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Nutritionists, Dietitians and Wellness Coaches- What’s the difference?

Nutrition is such a hot topic and will continue to be as the world battles the ongoing increase in diet-related illnesses. In this modern world we have so much information at our fingertips but unfortunately, there is much careless dissemination of so-called “nutrition” advice flying around. Therefore, when making changes to your diet, it is more important than ever to know you are obtaining credible advice or that you are choosing a practitioner that is right for your needs.

Here we discuss nutritionists, dietitians and wellness (health or nutrition) coaches, in terms of their qualifications, credibility, and roles they play in our health or the communities at large.

Nutritionists

Qualifications

A nutritionist will (generally) hold a tertiary qualification in nutritional science, which encompasses topics such as human nutrition, anatomy and physiology, biochemistry, food science and public health. The role of a qualified nutritionist is to assist people in achieving optimal health through evidence-based education around food and nutrition.

Roles in wellness and nutrition

Nutritionists’ expertise allows them to work in a range of settings both private and public. Nutritionists are often involved with the bigger picture of maintaining healthy eating, and the establishment and maintenance of policy, interventions and guidelines within which to guide population groups in the prevention of disease. Nutritionists can also work with individuals, smaller groups and communities.

Accreditation

The Nutrition Society of Australia (NSA) has established a voluntary Register of Nutritionists to recognise and encourage high standards of professional training in nutrition. Under the NSA registration, a nutritionist is granted Associate Nutritionist (ANut), Registered Nutritionist (RNut), or Registered Public Health Nutritionist (RPHNut) status.

Dietitians

Qualifications

Dietitians also hold a tertiary qualification in nutritional science, and in fact, all dietitians are nutritionists. Additional to this, they have undertaken study in dietetics that includes supervised and assessed professional practice in public health nutrition, medical nutrition therapy and food service management. The role of a dietitian is the same as a nutritionist, to assist people in achieving optimal health through education around food and nutrition.

Roles in wellness and nutrition

Like nutritionists, dietitians can work in various settings, however, dietitians are also qualified to work within a clinical environment. They work with those with diagnosed diseases and medical conditions, to maintain nourishment in the presence of health imbalance – hence they work within the clinical setting of private practice, hospitals and have the ability to work under Medicare, predominantly working on a one to one basis. Their role can spread into community health and food services. Like nutritionists, dietitians can also work with healthy individuals in maintaining a balanced diet and reducing the risk of developing preventable conditions (ie obesity, diabetes etc).

Accreditation

To become an Accredited Practising Dietitian (APD), a dietitian must have graduated from an accredited Australian university dietetic course. Accreditation is granted by the Dietetics Association of Australia (DAA), the peak body for dietetic professionals. The DAA as a body falls under the Allied Health Practitioners Regulation Agency (AHPRA). All dietitians must be registered with the DAA in order to be able to maintain their Medicare status.

Wellness, Health or Nutrition Coaches

Qualifications

Coaches are quite different from the former two. There are many courses to choose from (reflective of the boom in coaching) and a lot of variation between the courses, in terms of areas of study and length, with some courses being as short as 6 months. Coaches tend to focus on a holistic approach to wellness, with less prescribing and more guiding. Fitness, nutrition, stress management, weight, and other health-related issues are areas that a coach will learn about, and work with their client on.

Roles in wellness and nutrition

The coach becomes more of a mentor, working to empower their clients so they can make a positive change in their life and achieve wellness. Coaches come from various backgrounds, including allied health professionals, business owners and corporate workers who do it for professional development or add to their current offerings. Coaching and mentoring, blogging, influencing and professional speaking are examples of possible career pathways for coaches.

Accreditation

Upon completion of a course, most offer a certificate in (health and/or wellness) coaching. Coaches can apply for accreditation through the International Institute for Complementary Therapists (IICT). Depending on the course, individual subjects can count towards accreditation for continuing education for professional development.

Just remember…

As you work towards your own health and wellness goals, ensuring you obtain credible information and advice is vital. Many people seek quick or simple fixes (think diets and detoxes) to a problem that actually often requires persistence, time, changes to our environment and mindset. And if you are struggling to get to your happy healthy place, there are qualified professionals out there with the expertise that can help you get there!

Click here to meet That Sugar Movement’s nutrition team

 

By Jennifer Peters, ANutr
Public Health Nutritionist

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