Nutritionist Doctor: Helping You Thrive

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Have you been told you need to eat healthier but you don’t know where to start?

After all, there are so many recommendations out there, how do you know what’s right for you.

Enter the nutritionist doctor.

Nutritionist doctors are highly trained health professionals who help guide clients toward optimal health.

Through personalized recommendations, they play a crucial role in promoting well-being.

Learn what a nutritionist doctor is and how these individualized specialists could help you feel better.  

What is a Nutritionist?

A nutritionist is a broad title for a professional who counsels people on nutrition and the health effects of foods.

Nutritionists help people understand how adjusting their favorite foods and being active can make them feel better.

Dietitian vs Nutritionist: Are They the Same?

Whether Dietitians and nutritionists are the same, well, it depends.

That is, the difference between dietitian and nutritionist credentials involves several points.

Firstly, credentialing for the privilege of calling oneself a nutritionist varies considerably in the United States.

In some states, zero to no training or credentials are required to practice as a nutritionist.

Whereas in other states, licensing may require a graduate nutrition degree and additional licensing.

Secondly, the way to get licensed differs.

Typically, there are two routes to becoming a certified clinical nutritionist.

One is a Registered Dietitian Nutritionist (RDN) and one is a certified nutrition specialist (CNS).

Registered Dietitian Nutritionists

Registered Dietitians (RDs) are credentialed food and nutrition experts who use evidence based nutrition guidance.

To become an RD, candidates need a:

  • Graduate degree in nutrition and dietetics
  • Supervised 900-1200-hour internship
  • Passing a national board exam by a nutrition certification board

Then, they can choose to call themselves an RD (Registered Dietitian) or RDN (Registered Dietitian Nutritionist) (figure 1).

Registered Dietitian badge in blue and silver.
Figure 1. RDN credential.

Or simply, a nutritionist.

To maintain the credential, RDNs must submit continuing education credits every five years.

In addition, many states require them to carry and maintain additional state licenses to practice.

And lastly, RDNs can become board certified specialists in areas such as oncology nutrition, or pediatrics (figure 2).

These credentials are only available to Registered Dietitian Nutritionists.

And, to become a specialist, practical experience hours and a board exam are required.

Certified Specialist in Oncology Nutrition badge.
Figure 2. Oncology dietitian certification (CSO) specialist credential.

RDN with this credential is usually called a cancer nutritionist, oncology nutritionist, or oncology dietitian.

And, they’re essential in patient care, especially during cancer treatment.

Certified Nutrition Specialists

The other route to becoming a credentialed nutritionist is through the Certified Nutrition Specialist (CNS) route.

This clinical nutrition certification is open to healthcare professionals with an interest in nutrition.

Similarly to the RDN, it requires:

  • Graduate nutrition science coursework
  • 1,000 supervised practice hours
  • Passing an exam by the American Nutrition Association

This credential lacks the food service component that is included for RDNs.

However, they can get state licenses to practice nutrition. 

Unless otherwise noted, a nutritionist in this article refers to a Registered Dietitian Nutritionist (RDN).

What Does a Nutritionist Do?

Licensed nutritionists are specially educated to apply food and nutrition knowledge to impact human health. 

They’re experts at assessing what the body needs and developing a personalized care plan. 

Overall, nutritionists play a crucial role in helping individuals achieve optimal health through healthy eating habits and lifestyle choices.

Furthermore, they assess the entire picture of a person’s overall health.

And, use evidence based medical nutrition therapy to diagnose, prevent, and treat medical conditions.

Furthermore, RDNs working in for instance critical care or radiation oncology are very much part of the care team.  

As such, they may manage blood pressure, heart disease, diabetes, or pediatric cancer nutritionally.

Thus, if you have blood sugar concerns, seeing an RDN can help you manage that better.

Nutritionists also perform nutrition counseling for weight management, eating disorders, and digestive issues.  

And, they’re very good at pointing people in the right direction for more resources.

RDNs typically care for the whole spectrum of life, from pregnancies to neonates, children, and adults, to end-of-life.

RDNs can work in a hospital, clinic, university, corporate setting, government, or private practice.

In addition, some dietitians work in research and conduct clinical trials, or in public health, education, or advocacy.

Lastly, some nutritionists specialize in functional nutrition, functional medicine, or integrative nutrition.

This type focuses on assessing root causes, applying holistic principles, and using natural therapies.

All and all, their expertise can make a significant impact, improve overall wellness, and prevent disease.

A Typical Day in the Life of a Cancer Nutritionist

A typical day in the life of a cancer nutritionist will vary depending on the work environment and the type of cancer patient served.

Although, in reality, most cancer centers don’t employ oncology dietitians.

That is, per guidelines, they only need to have cancer nutrition available by consultation.

However, when a nutritionist is part of the cancer care team, patients feel better and have fewer side effects and hospitalizations.

Furthermore, cancer nutritionists see cancer patients with many different cancer types, including breast cancer.

They are also essential in helping patients through cancer treatments and providing support for cancer survivors. 

In addition, they dispel myths such as those about dietary supplements and the sugar feed cancer controversy.

They teach nutrition education and cancer prevention classes and manage other conditions such as cardiovascular disease.

Lastly, they may write articles about how to bring white cell count up quickly.

To view other professional examples of new timely cancer-related topics often asked at the cancer center, visit Dietitian Doc.

Dietitian vs Doctor: Are Nutritionists Doctors?

No, dietitians or nutritionists aren’t automatically doctors.

However, they can become a dietitian doctor if they complete a nutritionist doctor degree. 

Likewise, if a nutritionist is a doctor, they have completed a doctorate.

But because it takes a long time, only a few dietitians and nutritionists become nutritionist doctors.  

In summary, the nutritionist doctor meaning, the addition of a doctorate to the nutritionist credential.

How to Become a Nutritionist Doctor

If you’re thinking about becoming a nutritionist doctor, you need to have plenty of time at your disposal.

One path to becoming a nutritionist doctor is to complete the Doctor of Clinical Nutrition (DCN) program.

This advanced nutrition program is only available to RDNs (already with a grad degree) and requires:

  • 50 more graduate credits
  • An advanced-practice clinical residency
  • Publication of practice-based research

Most schools offer some form of financial aid to help cover the cost.

Then, similar to medical students finishing medical school, these nutritionists are awarded a doctor’s title.

Thus, aside from being nutrition experts, nutrition doctors are especially skilled at critical thinking and scientific inquiry.

Because of that, they often hold advanced positions.

However, doctors with medical education or PhDs in a health-related field can also become nutritionists.

Their route involves completing the CNS education requirements outlined above.

Once completed, MDs can then practice physician nutrition in primary care as physician nutritionists. 

The benefit of seeing a physician nutritionist is that they can diagnose, treat, and prescribe for medical problems as well.

However, this article refers to a nutrition doctor as an RDN Doctor of Clinical Nutrition unless otherwise noted.

What Are the Benefits of Seeing a Nutritionist Doctor?

Overall, seeing a nutritionist doctor can be incredibly helpful for anyone looking to take control of their health.

Whether you’re looking for weight loss, managing a disease, or improving your health, a nutritionist doctor can guide you.

Benefits of seeing a nutritionist doctor include:

  • Understanding conflicting nutrition advice and why a trendy fad diet may not bring about lasting changes
  • Personalized nutrition practitioner care based on your history, lifestyle, needs, goals, likes, and dislikes
  • Ongoing support and education throughout your health journey towards better health
  • Accountability to keep you on track with your dietary goals for long-term success
  • Regular follow-ups to make adjustments as needed

To find a nutritionist doctor, it’s vital to find a knowledgeable, experienced, and trustworthy practitioner.

Furthermore, make sure to look for someone who is certified and licensed.

First, search the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics find-a-nutrition-expert database.

These practitioners are all credentialed.

Then, try a simple Google search of a nutritionist doctor near me or doctor nutritionist near me.

If that doesn’t work, try asking your health care provider for advice.

Pro Tip!

It can be helpful to reach out before your first visit to find out what type of clients your nutritionist works with.

You can also ask about their experience with your particular concerns, and what to expect at your first visit.

All and all, discussing your goals and concerns can ensure it’s a good fit.

25 Questions to Ask a Nutritionist

It’s a good idea to think about why you are seeing a nutritionist and what questions you have about your health.

Writing them down can help make sure you don’t forget to mention your concerns.

Then, simply browse this list to get started:

  1. How much should I weigh, ideally? Do I need to lose/gain weight?
  2. What about protein, carbs, and fat, how much do I need?
  3. Any tips for eating more fruits and veggies? Fiber?
  4. How can I control my cravings?
  5. What can I do to keep my weight off if I reach my goal?
  6. Should I be counting calories?
  7. Do I have to eat breakfast, lunch, and dinner?
  8. What are some low-calorie/high-calorie snack ideas?
  9. I don’t think I drink enough water, how much should I be drinking?
  10. Should I take any supplements?
  11. Do any foods interact with my medications?
  12. I don’t cook and I like eating out, how can I meet my goals?
  13. Fish isn’t my forte, how can I eat a Mediterranean diet?
  14. How can I best keep track of what I’m eating?
  15. Are there good and bad foods or fats?
  16. What foods are best to buy at the grocery store?
  17. How can I lower my cholesterol? Keep my blood sugars controlled?
  18. Can I use artificial sweeteners?
  19. Could I be missing certain nutrients?
  20. Should I try intermittent fasting?
  21. Is alcohol bad for my breast cancer?
  22. What are the best foods to prevent breast cancer?
  23. How do I make a meal plan with foods I like?
  24. What can I eat to boost my energy? Metabolism? Appetite?
  25. Do you have some smoothie recipes that can help me gain weight?

How Much Does Seeing a Nutritionist Doctor Cost?

So, you’ve been thinking about seeing a nutritionist doctor but you’re not quite sure if it’s worth it.

Investing in your health can save you money by preventing more severe medical conditions down the road.

But, how much does it cost anyway?

Well, let’s break it down.

An initial nutritionist consultation can range from $100-200.

And a nutritionist doctor might charge even more.

Typically, location, education, experience, and differences in services account for the variation.

Some providers may offer package deals while some insurances may cover part of the cost and others don’t.

Pro Tip:

Check with your insurer to see what’s covered before going to your appointment.

Nutritionist Doctor Salary

Finally, what does a nutritionist make?

Well, like anything, it depends on the location, experience, and educational level.

But on average, a dietitian vs nutritionist salary hovers around $60-80,000/year. 

However, a dietitian consultant in private practice could bring home more.

Likewise, running online registered dietitian services or nutrition blogging can also be more lucrative.

Lastly, nutritionist doctors coaching or in private practices can earn even more.

Ultimately though, satisfaction from helping people is the best pay.

Final Thoughts

A nutritionist is a broad title for a professional who counsels people on nutrition and the health effects of foods.

Furthermore, nutritionists use evidence-based medical nutrition therapy to assess people’s overall health.

And, they diagnose, prevent, and treat medical conditions impacted by nutrition.

In the US, credentialing for nutritionists varies considerably.

Registered Dietitian Nutritionists (RDNs) are credentialed food and nutrition experts who can become nutritionist doctors.  

Overall, seeing a nutritionist doctor can be incredibly helpful for anyone looking to take control of their health.

Whether you’re looking for weight loss, managing a disease, or improving your health, a nutritionist doctor can guide you.

The main content and any food nutrition reference in this article are for educational purposes only and do not constitute medical advice. All rights reserved.

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