Social Media has become the new wild, wild west. A place where every time you scroll or click, you have no idea what is coming. Will it be a meme? A cat video? An update from someone you haven’t spoken to in years? Or maybe it’ll be someone telling you they have the cure to this problem you didn’t know you had.

Unfortunately in the nutrition realm, regulation is nearly impossible because every single state has its requirements. Hopefully, the information below will help you manage the overwhelm of information and whether or not the latest person you scrolled by is even qualified (or legally allowed to) to give you information. 

Because yes….There are A LOT of legalities ignored. 

So what are some credentials: 

There are currently 3 organizations that can provide licensure to practice nutrition: 

Registered Dietitian (RD, RDN)

Specialized BS program

1200 hours of a supervised clinical internship

Passing an Exam

Certified Nutrition Specialist (CNS)

MS or higher in a healthcare field with 35 credit hours in specific nutrition-related fields

1000 hours of supervised clinical experience

Passing an Exam


Every state has different requirements for licensure, for example at one end of the spectrum in Montana licensure is only provided to RD’s and they are the ONLY people who can practice, or provide, nutrition advice. On the other end of the spectrum, in Virginia, anyone can provide nutrition advice, but the only people who can use the term ‘nutritionist’ are those who are licensed. This is why until I pass that exam- I will use the phrase ‘nutrition coach’ for myself. Wild right- because someone who took a weekend course, and googled the answers, can also use that term in Virginia.

Now, there is absolutely nothing wrong with those certificates. Let me get that out of the way- I think it’s important there are those individuals out there to help provide information. Not everyone needs someone who is licensed and just someone to support them. I currently hold one of those certificates from NASM as a fitness nutrition specialist and they offer another nutrition certificate “certified nutrition coach”. But the legalities and lack of education around the scope of practice from those types of quick certificates is what the real problem is. 

Why is this so important anyway? There is so much to consider with individual needs and what they are consuming. Let’s use supplements as an example. Say you are on cholesterol medication and your doctor tells you to make diet changes so you reach out to a nutritionist you saw on social media and they tell you to take this supplement they are selling or they tell you to have more fruit. Well, magnesium in its supplement form has been shown to decrease the efficacy of statins as does grapefruit juice. Which of course, can have major consequences on your cholesterol and overall health. 

To help navigate who is what and what the info in their bio means I came up with a correlation to help you determine who to listen to based on your needs. 

  • RD- is like an MD 
  • CNS- is like a DO
  • Someone with MS or BS in nutrition-specific field without licensure is like a paramedic or EMT
  • A nutrition certificate is the equivalent to a CPR/first aid certificate

If you have a medical problem you need to address with food, correlate that to a heart attack. You need a licensed professional to help with that. If you have a specific question or a cut on your finger, you would just need some first aid. But if that cut doesn’t heal…you need someone more advanced like an EMT or doctor. 

All of these are necessary for society. I think a lot of bloggers or content creators with a certificate are incredibly passionate and informative and I have a lot of respect for what they put out. 

If working with someone more knowledgable is something you have been wanting I will be offering cheap, and I mean cheap, services to help me gather my hours of supervision. Stay tuned as there are nuances I am still working through to get this rolling!