If you want to find a health care professional whose specialty is diet and how it influences you health, then you should be seen by a dietitian.
A dietitian is not the same as a nutritionist; "dietitian" is a title bestowed upon someone only after significant, well-defined academic and clinical experience. Though there are undoubtedly many qualified and knowledgeable nutritionists, "nutritionist" is not a protected title and is therefore a title your unhealthy neighbor could adopt, if he wanted. In the United States, the American Dietetic Association (ADA) ensures that the titles "registered dietitian" and "dietetic technician" are given only to those who hold the requisite academic and clinical experience. Continuing education is necessary for maintaining the title as well.
A registered dietitian must have either received a Bachelor's degree in dietetics, or an undergraduate Bachelor of Science degree and a higher-level dietetics degree or diploma. After completing a set amount of work in the field, they must pass an exam to earn the title "registered dietitian." Some choose to provide clinical dietetic services in hospitals, while consultant dietitians operate in private businesses. Both of these types of dietitians will offer personal dietetic care.
Dietetic technicians must have a two-year degree, complete an ADA-approved dietetic program and take an exam in order to earn their title.
- The American Dietetic Association website has a tool for finding local dietitians. All you have to do is enter your zip code and city/state information. You can even specify an area of expertise that you would like your dietitian to have, such as cardiovascular disease or diabetes.
Talk to your primary care doctor. Dietitians are becoming increasingly prevalent, and your doctor could know of an excellent dietitian in your locale. And there's a definite benefit in enlisting the aid of someone like your doctor who is already very familiar with your personal health concerns and history.
Call a reputable local hospital or health clinic where specialty doctors see patients. A small doctor's office may not have who you're seeking, but large medical centers will either have a dietitian on staff or will likely be able to help you find one locally. Do not be afraid to ask!
Equipped with broad and deep health knowledge, dietitians can help you plan the intricacies of your diet to optimize your health. Finding a dietitian is getting easier all the time, so do not hesitate - get the diet advice you need from a health care professional you can trust.