What is a Nutritionist?

There are two types of nutritional providers, a registered dietitian (RD) or a nutritional therapy practitioner (NTP). RDs have to have more education and receive both state and national licensure before they start to practice. NTPs usually work as a nutritional consultant without any required licensure in most states. What is usually known and referred to as a nutritionist could be either one of these providers. RDs usually work for large organizations like hospitals and create meal plans for masses or communities. NTPs usually work one on one with individuals to create a personalized eating plan for their clients to help them achieve health goals and learn healthier eating habits.

Origins in History
The French chemist Lavoisier studied nutrition in the 18th century. Much to his surprise, he discovered a relationship between metabolism and the process of breathing. Later in the 20th century, scientists discovered that certain diseases, such as scurvy and rickets, were associated with certain diets. It wasn’t until the 1940s in the U.S. that the National Research Council set “Recommended Dietary Allowances,” which was the first step towards where we are today with our knowledge of nutrition and its impact on health.

What is care like?

Health Benefits
When most people think of nutritionists, they think of needing someone to help them lose weight. Obesity is an increasing problem in America. Working with a nutritionist regularly and following their weight-loss plan is an effective way to shed the extra pounds. Still, there are other reasons to see a nutritionist too. Nutritionists can help you cope with the overwhelming choices at the grocery store by providing advice on the best foods to buy, and guide you to menus most suitable for your constitution. They can even help you learn to cook!

Nutritionists are particularly valuable to help manage chronic diseases such as:

  • high blood pressure
  • high cholesterol
  • diabetes
  • cancer
  • food allergies

Actions & Experiences During a Session
During your first session your nutritionist will want to know, in detail, about your eating and exercising habits, favorite foods and health history. The nutritionist will develop a plan for you and help you to set goals. Your follow-up visits will consist of reassessing those goals and monitoring your progress. A nutritionist may ask you to keep a food journal or do other activities to help you stay mindful of your diet. He or she may also prescribe additives or supplements such as vitamins to improve your diet and digestion.

Duration of Care
Seeing a nutritionist and developing goals and meal plans can take a few appointments. Ultimately, the duration of care is up to you and how comfortable you feel taking on a new diet.

Resources & References

Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics

University of Maryland: Nutrition

eHow: About Nutritionists

What next?

Search Find Wellness to find a registered nutritionist in your area. Registered dietitians and registered nutritionists have completed training from the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics.