A nutritionist helps people with special dietary needs, such as food allergies, or who want to decrease their weight. Nutritionists can be trained, have a degree, and in some states, be licensed. In other states, anyone can use the title "nutritionist" and not be trained or licensed.
Licensing has been under discussion by nutritionists for some time. The American College of Nutrition, the association for nutritionists, had developed the Certification Board of Nutrition Specialists, or CBNS. As of 2010, the CBNS became an entity of its own. CBNS has rigorous qualifications for those wishing to be certified. Only 24 of the 50 states require nutritionists to be licensed, according to the Commission on Dietetic Registration.
Traditional training programs usually take the form of attending college, taking courses, doing an internship, and often getting a master's degree or even a Ph.D. Online programs in nutrition are also available with the same requirements. You may want a different approach to nutritional training, particularly if your state does not require licensing. You may want additional training in different aspects of nutrition you didn't have time for in the past. Or you may not have the money to spend on a more traditional approach. There are a wide variety of options, and they're all free.
Basic nutrition courses from reputable schools are available for free. Johns Hopkins offers Principals of Human Nutrition. You won't have access to the instructors and you won't get credit, but the class provides a solid overview of nutrition from how macronutrients are used in the body, the role of food in aging and health and various other topics. The University of Berkeley offers an Introduction to Human Nutrition free of charge. This class presents an overview of the digestive system and the importance of nutrients. Students keep track of what they eat, and analyze their food intake in comparison to the food pyramid and recommended daily allowances. Energy, Diet, and Weight is offered by the University of Washington specifically for those with limited science backgrounds to help you experience the best in physical and emotional health.
Those looking for more than just the basics will find a number of courses on all sorts of related topics -- again, all free. The National Center on Complementary and Alternative Medicine offers Herbs and Dietary Supplements. A certification of completion of this course is available. Food Production and the Environment is offered by Johns Hopkins. This course focuses on food insecurity around the world and case studies are used to examine the factors leading to food insecurity. Johns Hopkins also offers International Nutrition, which discusses the issues affecting food production in developing societies. Food Nutrition Policy is offered by Johns Hopkins, as well. It focuses on the issues accompanying food programs in society. Critical Analysis of Popular Diets and Supplements is another course offered by Johns Hopkins. The controversy of weight control is the main topic. Harvard Medical School offers 18 courses on advanced nutritional topics. With all these courses available and more, you can train yourself in nutrition or add to the knowledge you already have.
- All Allied Health Schools: Dietician and Nutritionist Education and Careers
- Johns Hopkins OpenCourseWare: Principals of Human Nutrition
- University of Washington Outreach: Energy, Diet, and Weight
- The National Center on Complimentary and Alternative Medicine: Herbs and Dietary Supplements
- Johns Hopkins OpenCourseWare: Food Production and Environment
- Johns Hopkins OpenCourseWare: International Nutrition
- Johns Hopkins OpenCourseWare: Food Nutrition Policy
- Johns Hopkins OpenCourseWare: Critical Analysis of Popular Diets and Supplements