Jasmine Jafferali, MPH, ACE-CPT is a fitness and wellness manager at a major health club in Chicago. She has a diverse fitness background having worked in corporate wellness and the commercial health club setting. Her practical experience in wellness programming gives her a distinctive opportunity to teach wellness to other fitness professionals. She also advocates on bringing the fitness and medical community together through wellness and preventative programming. Jasmine specializes in women’s health and wellness, focusing on pre- and postnatal fitness, and is a Master Trainer for Healthy Moms® Fitness and Resist-a-ball®.

March is National Nutrition Month. To remain cutting edge and competitive in today’s market, you must do something to separate your business from the competition, and celebrating National Nutrition Month is one way to do that—as long as you do so properly.

While fitness professionals render fitness and exercise advice, it is important that they remain within their scope of practice. Giving nutritional advice that is outside of the USDA Food Guide Pyramid’s general recommendations is not advised for fitness professionals. Despite all of the continuing education seminars and workshops that are offered for fitness professionals, they are just not qualified to create solid nutritional programs or give out supplemental advice for their clients.

Registered dietitians (RD) go through extensive training with completion of a four-year degree in a science-related field, and then they complete a nutrition program approved by the Commission on Accreditation for Dietetics Education (CADE). CADE is recognized by the United States Department of Education and the Council for Higher Education. This affirms that CADE meets national standards and is a reliable authority on the quality of nutrition and dietetics education programs. Once accepted, they must complete a minimum of 1,000 hours of supervised practice program, which includes clinical rotations, food service management, community nutrition, and public relations and marketing. After completion of the supervised practice program, RD candidates take a national examination approved by the Commission of Dietetic Registration (CDR), a national credentialing agency for the American Dietetic Association. This exam is comparable to taking a nursing board exam.

In addition to RD credentialing, many states have regulatory laws for dietitians and nutrition practitioners. Frequently, these state requirements are met through the same education and training required to become an RD. Once the dietitian has passed his/her exam, they are expected to complete 75 continuing education credits in a five-year period.

We as fitness professionals must be careful on how we label ourselves. In most states, there are no current standards, no definition and no regulatory laws for the title “nutritionist.” And if medical doctors are not qualified to give out nutritional advice, it makes you think twice before we render out any nutritional advice, right?

Hiring a qualified, registered dietitian to work within your club does have its challenges.

If you are contemplating hiring a dietitian, here are five reasons why you should:

  1. Increase member services, which will make your club more competitive.
  2. Increase club services by offering products and supplements.
  3. Increase food services by offering healthy menu items or a healthier juice bar.
  4. Increase employee work time by offering a referral system for employees.
  5. Offer cutting edge, up-to-date nutritional information to members and employees.

Unsure as to whether you should hire an outside consultant or a full-time, in-house dietitian?

Five problems that may arise with outside consultants:

  1. They are client-based only and may not be available for programs and seminars.
  2. They have higher fees for programs and higher commission rates for consultations.
  3. They are not readily available for members or to address their needs.
  4. They are time-restricted because of outside obligations.
  5. They are not familiar with employees and have a difficult time building a rapport with your staff.


Five things you need to know when considering hiring a full-time dietitian:

  1. They can create innovative nutritional programs that are unique to your member population.
  2. They can give lectures that lead to one-on-one appointments.
  3. They can increase referrals to both trainers and themselves.
  4. They can provide nutritional education for employees.
  5. They are readily available to address members’ needs.

However, there will be some costs involved in hiring a full-time dietitian. You will have to budget for resources to help build programs and to create and to develop brochures, handouts, educational materials, benefits, assessment forms, business cards, office space, nutrition programming software, etc. Costs will vary by facility.

Deciding to hire a dietitian can be an added-value service to your facility, your members and your employees. It not only will boost your revenues, but it will also put you ahead of major competitors. Sure, there will be trials and errors, but it is worth the solid reputation that will put you ahead of the nutrition game.