Under Delaware law, you cannot practice dietetic and nutrition therapy without a license. This includes assessing individual’s specific nutritional needs and the development of an intervention plan. No one can practice dietetic and nutrition therapy or use the term “nutritionist” or “dietitian” unless such a person is licensed. However, there are a few exemptions that we can thread-the-needle with and find safety.
First the standard exemptions.
You may provide nutrition and dietetic therapy without a license if you are employed by the United States federal or state government.
You may also provide a general program for weight control without a license if it is approved by a registered dietitian or a licensed physician.
Now we come to two exemptions that relate to us, as taken directly from the law. It says:
This law does not prohibit or restrict:
(4) An herbalist, retailer or other person who does not hold himself or herself out to be a dietitian or nutritionist by using 1 or more of the titles restricted by this chapter, who makes recommendations regarding lifestyle, or who markets, distributes, sells, or who recommends, advises, or furnishes nonfraudulent information about, herbs, vitamins, minerals, amino acids, carbohydrates, sugars, enzymes, food concentrates, foods, other food supplements, or dietary supplements. For purposes of this paragraph, “fraud” shall be defined as an intentional misrepresentation for financial gain. Legitimate disagreement about the role of the above-listed nutrients and foods as they apply to human nutrition shall not, in and of itself, constitute fraud. OR
(5) [are engaging in ] The practice of the tenets of any religion, sect or denomination whatsoever, provided that a member of such religion, sect or denomination shall not designate himself or herself by any other term or title which implies that such member is engaged in the practice of dietetic and nutrition therapy.
Let’s break this first part down. An “herbalist, retailer, or other person” who does not use a protected title, who recommends changes in lifestyle or sells products, furnishes information they believe to be truthful. Those products may be “herbs, vitamins, minerals, amino acids, carbohydrates, sugars, enzymes, food concentrates, foods, other food supplements, or dietary supplements.”
This section is our catch all exemption and it’s part of what you’re going to use to practice with. You’re providing information, recommendations, guidance, and assistance in your clients understanding their food and nutrition needs better. What you must be cautious of, however, is that you don’t stray into the practice of medicine. This could be seen as diagnosing, treating, or attempting to cure a medical condition. This is why I always advise to connect with a clients medical doctor ASAP.
The sources of your information, guidance, and recommendations is also important. Through interactions with clients you’ll increase their awareness and understanding of healthy food and nutrition, which in turn will allow them to make choices better for their overall wellness.
Herbalists who do not consider themselves “dietitians” or “nutritionists” are allowed to make nutritional recommendations regarding herbs, vitamins, minerals, foods, etc. Herbalists can market, distribute, sell, or recommend, advise, or provide non-fraudulent information about nutrition.
Religious practitioners are able to provide nutritional care according to religious tenets, as long as the practitioner does not label himself as a “dietitian” or any other misleading title.
Anyone, who does not hold himself or herself out to be a dietitian or nutritionist by using 1 or more of the titles restricted by the law, may provide recommendations regarding lifestyle, or who ….recommends, advises, or furnishes non-fraudulent information about, herbs, vitamins, minerals, amino acids, carbohydrates, sugars, enzymes, food concentrates, foods, other food supplements, or dietary supplements.
The law also provides in § 3810(4) that legitimate disagreement about the role of the above-listed nutrients and foods as they apply to human nutrition shall not, in and of itself, constitute fraud.
Just be sure to be aware that under this law you cannot advertise or be perceived as “assessing nutritional needs of individuals and groups” etc. You also cannot do or say anything that would give the impression that you are licensed, registered, or call yourself a nutritionist or dietitian.