Wanting to seek help on your nutrition, health and / or sports nutrition but not sure what makes a good nutritionist/ sports nutritionist? These key traits will help you make an informed decision.
1. Passionate about helping others
It goes without saying that the most important aspect of being a nutritionist is being passionate about nutrition, health, wellbeing and the desire to help others. This is important, as you know the person will go above and beyond to help you and are proactive in their job.
2. Well-recognised qualifications
Unlike that of a dietician, the title `nutritionist´ is not given by the type of qualifications achieved. A nutritionist with a certificate of a 1-month course is given the same title as a nutritionist with a 4-5 year bachelor and/ or 3-year masters degree. Therefore, always research the qualifications of the person you want to see (if they are not provided - ask). Ask yourself if the person is qualified enough to help you with your situation.
Saying this, I am not discrediting those with certificate qualifications and think it is great to see more and more people helping others change their eating habits for the better. I simply feel one should be aware of this and there should be better regulations in place for nutritionists to distinguish between different qualifications.
3. Specialised with expertise
Look for a nutritionist that is specialised in the area that you need expertise in. For example, when you are seeking a sports nutritionist, look for one that has an indepth knowledge of the sport you participate in (e.g. endurance, strength, team). They should have seperate qualifications to shows their expertise in that field.
This is important as they will be well educated in the ups and downs and specifics of the sport - not only have a basic knowledge. This way they can give you a much more detailed program and have a better understanding of the demands and rules of the sport.
4. Good communication skills
A nutritionist should make you feel comfortable enough to open up but still be professional in the way they do so. Having good communicative skills includes a number of traits such as clarity when speaking, relating the topic to the client, not comparing the client to themselves or others and most importantly having the ability to translate the science into an easy to understand language.
When seeing a nutritionist, you should never feel uncomfortable, embarrassed and/ or judged when sharing personal details. The nutritionist should never discriminate against you and should always give you the option to avoid a topic if it is not something you want to share. He/ she should not make sly comments or remarks towards you, your experiences and/ or health concerns.
6. Does not pressurise you
Being a nutritionist does not give you the right to force your own dietary habits and beliefs onto others. A good nutritionist is not bias, does not use the one-diet-fits-all method and creates a nutrition plan around the individual´s wants and needs.
7. Practices what she/he preaches
This is sometimes easier said than done and no one is perfect. However, I truly believe that someone advising you on your health and wellbeing should look well and be in a healthy space both mentally and physically. This is often a good sign that he/ she believes in their methods and is truly passionate about his/ her job.
8. Stays up to date with the latest science but knows the limits
This is very important, as it shows that they are always learning. Although this shows they are staying well informed and educated, they should also be critical of the information they are getting. Being critical of the science shows they have an opinion and understanding of the science and its methods. They should also be aware that science isn´t the be all and end all of the human body and therefore, should always weigh up the pros and cons of every situation.
9. Open to knew methods and ideas
It often happens that clients do their own research and present information or ideas that their nutritionist may not be aware of. When this happens, a nutritionist should not dismiss it because they think they know everything and their pride gets in the way. Rather they should take the time to research it themselves to have a better understanding of the topic. They shoould then either explain respectfully their reasoning for not using the information or they gladly use the ideas of the client if applicable. After all, it is a team effort.
10. Team player
A good nutritionist is open to other´s opinions (e.g. trainer, doctor, psychologist) and respects that everyone is an expert in his/her field. This goes for the others within the team as well. Client´s (especially athletes) have many experts in their corner, each with their own expertises. They should all respect each other´s opinions and work as a team to have the client´s best interests at heart.