5 Tips to ensure you hire the best nutritionist
When you are selecting a nutrition coach, you deserve to find someone who is the right fit for you and your needs. With the many choices available online and in your local area, it can be difficult to choose. As an experienced nutrition coach since year 2000, I’ve put together this list of five key things to consider in finding the best nutrition coach for you.
1. Is the nutrition coach qualified?
This might be stating the obvious, but you want to make sure that the person you hire truly is a nutrition expert. You will see many titles and credentials, and it’s important to understand the differences.
All dietitians are nutritionists, but not all nutritionists are dietitians. What I mean by this is that a Registered Dietitian (RD) in Canada or, in the U.S., a Registered Dietitian Nutritionist (RDN), has had the most training. Dietitians have completed a full, four-year degree program, as well as a master’s program or accredited internship. They have extensive education in the science of nutrition and are regulated health professionals accountable to regulatory bodies for the highest standards of ethics, education and public safety.
In contrast, the title “nutritionist” can be used by almost anyone. It is not a legally protected title in many provinces in Canada. Be sure to look for the RD or RDN behind someones name to be sure you are working with a Registered Dietitian.
There has been backlash around people trained in science, with some people thinking that alternative medicine and food is the way to go. Please understand that dietitians believe that the most natural foods and ways of eating are the healthiest choices, we just also happen to have training in nutritional science behind us. As scientists, we are trained to be inquisitive and skeptical, to keep testing and finding the most effective and worthwhile ways to manage things.
2. Is the nutrition coach experienced?
We all know that textbook-smarts are one thing, but if you are paying for a private nutrition service, you deserve to be working with a professional who has been out there working and testing their methods. You want a dietitian who will have a lot of resources, tools and strategies to share with you.
In our practice, we find that many of our clients already know what foods are healthy. What gets people stuck is the behavioral side of things – the relationships that we have with food and our bodies. One of the things I’m really proud of with our team is that we have the experience to help people through that harder stuff. That is always what makes the difference in getting our clients results.
We’ve all met people who are super smart, but they might not make an excellent coach. You need someone who is seasoned in navigating clients through the tough spots.
WATCH Andrea’s video on this topic:
3. Is the nutrition coach recommended?
One way to know you are hiring a skilled dietitian is to find someone who has been endorsed by a peer or a group of health professionals you trust.
For example, we see a lot of referrals from clinical psychologists because of the work we do with eating disorders and with helping people feel more comfortable with their eating relationship and their body size. We also get referrals from family physicians for people struggling with meal plans, digestive health or cardiovascular health issues.
If your physician or psychologist is referring you to a particular dietitian, that means they have had some experience with that professional, and it’s an extra layer of assurance that that nutrition coach will be the right fit for you.
Another option is to look at what other people are saying about the dietitian through recommendations or testimonials. Ask for and read those reviews.
4. Is the nutrition coach willing to customize to meet your needs?
We all know that the one-size-fits-all approach doesn’t work for many things in life, and that is certainly true of our diets. There’s not just one way to eat. Some nutrition coaches specialize in plant-based diets, or food allergies, or digestive issues, and the list goes on. Look for a dietitian who specializes in what you are trying to accomplish for your health.
A good dietitian won’t take a cookie-cutter approach to your eating plan. You want a dietitian who will customize and work with you, not at you. One of the dietitians on our team describes it as having your dietitian as your co-pilot. You’re working side-by-side to get to your goal, rather than having someone lead you with no say in the type of plan you’re coming up with. We know that’s not going to work.
There are thousands of different ways we can help you to eat well. You want to hire someone who is really open to customizing information based on your cooking skill, your family dynamic and whether you are eating at home, on-the-go, or while traveling for work. All of these factors should influence your overall nutrition plan.
One other thing we find with customization is that some of our clients really love to go deep into the science of their nutrition plans, but we also have clients who want the easiest, fastest process without going into the nuts and bolts behind the scenes. Find a dietitian who will customize the level of information they are giving you to meet your needs.
5. What is the nutrition coach’s process for follow-up?
Back when I established our practice in the year 2000, dietitians were similar to psychologists. They were only offering one-off sessions of an hour or half an hour. There are very few people who can really have their eating habits shifted and get results in one short session.
It takes time to get to know who you are, what your family dynamic is like, what your knowledge level is, and what your goals are before designing a customized eating plan. We know that people need a bit of science knowledge to understand the why of the plan we come up with. We need to know their food personality – types of foods that they like and their overall lifestyle. Then we dive into the practical front – how do we make this work for you as far as meal planning, grocery shopping and eating on-the go?
We’re also going to make sure that we’re building enough flexibility in your nutrition plan to ensure that you can do this for life. We need to be sure that you can choose food for taste and enjoyment, rather than just nutritional value. We want you to understand hunger and fullness, and develop a mindful relationship with your food.
We will also talk through the harder-to-navigate “gray” areas. Is sugar OK? Where do beer and wine come in?
And then, we need some time to troubleshoot, because I’ve never met anyone who takes 100 percent of what we’re talking about in those early sessions and implements it perfectly. We’re all human beings with real challenges, real stresses, and real emotions that get in the way.
The follow-up piece is absolutely important because this level of change is hard. When deciding to hire a nutrition coach, ask how they will get you from A to Z. Are you left floundering on your own, or will you have support along the way?
If you can answer these five questions, I’m confident you’ll find a good fit and a great coach for meeting your nutrition and health goals!
For more information on our Calgary nutritionist services (or if you prefer phone or video based appointments) visit https://www.healthstandnutrition.com/personal-nutrition/ or contact our office so we can book a free consultation to discuss your goals and determine which dietitian on our team is the right fit for your needs. Also, Andrea’s course The Pursuit of Healthiness is opening to registration soon, sign up for the waitlist here:
You may also want to check out our complimentary Personal Nutrition Scorecard so you can find out how your eating habits stack up.