also regulate the title “Licensed Nutritionist” or the more generic “nutritionist.” CNSs or nutritionists with licensure may help treat any condition that an RD would.
In the state of Florida, where I reside, the term “nutritionist” is a protected title, which means that to practice medical nutrition therapy, an individual needs to be licensed. One thousand hours of supervised work are necessary to apply for a license, on top of a master’s degree and a rigorous board exam.
The problem is that some people call themselves nutritionists without the training and qualifications to become one. I recently heard of someone charged a huge amount of money by a nutritionist whose training was informal. I don’t know in which state that happened, but that is illegal in Florida.
The field of nutrition is vast. The approaches to nutrition care are equally vast. Asking a professional their qualifications is super important to ensure you receive care from someone qualified and use evidence to support their nutrition care.
The American Nutrition Association or ANA supports Certified Nutrition Specialists. You can find more information on their website. The standards set by this organization are robust. The aim is to certify well-rounded individuals who practice at the highest ethical and professional standards.
So, if you ask me if nutritionists are legit, yes, but it depends on their credentials. Just because someone reads about nutrition does not mean they are qualified to have clients.
Personalized nutrition is what certified nutritionists do best. And yes, certified nutritionist specialists have the right tools to assess, educate and monitor clients.