What Is The Difference Between a Nutritionist And a Dietitian?

Dietitians and nutritionists are both food and nutrition experts. They've..

Nutritionist And a Dietitian

What Is The Difference Between a Nutritionist And a Dietitian?

Dietitians and nutritionists are both food and nutrition experts.

They’ve studied how diet and dietary supplements affect your health. Both are considered to be healthcare professionals, but the two titles shouldn’t be used interchangeably.

Dietitians

Generally speaking, the role of dietitian is more regulated than that of a nutritionist.

While anyone can go to school to study health and nutrition, in the US, depending on where a person wants to practice.

There are certain licensures and certifications a dietitian has to earn to be able to work.

After earning a bachelor’s degree at an accredited university in a field like nutrition science. A dietitian usually has to complete an internship or practice program at a health care facility.

Food service company, hospital, or other organization where their health advice and research can be monitored and supervised.

After completing an internship, students can sit for their national examination; once they pass, they are free to practice as an R.D, or registered dietitian.

Dietitians organize food and nutrition plan and promote healthy eating habits to prevent and treat illness.

They find work in food service businesses, or working with patients in hospitals, clinics and other healthcare facilities.

Dietitians also work at colleges and universities, where they may teach nutrition and health classes, do research or focus on public health issues.

Other dietitians choose to go into private practice allows practitioners more creative options for helping others and to develop their knowledge base.

Private practice isn’t for everyone and is a big career decision. But for those who choose to pursue it, they often find the individualized and focused client therapy to be well worth it.

Nutritionists

In the US, the title “nutritionist” is not as regulated as “dietitian,” and tends to have a broader, more general meaning.

The title is not generally protected, meaning that it can be used by anyone, unlike “doctor”, for instance, which requires proof of qualifications.

Nutritionists typically do not have any professional training, and therefore, should not be involved in the diagnosis and treatment of any diseases.

However, most nutritionists do know what nutrition science is because they have studied it, and may have a graduate degree or even a PhD.

There are nutritionist certification boards. Which require applicants to have an advanced degree along with practical experience before taking their certification exam.

Nutritionists who pass this test may refer to themselves as certified nutrition specialists, or C.N.S, which is a protected title.

Also, many doctors, including medical doctors, osteopaths, physician assistants, chiropractors and naturopathic doctors. Practice clinical nutrition after completing extra work in the study of food and nutrition science.

Some nutritionists are also called food scientists.

Typically, food scientists work for food manufacturers, retailed businesses, or public health promotion. Some nutritionists work as dietitian assistants or food journalists.

One of the major differences between the work of a nutritionist (one who is not also working as a doctor) and dietitian.

Though, is that a dietitian can help to diagnose eating disorders or help plan meals for the managing of symptoms of health problems.

While nutritionists can certainly offer support in these areas, most of their work is done with behavioral issues. As well as teach clients about the general nutrition and health properties in food and offer nutrition supervision.”

Overall, the difference lies in the depth, scope, length, and type of education and training.

Licensure

While only a dietitian can use the title “dietitian,” it’s important to understand that the term “nutritionist” itself is not protected.

In regions where nutrition and dietetics are not licensed or regulated, anyone can call themselves a nutritionist, whether they’re qualified or not.

If you’re going to work with someone who calls herself a nutritionist, be sure to check her credentials.

Many (but not all) U.S. states and Canadian provinces require licensure to practice as either a dietitian or a nutritionist. These licensed positions are:

  • L.D. = licensed dietitian
  • L.N. = licensed nutritionist
  • L.D.N. = licensed dietitian nutritionist

 

The requirements for licensure vary a bit by location. Some states only license register dietitians, while others license nutritionists if they’re certified by one of the above certification boards.

Health Coaches

If you search online, you’ll find all kinds of programs that train “health coaches.”

These programs are generally only a few weeks long and aren’t regulated by any accredited educational regulatory agencies.

They’re often focused on more holistic ideas and alternative ideas such as functional nutrition. However, they may not have adequate training to help anyone with any serious health issues.

Choosing a Dietitian or Nutritionist

If you feel like working with a professional to help you with your dietary concerns.

The best thing to do is speak with your medical doctor or physicians assistant who can get you in touch with a dietitian or nutritionist who can fit your needs.

This is especially important if you have a specific health condition such as diabetes, kidney disease, or cancer, or if you are pregnant or looking for a dietitian to work with your child. 


Daniel Messer, RNutr, CPT
Daniel Messer, RNutr, CPT

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