The health and wellness industry can be a minefield when it comes to dietary advice, with everyone from celebrities to social media influencers, personal trainers, lifestyle columnists and “wellness coaches” offering their recommendations about food and nutrition.
It’s no wonder that so many of us are confused when it comes to our diet.
The sheer amount of misinformation that is offered as “advice” online is why fully trained and accredited dietitians are now more important than ever. But how to choose the right one? We’ve put together a list of tips to help you find the best dietitian for your needs.
1. Identify your specific health and dietary needs
Before you start to search for a dietitian, it’s important to define what your needs are. Are you looking to lose weight? Manage a specific medical condition? Do you have food sensitivities or allergies that need addressing with a FODMAP diet? Are you interested in improving your gut health? Are you looking to address the underlying reasons for emotional or binge eating?
Dietitians can help with a range of issues, but some have areas of specialisation that might be more compatible with your goals. If you live in a metropolitan area like Melbourne you’ll find there are a number of dietitians to choose from, and the best one is the one that understands your specific needs.
2. Make sure they have legitimate credentials
You wouldn’t go to a plumber for help installing your new chandelier, so why would you go to a personal trainer or social media influencer for nutritional advice? In the days where everyone can claim to be “experts”, it’s more important than ever to make sure that the health professionals you consult are actually fully trained and accredited to help you.
In Australia, Accredited Practising Dietitians (APDs) are university qualified, and required to undertake ongoing professional training – this ensures that they are up-to-date with best practice nutritional advice. The Dietitians Association of Australia website contains a search function that allows you to search for accredited professionals, so this is your best way of finding a dietitian.
3. Analyse their motivations for working with you
Unfortunately, elements of the diet and wellness industry are notorious for targeting vulnerable people in order to sell things like protein shakes, supplements, nutrition bars or other products. When choosing the best dietitian it’s good to analyse their business model – if that model involves selling you lots of expensive products, you might want to take pause.
Multi-level marketing is big business these days, and there are lots of people out there promoting dietary products, shakes and supplements which claim to do everything from helping you lose weight, to improving gut health, burning fat and building muscle. A reputable dietitian will focus on whole foods, menu plans, addressing cravings and troubleshooting challenges.
4. Look at their experience and other skills
Reputable dietitians will be open and transparent when it comes to their experience and the type of qualifications they possess. If they have a website or LinkedIn profile, you should be able to get a sense of the extent of their experience from their professional biography and list of tertiary qualifications – this will help you best gauge their skills as a dietitian.
Relevant qualifications to look out for include a Bachelor of Health Science, Bachelor of Science (Nutrition), Grad Cert Nutrition and Master of Dietetics. If you’re still unsure about their qualifications, the best place to check is the Dietitian Association of Australia website, which contains information about the education and accreditation requirements for local dietitians.
5. Know the difference between a dietitian and nutritionist
The words are often used interchangeably, but in Australia there is a difference between dietitians and nutritionists. A nutritionist is a tertiary qualified professional that provides a range of evidence-based services related to nutrition, public and community health, policy and research. There is no compulsory assessing authority for nutritionists.
Dietitians are also qualified to deliver these same services, but also have additional training and expertise in medical conditions. They are qualified to provide medical nutrition therapy through individual dietary counselling and group dietary therapy. As part of their studies they have been supervised and assessed for professional practice in clinical nutrition, medical nutrition and food service management.
The best dietitian is the one that’s right for you
Choosing a dietitian is a deeply personal process, and the best dietitian for you is one who understands your goals and is comfortable to work with. If their coaching skills and counselling style clicks with you, you are already off to a great start. Melbourne – and Australia in general – is spoilt for choice when it comes to qualified dietitians, so we wish you the best of luck on your journey.