I know what I’m supposed to do to eat healthier, but I’m just not getting results. I’ve seen personal “diet coaches” on TV. Would hiring a nutrition coach actually make a difference?
If you’re having a hard time sorting out or applying the findings of nutrition or weight-loss studies to your life, aren’t getting the promised benefits of the latest superfood, or just aren’t sure how to get the most health out of food and still enjoy eating (yes, kale has its limits!), an experienced nutrition coach can help. In fact, no matter what your goals—lower weight, more energy, fewer chaotic meals, clearer thinking, less illness, etc.—if you’re stuck in second gear or sliding into reverse, a good coach can identify why you’re not making progress and help you get around the roadblocks. But first you have to find the right specialist. Not all people who call themselves nutrition, diet or health coaches have the same training and knowledge about nutrition. While you may not find every type of credentialed nutrition coach in your area, look for a registered dietitian (RD) or registered dietitian nutritionist (RDN), pros who must have at least a bachelor’s degree with courses in dietetics and must work in a supervised internship before taking a certification exam from the Commission on Dietetic Registration of the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics. If there are no RDs or RDNs practicing near you, all states and the District of Columbia—except for Arizona, Colorado, Michigan and New Jersey—have requirements for either a licensed dietitian nutritionist (LDN) or certified dietitian nutritionist (CDN), who will have met the specific requirements of the particular state. Be aware that some credentials sound alike but are actually very different: A certified nutrition specialist (CNS) has an extensive level of training—a master’s degree or doctorate, 1,000 hours of supervised experience and the deepest level of knowledge, often in specialty areas such as therapeutic nutrition, helpful for someone with a chronic condition or a patient in the hospital. On the other hand, all that’s required to be a certified nutrition consultant (CNC) is a high school degree and passing grades on less than a dozen open-book tests. Nutritional counseling may be covered by your health insurance company if it deems the service medically necessary and you choose a licensed nutritionist, RD, or nurse with nutrition training (check your policy for specifics). Medicare offers nutrition therapy coverage when ordered by your doctor. But even if you have to dip into your own pocket to hire someone, the advice and training you get may be worth every penny in terms of feeling better and getting healthier. If you have a specific medical problem, a coach who also has condition-specific qualifications may be able to help you even more, said Nicole Patience, RD, LDN, CEDRD, of the Joslin Diabetes Center in Boston. Here are some examples…
- If you have diabetes: A RD who’s also a certified diabetes educator (CDE) can show you ways to better control blood sugar and craft a nutritious diet that includes your favorite foods. Diabetes educators keep up with the latest health guidelines including diabetes drugs and their interactions with food—vital information for people with the condition. They also understand heart health, high blood pressure and many health problems that people with diabetes often face.
- If you have cancer: A dietitian who specializes in oncology nutrition (a board-certified specialist in oncology nutrition or CSO) can help you choose the most nutritious foods during treatment and recovery and help you manage treatment side effects ranging from fatigue to taste changes.
- If you have an eating disorder: Some RDs are also credentialed as certified eating disorders registered dietitians or CEDRDs. A CEDRD can help you rebuild a healthy relationship with food, showing you how to move beyond the extensive rules, habits or rituals around food you may have developed.