2017 is just around the corner! For many, a new year brings new health and nutrition goals and resolutions. Whether your goal is to lose a few extra pounds or just create a healthier lifestyle, nutrition choices will surely be a part of it. One thing we can all agree upon is the overwhelming sea of information regarding nutrition. From what to eat and not to eat, to every type of diet, and supplement, how are you to know who is right and who to trust?

Most importantly, you must be a critical consumer of any health and nutritional information you read or hear, but one tip that will definitely help is knowing the credentials of whomever is sharing their “knowledge or expertise” with you. Credentials refer to the professional degree and licensure and individual holds. Each health and fitness practitioner has a “scope of practice” defined by their professional licensing body. This scope of practice describes the procedures, actions, and processes that a healthcare practitioner is permitted to undertake. Each practitioner must stay within their scope of practice to protect themselves and their patients / clients.

When seeking guidance with your nutritional goals, below is a list of who to seek out and their scope of practice.

Registered Dietician (R.D. or R.D.N.): The credentials R.D. or R.D.N. are authorized only by the Commission on Dietetic Registration of the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics and is the highest level of nutrition counseling. Individuals with these credentials have at least a bachelor’s degree with nutrition related coursework, have completed an internship under the supervision of a licensed R.D. / R.D.N., and have passed a registration examination. In order to maintain certification, R.D. / R.D.N.’s are required to meet continuing education requirements. An R.D. has the knowledge and education to give a personally tailored program to help individuals manage weight and chronic disease. They are the only individuals on this list who can give you individually tailored meal plans to meet macronutrient (carbohydrate, protein, fat) and micronutrient needs (vitamins and minerals). These individuals will often use specific tests (blood work and resting metabolic rate) to determine individual need.

Nutritionist or Licensed Nutritionist (C.D.N or L.D.N): Some states have licensure laws for nutritionists (C.D.N or L.D.N.). These credentials indicate that an individual has met that state’s particular education or experience requirements for licensure. However, in states with no licensure, there is little to no regulation over the use of the title “nutritionist” or verification of qualifications regarding education and experience. In states without regulation, anyone can say they are a “nutritionist” regardless of background or experience. Beware of this!!!

Certified Strength and Conditioning Specialist (CSCS): The credentials CSCS is authorized by the National Strength and Conditioning Association (NSCA) and held by majority of SPARC’s coaches. Individuals with these credentials have at least a bachelor’s degree and have passed the certification examination. In order to pass the examination, individuals must have a base knowledge of nutrition as it relates to fitness and performance. According to the NSCA’s CSCS scope of practice, individuals with these credentials may give nutrition recommendation (not prescribe) based on what has been scientifically proven as beneficial. This means we can recommend what is stated in the Dietary Guidelines for Americans 2015 and other research backed findings but cannot give a tailored meal plans based on blood work or needs for chronic disease management.

When it comes to nutrition, knowledgeable guidance and support will help you be successful in achieving your goals!


By: Lauren Higgins, M.S., CSCS, FMS-level1

SPARC Sports Performance Coordinator