24 March 2020

When considering nutrition advice, trust the qualifications not the number of followers

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Ainslie Ballinger / anslie@nwkcom.co.nz

In a world of confusing, contradictory and befuddling nutrition advice, who are the truly credible and qualified nutrition experts? It’s highly unlikely to be a celebrity, social media influencer or Jan next door, unless of course they are also a Dietitian or Registered Nutritionist.

Dietitians and Registered Nutritionists provide evidence-based and accurate information on nutrition, and this is down to years of study at university.

The root of confusion in part stems from the use of various terms which imply one has extensive nutrition training; terms like Clinical Nutritionist, Health Expert, or Health and Wellness Coach. These are all unregulated names and can be used freely by anyone and qualifications can be questionable.

Dietitians and Registered Nutritionists are not always front and centre where most of us consume news and media. The truth is our jobs don’t often require us to be. And our messages aren’t usually new and exciting anyway – how many ways can you say “eat plenty of vegetables”? You won’t hear us saying things like “this amazing jungle berry will make you lose 20kgs in two days”.

Registered Nutritionists

Qualifications: Registered Nutritionists, as the name implies, have a Bachelor of Science in Human Nutrition and possibly postgraduate Masters or Honours qualifications in Human Nutrition.

To work in Aotearoa: the term ‘Registered Nutritionist’ is a protected title, like ‘Dietitian’. The Nutrition Society of NZ conduct a professional registration programme – to become a Registered Nutritionist you must meet specific criteria based on qualifications, work experience and continued education.

Jobs: Registered Nutritionists (that aren’t practicing Dietitians as well) are unable to work with patients in clinical settings. You find them working in roles such as sports nutritionists, internal advisors at a food company, nutrition researchers, private consultancy with clients, policy and nutrition advisors for NGOs or Government, specialists in communications and public relations agencies, and many other roles.


Qualifications: Dietitians have a Bachelor of Science in Human Nutrition and Masters in Dietetics from a University.

To work in Aotearoa: Dietitians must be registered with and receive practicing certification from the Dietitians Board. The Dietitians Board is bound by legislation which ensures Dietitians are fit to practice and meets standards of professionalism (like Doctors, Nurses or Physiotherapists). Dietitians can also be Registered Nutritionists.

Jobs: Dietitians can be found working in all the same jobs a Registered Nutritionists but are able to be employed as clinical Dietitians working with patients in hospital or community settings.

Ainslie Ballinger is Network’s own Registered Nutritionist with 10 years’ experience in public health nutrition, and food and nutrition communications.