Who can you trust for nutritional advice?

It seems everyone these days has something to say about nutrition. Eat this, don’t eat that, eat this with that in order to blah, blah, blah…..

With such a saturation of ‘advice’ about what to eat it can be difficult to find voices of wisdom amidst SO MUCH NOISE!

Sometimes he or she who speaks the loudest about nutrition is the one we’d be best not to listen to at all.

So… if I had an issue with my heart, I would want to see a Cardiologist right? And if I couldn’t walk because of pain in my foot I might see a Physiotherapist or a Podiatrist. So then if I’m looking for personally tailored recommendations about my nutritional needs the person I would choose to see would be an Accredited Practicing Dietitian – read on to find out a bit more about what that professional title means.

There are certain professional titles which are government regulated in Australia, that is, a person can only use that title if they meet the training and ongoing professional requirements of the peak body that governs that profession. ‘Psychologist’ for example, is a title that can only lawfully be used by someone who meets the standards of their professional organisation.

The only professionally regulated title in Australia for those who who are qualified in nutrition is that of Accredited Practicing Dietitian (usually shortened to ‘Dietitian’ for convenience).

What are a Dietitians qualifications?

A Dietitian is a health professional who is tertiary qualified in the science of food and nutrition. Dietitians have a minimum of 4 years university training, which includes studies of the physiological, biochemical and psychological factors relating to human nutrition, health and disease. This enables Dietitians to understand the science of nutrition and to undertake comprehensive individualised assessments, from which they can then advise individuals about their own personal nutritional needs.

Dietitians also have an understanding of the determinants of human behavior – because changing our eating patterns is not just about knowing what to eat, it’s also about exploring aspects of behaviour change required in order to do things differently.

How are Dietitians accredited?

After completing specialised university studies Dietitians can then apply to be accredited with the Dietitians Association of Australia (DAA). Once accredited through the DAA, a Dietitian can then call themselves an Accredited Practising Dietitian (APD). APD’s are the only nationally regulated nutrition professionals in Australia, which qualifies them to provide dietetic therapy to individuals and groups. Dietitians are held accountable for their conduct and the care they provide (what they say and do with their clients) by the DAA. This accreditation also means clients of an APD may be entitled to claim rebates through Medicare or with their Private Health Insurance funds.

As part of their accreditation, Dietitians undertake ongoing training and education to ensure they are aware of up-to-date information in nutritional and behavioural science.

What’s the difference between the title of Dietitian and that of Nutritionist?

In Australia, all Dietitians are considered Nutritionists – that is, they offer nutritional recommendations as an intrinsic part of their role. It is however really important to note that not all Nutritionists are Dietitians. The term ‘Nutritionist’ is not professionally regulated and does not indicate any particular level of training or standards of practice. It’s a term anyone can use and is a very broad title which can unfortunately bring a lot of confusion to those seeking nutritional advice.

Some of this confusion comes from the language used in different countries. In some countries the term Nutritionist is the regulated one, so some people assume that is the same in Australia. For clarification in Australia though, look for the title Accredited Practicing Dietitian (APD) to ensure the person you’re trusting for nutritional recommendations has a high level of professional training and operates under standards set by their professional body.

And what about Fitness Professionals?

Fitness professionals (such as exercise instructors and personal trainers) are qualified to provide group and/or individual training in physical activity. As part of their training fitness professionals explore general healthy eating principles in line with the Australian Dietary Guidelines.

Fitness professional are not however trained nor qualified to provide individually tailored nutritional recommendations – doing so is outside the professional scope of practice of a fitness professional.

A fitness professional may assist and complement the recommendations of an APD, but they are not qualified to work in place of a Dietitian. At Mind Body Well we often recommend some of the great Personal Trainers who we know support the work of our APD’s and Psychologists, and who can be a fantastic part of a multi-disciplinary team.

If you would like to seek therapy with Julia Hoadley, APD’s at Mind Body Well, please send us your details via our New Client Appointment Request form.