When it comes to healthy eating and a nutritious diet, the best people to turn to for advice are the professionals – nutritionists. However, if the nutritionist is not qualified in his or her job, the advice they give can turn out to be misleading and potentially harmful.
The fake nutritionist problem
If you search online for nutritionists, you’ll find thousands of nutritionists who claim to be experts in their field. Behind a computer, dishing out nutrition advice is easy. As you may be aware from social media, everyone has an opinion and it’s easy to give advice – even without qualifications or expertise in the field.
It’s difficult to regulate online platforms, making it easy for fake nutritionists to masquerade as experts. This leaves thousands of people looking for a healthy diet plan at risk of trusting food enthusiasts rather than qualified nutritionists.
Historically, people claiming to be ‘nutritionists’ were largely the select few who had completed their undergraduate or master’s degrees in nutrition. Nowadays, you will find many people who did short courses and diplomas claiming to be qualified nutritionists. This has affected the high standards and quality of the whole industry. A short course or diploma cannot match the rigor of a 4-year degree course.
As always, the person most likely to suffer is the consumer looking for nutrition advice. If you’re wondering how to spot a fake or pseudo nutritionist, here are a few things you need to know.
Not every “nutritionist” is one
Anyone can adopt the title of a nutritionist, whether they have done a 2-week course or a 5-year course in nutrition science. Following blindly the advice of a person who claims to be a nutritionist without verifying their credentials can be a costly mistake. The job title alone is not sufficient enough to trust that they are qualified to give you important nutritional advice. Only choose nutritionists who have acquired license from accredited institutions.
Does your nutritionist have a license?
The world of nutrition is highly unregulated, which leaves anyone with or without the know-how in the field to practice as a nutritionist.
However, not every person who is giving you advice on what should be on your plate has a nutritional license. A good way to separate a pseudo nutritionist from a qualified one is to check if they have a nutritional license to practice as professionals.
Only accept advice from a nutritionist once you have identified they have obtained a license from a fully accredited institution. Unlike nutritionists who have spent 4 or 5 years studying nutrition at a university, fake nutritionists have only completed a short online course. The latter group of self-branded nutritionists is not regulated, which makes their nutritional advice mostly unscientific, unfounded and potentially harmful to patients.
Check for credentials
To distinguish a fake or pseudo nutritionist from a qualified nutritionist or dietician, check for education credentials. Having thousands of followers on social media or a fancy looking office with a framed qualification hanging on the wall doesn’t make them qualified to carry out their job. Unless you have checked their credentials, you never know whether the qualification hanging on the wall took them 2 weeks to complete or 5 years.
For you to be sure you are getting the right nutritional advice from a qualified nutritionist, you need to check that their qualification hanging on the wall is an undergraduate or master’s degree in nutritional science. Professional nutrition degrees are only available by attending a campus or through combined online and on-campus study. Also verify that they have at least 3 years of working experience after completing their degree.
Identify “health coaches”
It’s easy to find health coaches / advisors giving people nutritional advice, making it difficult for most people to differentiate them from qualified nutritionists. Health promotion and sales are some of the careers available for unqualified nutritionists. The problem is that, if you rely on the advice you get from a health coach to make dietary changes, you could end up doing the wrong thing.
Unlike qualified nutritionists, health coaches lack the in-depth knowledge in nutrition science. Knowing how to differentiate between a nutritionist and health coach based on their education and experience can help you know who to turn to for nutritional advice.