In a world where endless information is available for every internet search, it's still difficult to know where to go for information about our health. Even turning to a professional can be confusing. Should we visit a dietitian? A nutritionist? A naturopath? What’s the difference?

Actually, quite a lot, according to dietitian Maree Ferguson.  “Anyone can call themselves a nutritionist, so you don’t necessarily need to have a qualification,” Maree explained. “Dietitians, who do have tertiary qualifications and go through professional practice placements, often refer to themselves as nutritionists, which only makes things more confusing!” 

The differences are extremely important. Dietitians learn about providing medical nutrition therapy for patients, each of whom will receive a tailored, individual approach.

Getting Good Advice

While plenty of nutritionists (and celebrities, for that matter) have perfectly sensible advice, there are risks with taking health advice from someone who isn’t qualified to give it. Understanding the disease process and how nutrition interacts with it is extremely important. 

“Recommending radical diets that cut out whole food groups can certainly be dangerous,” said Maree. “Whether that’s dairy, bread, or cereals – we need all the different five food groups to make sure that we’re getting a balanced diet and covering all the nutrients that we require for healthy living.”

The hard truth is there’s no quick fix to healthy living. “People are often looking for the easy option, or what people see as being effective, especially around weight management,” Maree explained. “Ultimately, the basic tenants of a balanced lifestyle are still the best way to keep healthy.” 

If you do need advice about your diet, Maree suggests seeking out an Accredited Practicing Dietitian (APD). “The Dietitian’s Association of Australia website has a helpful ‘find a dietitian’ section, and there’s a number of useful resources available through Nutrition Australia and my own website, Dietitian Connection,” said Maree.

“In the end, there’s nothing more important than your health - so it’s best to entrust it to a professional.” 

For more information on qualified dietitians, visit www.dietitianconnection.com