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How to find and hire an expert nutritionist


There is a lot of conflicting information online about nutrition and eating healthy – 86% of the people admit that they’ve fallen victim to fake news related to nutrition.[1]

Naturally, this also includes information about food and dieting we can find on the internet. That makes finding accurate information on the topic quite challenging, especially if you have no prior knowledge of the matter.

According to a study in the New England Journal of Medicine, people who improve their eating habits see big health benefits, regardless of their age.[2] That’s why it’s important to find reliable information when it comes to improving the way we eat – and team up with the right professionals. 

A nutritionist can give you all the answers to your questions about healthy eating, so hiring one can help you improve your health and well-being. Nutritionists are experts in food and nutrients and can offer you qualified advice about what to eat and how to lead a healthier lifestyle. 

However, nutritionists don’t need any credentials to practice their profession. So how can you make sure the person you’re hiring has the right expertise and can provide valuable input? 

In this article, you’ll find out how to hire a nutritionist. We’ll guide you through the necessary steps you can take to make sure you’re hiring a qualified professional. 

For this, we’ll explain what are the responsibilities of a nutritionist, what essential skills they should possess, and how to evaluate such skills.

We’ve also included interview questions you can ask to make sure the person you hire is the right match for you, as well as information on where to find nutritionists and information about how much you can expect to pay.

What is a nutritionist?

Nutrition is a lot more complex than it seems. People often think that all there is to it is simply eating your greens and having enough energy to go about your day. In reality, however, what to eat for optimum health is a much more complex question requiring a nuanced and personalized answer. 

A nutrition expert, also known as a nutritionist, will assess your needs and deficiencies and will create a special diet to help you live in a healthier way. Losing weight, gaining weight, or boosting your energy – a nutritionist can build a personalized strategy that will help you achieve your goals in a healthy and sustainable manner.

One of the benefits of working with a nutritionist rather than planning your meals by yourself is that an experienced professional can identify what type of approach would work best for you. 

For example, they can determine whether a structured long-term plan with personalized meal plans and grocery lists can help you reach your objectives, or if small changes in your day-to-day life, such as regulating your meal timing or removing certain food types from your meals, can be more useful.

Some of the responsibilities of a nutritionist are to:

  • Help their clients understand the importance of healthy eating and proper nutrition

  • Assess their clients’ nutritional needs and deficiencies 

  • Help their clients set clear goals and work together on achieving them

  • Develop personalized meal and nutrition plans, taking into account their client’s preferences and budget

  • Monitor the effect of said plans and making adjustments when needed

  • Stay up-to-date with the latest nutrition research and studies 

  • Advocate for better nutritional practices

Nutritionist vs. dietitian: What is the difference?

There’s a lot of confusion surrounding the roles of a dietitian and a nutritionist. The two terms are often used interchangeably. However, even though they share many similarities, they don’t mean the same thing.

In short, all dietitians are nutritionists – but not all nutritionists are dietitians. There are three major differences between the two:

  1. Educational background: The profession of a nutritionist is a non-regulated one, which means that anyone can work as a nutritionist. Contrary to that, dietitians are required to have a bachelor’s degree in a nutrition-related major, as well as to complete an accredited dietetics internship and pass a national exam. Some nutritionists might also have formal education and certifications but they don’t need these to practice their profession.

  2. Regulations: While dietitians are regulated by professional organizations and licensing boards that make sure they follow certain ethical standards, nutritionists aren’t subject to official regulations. To ensure your nutritionist is qualified, you must evaluate their skills, expertise, and certifications by yourself.

  3. Professional scope: A nutritionist’s role is broader in scope, meaning they can assist you with anything related to food and nutrition with the goal of improving your general well-being. Dietitians have clinical expertise and usually work as a part of healthcare teams. They may often work in hospitals, managing medical conditions. 

Nutritionist hard skills to look for

Nutritionists need a wide array of hard skills to provide the right support to their clients. Here are some of the practical skills that any nutritionist should have:

Nutrition science

Nutrition science is a field of study that focuses on nutrients and how the body uses them for growth and overall development. A nutritionist with strong knowledge of nutrition science can:

  • Understand the role of the various nutrients in your diet

  • Advice you on how to source them efficiently

  • Assess the effects of your diet on your health and help you improve it

Culinary knowledge

Culinary knowledge is important for anyone who gives advice about meals. Building meal plans requires knowledge of different food-preparation and processing techniques. 

Having culinary knowledge means:

  • Understanding how to cook different ingredients 

  • Being familiar with various cooking methods and how they affect different foods’ nutritional value

  • Understanding flavor profiling and how to best combine ingredients

Research skills

Nutritionists should look to always stay up-to-date with the latest research in nutrition. For this, they need excellent academic research skills. Nutrition science is constantly evolving and staying aware of the latest developments enables nutritionists to provide the best possible service to their clients.

A good nutritionist will regularly read scientific papers and research about food and nutrition, keeping their knowledge fresh. 

Essential soft skills for nutritionists

Every professional who works with clients on a daily basis should also have excellent soft skills. Here are some of the essential soft skills for a nutritionist:


Communication is of critical importance for any nutritionist. Their ability to communicate clearly will directly affect their clients’ understanding of their problems and how to best address them – and therefore will impact their outcomes, too.

Nutritionists who communicate well are able to:

  • Provide comprehensible information about nutrition and dieting to their clients

  • Give effective and clear instructions

  • Follow up with their clients and adjust their meal plans as needed

Recommended reading: 20 communication interview questions to evaluate candidates well

Time management

Nutritionists have a lot of tasks to juggle. They usually have a limited amount of time during which they can assess their client’s nutritional needs and it’s vital to be able to organize this time well. 

Good time management means you can:

  • Multitask efficiently

  • Finish your tasks

  • Provide solutions on time

Recommended reading: How to assess time management skills


Even though, unlike dietitians, nutritionists don’t work in a clinical setting, they still look after their clients’ well-being and health. Everyone in such a position should be able to show empathy and kindness. 

Often, the people coming for advice about proper nutrition are feeling anxious and stressed, so a qualified nutritionist should know how to help them feel understood and in good hands. 

Attention to detail

Having an eye for detail is important for a nutritionist. It means you can listen attentively to the problems your clients are describing, understand better what their end goal is, and notice any errors they might be making without knowing it.

A detail oriented nutritionist can:

  • Identify problems 

  • Assess their patients’ needs accurately

  • Provide more effective solutions

Strong work ethic

When you’re trusting your health and eating habits into the hands of a stranger, you must make sure they’re operating from a place of integrity. A nutritionist must have a strong work ethic.

This includes:

  • Professionalism

  • Positive attitude

  • Punctuality

  • Following procedures

Problem solving

The core of a nutritionist’s work is to solve problems, i.e. the problems which motivated their clients to seek out the help of a nutritionist. Each client is individual, as well as their needs and preferences. 

Complex problems may arise; someone might not see the results they were expecting, or might not feel good on a particular diet, or might struggle with particular types of food. That’s why it’s paramount for a nutritionist to have excellent problem-solving skills

This means being able to:

  • Think critically 

  • Identify the issue

  • Analyze potential solutions

  • Choose objectively the most effective one

  • Apply it

How to test nutritionist skills

In most countries, the work of a nutritionist isn’t regulated. Anyone can call themselves a nutritionist and charge clients for services, regardless of whether they have formal training or not. 

You will be receiving health advice from your nutritionist, so it’s important to hire someone whose abilities you can trust. Seeing their experience in the field is not enough to give you a realistic idea of their skills.

Here are some procedures you can follow to ensure you’re hiring the right nutritionist.

How to test nutritionist skills graphic

Check credentials

Anyone can work as a nutritionist, so make sure to ask about their training before you hire one. Some of the credentials that you might want to look for are:

  • A bachelor’s or master’s degree in nutrition, food science, or dietetics 

  • Accredited courses or certifications, such as of a Registered Dietitian Nutritionist (RDN)

  • Associate degree in nutrition

Ask targeted interview questions

It’s best to prepare in advance some questions to ask nutritionists during the discovery call or appointment so you can get to know them better. We’ve listed some sample questions you can use, as well as a typical response that a qualified nutritionist may provide.

1. What is the most important thing you have learned as a nutritionist? 

This is an opportunity for your candidate to show if they continue to grow in their career and develop their skills. It’s a great opportunity to learn about what they value the most in their job as well.

Sample response: 

“As a nutritionist, I’ve realized that the most important thing is to take my time to get to know each client’s individual needs and preferences. 

Everyone has different dietary requirements and it’s dangerous to generalize or to jump to conclusions without thoroughly and attentively collecting information about your client’s lifestyle, health history, and objectives.

It’s also important for me to stay up to date on the current scientific developments in the field of nutrition. I insist on offering my clients the most accurate information and to keep updating my knowledge.”

2. What would you do if your client isn’t following your dietary recommendations?

Half of a nutritionist’s job is to motivate their clients. The response will enable you to know more about your nutritionist’s ability to encourage their clients and to follow up with them.

Sample response:

“The first step I would take is to assess why my client isn’t following my advice. There can be a lack of understanding between us due to poor communication or they can be meeting unexpected challenges along the way. I would take my time to explain better the reasons behind my recommendations and to show the benefits of following them. 

If necessary, I will make any adjustments that would improve their dietary plan and make it easier to achieve. A healthy diet is a process and I intend to be there for them every step of the way.’”

3. When providing nutritional counseling, how do you determine what should be your client’s daily caloric intake?

A nutritionist should be able to plan their client’s caloric needs to build an effective strategy. Seeing them explain the process provides insight in their experience as a nutritionist.

Sample response:

“There are multiple factors that I take into account when I'm determining the appropriate calorie intake for a client. First, I assess their current age, sex, weight, height, activity level, dietary habits, medical conditions, and goals such as weight loss, muscle gain, or maintenance. 

After that, I use the Dietary Reference Intakes (DRI) established by the Institute of Medicine to calculate the estimated energy requirements based on the data I’ve gathered. I adjust the results for any additional information that can affect their health. This allows me to tailor a customized dietary plan for my clients.”

Use skills tests

Skills testing provides you with accurate and objective information about your nutritionist’s skills – and yes, it’s a strategy you can use even when you’re looking to work individually with a health expert. Simply ask them to take a quick skills assessment to evaluate their soft skills.

And if you’re a HR professional looking to hire a dietitian or a nutritionist, then skills assessments should be an essential part of your hiring process. It enables you to evaluate all applicants’ skills objectively and without bias – and identify the best talent easily.

This is a list of skills tests we recommend:

  • Communication: Nutritionists need to be excellent communicators to succeed in explaining complex nutrition-science concepts to their clients and outlining the best strategies for them.

  • Time management: Managing their time effectively is an essential skill for nutritionists and enables them to stick to their schedule and give their clients the time they need. 

  • Problem solving: Every client comes to a nutritionist with a specific problem; having the ability to analyze it, assess solutions, and pick the best one is essential. 

  • Attention to detail: Nutritionists need to pay close attention to what their clients are sharing with them, which includes lists of foods, caloric intakes, activity levels, and more. The ability to spot discrepancies or potential issues will help them be efficient in their work.

  • Business ethics & compliance: Nutritionists are entrusted with their clients’ health and well-being, so having a strong ethical compass is key. 

Where to find a nutritionist

Most organizations work with licensed dietitians when they have to hire a full-time expert on nutrition. However, if you’re looking to improve your health and eating habits, you might actually want to look for a nutritionist: They’ll be more flexible and less expensive, while still providing you with expert advice and guidance. 

You can find good nutritionists on:

  • LinkedIn: There are 40+ search filters on LinkedIn which allow you to easily find exactly what you’re looking for. 

  • Top Nutrition Coaching: This platform specializes in finding nutritionists and dietitians close to you for specific types of goals. 

  • Upwork: You can find a large variety of freelance nutritionists on Upwork. 

If you’re going to a local gym, you might also want to check with coaches whether they can recommend a nutritionist. Make sure you assess their skills and credentials before you sign up for a lengthy program, however.

How much does a nutritionist cost?

How much a nutritionist will cost you will depend on whether you’re looking to hire them as an employee at your company or if you’re looking for a series of consultations.

If you’re looking to hire an employee, according to salary.com, a nutritionist in the US gets paid $68,800 on average in 2023. The range can typically fall between $62,600 and $75,600. 

If you’re looking to talk about your dietary needs with a nutritionist, you can expect to spend between $100 and $200 for a consultation[3]. First appointments can be more expensive (but also longer), while follow-up appointments are usually cheaper and take less time.

Hire a qualified nutritionist, the easy way

There are no regulations or legal requirements for the people who practice as nutritionists. This makes it imperative to evaluate them thoroughly so you can make sure you’re putting your (or your clients’) health in the hands of someone with the right skills and knowledge. 

Asking the right questions, checking their credentials, and using skills testing will enable you to find the right nutritionist for you.

Try TestGorilla’s free plan to build a quick and efficient selection process and ensure you can make the right choice.


1. “Fake News: A Global Epidemic Vast Majority (86%) of Online Global Citizens Have Been Exposed to it.” (2019). Ipsos. Retrieved September 21, 2023. https://www.ipsos.com/en-us/news-polls/cigi-fake-news-global-epidemic 

2. Association of Changes in Diet Quality with Total and Cause-Specific Mortality. National Library of Medicine. Retrieved September 21, 2023. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC5589446/  3. “How Much Does a Nutritionist Cost in 2023 without Insurance?” (2023). Talk to Mira. Retrieved September 21, 2023. https://www.talktomira.com/post/how-much-does-a-nutritionist-cost-in-2022


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