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When and Who To Refer To?

Learn when to refer and who best to refer to.
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© CQUniversity 2021

When To Refer?

There are several circumstances where you should refer a client to a professional if it is most appropriate for the specific situation, some common examples include:

  • When individuals ask for specific information regarding weight management or indicate interest in more information on weight loss
  • When clients have specific questions regarding dieting, diet trends and supplementation
  • When clients have specific questions regarding the suitability of participating in an available nutrition program when specific health indicators demonstrate increased health risks after pre-exercise screening and client reporting
  • When the client’s eating patterns are extreme and not meeting nutritional requirements e.g. removing / limiting inappropriately food groups
  • When the client may benefit from attending a structured support program
  • When the client is having difficulty achieving weight loss goals
  • When the client has high intensity or high-level training or sports performance requirements
  • When the client needs support regarding attitudes to eating and may benefit from additional assistance.

Who To Refer To?

There are several different diet and nutrition experts that a client can be referred to, these include:

  • Dietitian
  • Nutritionist
  • Sports Nutritionist / Dietitian.


A dietitian provides expert nutrition for people of all ages and prescribe dietary treatments for many conditions including:

  • Diabetes
  • Food allergies
  • Cancer
  • Gastro-intestinal disease
  • The overweight and obese.

In Australia, the profession of dietetics contributes to the promotion of health and the prevention and treatment of illness by optimising the nutrition of communities and individuals. It utilises scientific principles and methods in the study of nutrition and applies these to influencing the wider environment affecting food intakes and eating behaviours.


A Nutritionist will design, coordinate, implement and evaluate a range of population health interventions to improve the well being of individuals, communities and the population as a whole through better food and nutrition.

The distinction between a dietitian and nutritionist:

In Australia, there is a distinction made between dietitians and other occupations in the nutrition and food science field, including that of a nutritionist.

A nutritionist is a tertiary qualified nutrition professional that has the expertise to provide a range of evidence-based nutrition services related to nutrition, public health nutrition, policy and research, and community health.

Dietitians are also qualified to provide this range of evidence-based nutrition services but in addition, dietitians have the expertise to provide individual dietary counseling, medical nutrition therapy, group dietary therapy, and foodservice management.

Therefore, in Australia, all dietitians are considered to be nutritionists however, nutritionists without a dietetics qualification cannot take on the expert role of a dietitian.

Sports Nutritionist / Dietitian

Sports Nutritionist / Dietitian specialise in working with athletes and sporting teams to provide good nutrition and health habits to maximise performance and health.

Dietitians can work with athletes who have special needs due to other health problems.

Let’s discuss
Have you ever been asked a question that falls outside of your scope of nutritional advice before? How did you respond?
© CQUniversity 2021
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Personal Trainer's Toolkit: Providing Nutritional Advice to Your Clients

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