Consumers should know there's a big difference between the training of a "certified nutrition specialist" and a "certified nutrition consultant." Here's a look at the meaning behind the credentials.
The following types of practitioners can be licensed in Illinois as dietitian nutritionists:
Registered dietitian: RDs have a minimum of a bachelor's degree and are trained in all aspects of food and nutrition including medical nutrition therapy. Dietitians spend 1,200 hours in a dietetic internship through an accredited program. About half of RDs work in hospitals, clinics, doctors' offices and extended-care facilities or nursing homes. Credentialed by the Commission on Dietetic Registration of the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics.
Certified nutrition specialist: Must have a master's degree or a doctorate in nutrition or a doctorate in clinical health care from a regionally accredited university as well as 1,000 hours of supervised experience. Must pass a four-hour board exam on medical nutrition therapy. Often work in clinics, private practice or community settings. Credentialed by the Certification Board for Nutrition Specialists.
Certified clinical nutritionist: Requires a bachelor's degree, a 900-hour internship and 56 hours of online, post-graduate study in clinical nutrition or a master's degree in human nutrition from select universities. They approach diet on an individual basis rather than following standard recommendations and often work in clinics and private practice. Credentialed by the Clinical Nutrition Certification Board.
Diplomat of the American Clinical Board of Nutrition: All professionals at the doctorate level who qualify can sit for the two-part exam. Diplomats are most commonly chiropractors and often work in clinics and private practice. Certified by the American Clinical Board of Nutrition.
These providers cannot be licensed in Illinois as dietitian nutritionists but can dispense general nutrition advice:
Holistic nutritionist Must have a degree from an approved holistic nutrition program and 500 hours of professional experience in the field. Practitioners don't necessarily follow the government food pyramid guidelines or those promoted by health associations. They do not practice medical nutrition therapy or diagnose disease. Certified by the Holistic Nutrition Credentialing Board, a division of the National Association of Nutrition Professionals.
Certified health coach: The Institute for Integrative Nutrition, one of the larger schools to certify health coaches, offers a yearlong online course that covers 100 dietary theories, ranging from the paleo diet to raw foods. Health coaches "guide and mentor" clients toward achieving personal wellness goals, according to the website.
Certified nutritionist: Credential involves completing a six-course distance-learning program and passing a proctored exam. Offered through American Health Science University.
Certified nutrition consultant: Must have a high school diploma or GED and complete a series of 11 open-book tests, which candidates have a maximum of five years to finish. Credentialed by the American Association of Nutrition Consultants, a group that opposes licensure and registration.