How can I tell the difference between a nutritionist and a fraud?

Nadine Pazder
Nutrition & Dietetics

Always seek out the services of a Registered Dietitian (RD).The RD credential is your assurance that this individual has obtained the minimum of a bachelor's degree in nutrition science from an accredited college or university, completed 900 hours of supervised professional practice or internship and passed a national qualifying examination offered by the Commission on Dietetic Registration. To maintain the credential the RD has strict continuing education requirements. In addition, many states require RDs to be licensed.

In short, the RD is the only nutritionist you will ever need. To find one in your area, just log on to and use "find a RD"in the upper right corner.

This might not be an easy task and you are wise to be skeptical. The term “nutritionist” is unregulated in most states; therefore anyone can call themselves a nutritionist. This is not the case for a medical doctor (MD), registered nurse (RN), or registered dietitian (R.D.). A Registered Dietitian is considered a credible resource for nutrition information.
Alberta Scruggs
Nutrition & Dietetics
Ask both for his or her credentials. A registered dietitian/licensed dietitian or dietetic technician, registered (a person with a 2 or 4-year degree who has passed the DTR exam), will have a diploma, a certificate and registration number from the Commission on Dietetic Registration (CDR), and a state licensure number. A person perpetrating as a nutrition expert may have some type of fraudulent paperwork but won't have all of these documents.

Many trainers try and pass themselves off as nutritionists so you also have to be extremely careful with the advice that is being given.

There is quite a bit of controversy on what a dietician / nutritionist vs a trainer can do but to put it extremely simple, anything clinical or related to a persons health or medical condition should be exclusively treated by a dietician or nutritionist and should be touched with a ten foot poll from a trainer.

It is my personal belief that many trainers with ample backgrounds in nutrition have plenty of solid advice when it comes down to calorie management, food selection and dietary choices when it comes down to fitness.

A trainer should only consult a client and their nutrition if they have ample background to do so and if they consulting is purely based on a reduction of body fat and increase in lean muscle through calorie management, food selection and dietary food choices.  Also supplement recommendations should be done from companies that accredited and trusted.  Anything above and beyond this should be handled by a dietician or nutritionist.

So if a trainer is doing more than basic nutrition on a fitness level then chances are they are a fraud!

Jim White
Nutrition & Dietetics

That's a great question and not always easy to figure out. In most states, anyone can claim to be a "nutritionist" but if you stick to receiving advice from a registered dietitian (RD) you should be ok. To become a RD you have to complete extensive schooling as well as pass a national board exam while also completing continuing education credits. 

Laura Motosko, MSEd, RD
Nutrition & Dietetics

A qualified nutritionist is a Registered Dietitian (RD). A RD receives a bachelor’s degree in nutrition, is required to participate in an approved internship program, and then must pass an exam to become registered with the Commission on Dietetic Registration.

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Important: This content reflects information from various individuals and organizations and may offer alternative or opposing points of view. It should not be used for medical advice, diagnosis or treatment. As always, you should consult with your healthcare provider about your specific health needs.