What is a nutritionist?
A nutritionist is an unregistered, unregulated term describing a professional who advises on food and nutrition impacts for individual health. The term nutritionist is not legally defined, nor are there any requirements in the United States to call oneself a nutritionist or charge for the professional services or advice of a nutritionist (MedicineNet.com).
Nutritionists are easily confused with dietitians, who must have a 4-year Bachelor's degree in Nutrition and Dietetics or a 3-year science degree followed by a Masters in nutrition, along with practical training in a hospital or similar environment, usually to accumulate a certain number of hours of practical experience.
Unlike dietitians, nutritionists are not certified, do not have education requirements, and are not actually legally recognized in any way in the United States (NutritionED.org).
The services of a nutritionist require a Letter of Medical Necessity to be eligible with a consumer directed healthcare account, and must show that the services are primarily for the treatment or mitigation of a specific medical condition and not for general good health.
There are various accreditation agencies that use the label of "nutritionist" and have various certification methods, tests, exams, certificates, etc. which may enhance the professional knowledge and experience of a nutritionist. There is nothing preventing a nutritionist from improving their skillset, experience and practical knowledge in this fashion. Additionally, the certification of a nutritionist by any of these independent agencies is not necessarily an indicator of the nutritionist's abilities or lack thereof. The independent organizations that consider themselves professional nutritionist organizations or boards are not legally recognized as medical organizations, nor do they carry any authority or legal mandate to uphold standards of medical care.