It can be confusing to determine who may be best to help you make any changes with your nutrition. Hopefully this will help you make a better informed decision about who is right for you ….
Working with a nutritionist
Anyone can call themselves a nutritionist. A registered nutritionist has received specific training and met standards for the practise of scientific evidence-based nutrition. In the UK, the Association for Nutrition (AfN) is the only register of qualified nutritionists recognised by Public Health England and the NHS. Nutritionists registered with the AfN are registered nutritionist (RNutrs) and can be found in the directory be searching here. Courses that have been accredited by the AfN have met strict standards of professional education in nutrition and require the minimum of a degree.
The AfN provides benchmarks of standards of nutrition competence registrants keep up to date with through continual professional development (CPD). Registered nutritionists provide expertise in food/diet/nutrition, educate their client to create healthy eating habits and provide advice to achieve health and performance goals. They are trained to make recommendations based on robust scientific evidence.
Registered nutritionists can work in the NHS, privately, as well in various other areas – including food research, sports/exercise industry and consultancy. For private one-to-one clients, nutritionists usually provide advice through the format of a consultation, follow up consultations and written plans/recommendations. Nutritionists may specialise in certain areas – for instance gut health, developing healthy eating habits, or sustainably losing body fat.
Working with a nutritional therapist
Anyone can call themselves a nutritional therapist, the role is not protected by law. Training options to become a nutritional therapist vary in time and length, are usually vocational and one popular training is with the Institute of Optimum Nutrition. The level of training is highly variable, so check academic qualifications and one to one clinical experience (advisable for when you choose to work with anyone!). There are different bodies that nutritional therapists can be associated with. Recommendations from nutritional therapists may be based on concepts around detoxification, avoidance of ‘toxins’ or ‘allergens’, high dose vitamins and food avoidance.
Working with a dietician
Dieticians are the only nutritional professional to be regulated by law and have a legally protected title regulated by the Health and Care Professions Council (HCPC). To become a dietician requires either a BSc in Dietetics or a science degree followed up by postgraduate study in Dietetics. Like registered nutritionists, dieticians undertake regular CPD. Dieticians work in the NHS and private settings. They tend to work with those who have specific medical conditions to treat them and can prescribe some medication.
Working with a health coach
A health coach supports their client to reach health goals, assisting them to be accountable, and helping them uncover blocks that are preventing change. A health coach may focus on their client developing awareness and their mindset in order to achieve their goals. They may not provide specific advice on nutrition, but more general lifestyle guidance. Again, the title health coach is not regulated, so many people can use this title without having qualifications. There are various courses you can undertake to become a health coach and in the UK, these tend to be accredited by the UK Health Coach Association. It may be pertinent to assess the coach’s credentials to determine whether they have the credentials in the relevant areas that you wish to gain advice in.
What does nutrition coaching look like?
Nutrition coaching means that you get a registered nutritionist and your own coach! There is of course overlap between the roles of a successful nutritionist and health coach, both are client centred, collaborative in their approach, and empower the client to achieve results. A good nutritionist will want to understand and consider your overall lifestyle, to optimise your health and/or performance. Nutrition coaching combines expertise in nutrition with planned and regular 1:1 support and accountability to reach goals.
Key ways nutrition coaching can be helpful – accountability to adhere to plan, progression through incremental adjustments, support to uncover blocks and overcome barriers, an emphasis on mindset/attitude and support to make changes in real time and develop sustainable habits. Learning how to make your nutrition work best for you whilst creating optimal habits at the same time can be pretty empowering! You gain the understanding and knowledge about what nutrition works for your own unique situation, whilst gaining the tools to learn how to apply it to your life everyday life.
You can click here to find out more about my nutrition coaching package or book in for your free 15 min comp call here if you want to explore whether nutrition coaching is for you. By the way, nutrition coaching isn’t for everyone – you may well be someone who works better with having an initial consultation and then booking in for a review session when suits you. It totally depends upon who you are, your needs and goals.