One of the most frequently asked questions that I receive is “What’s the difference between a nutritionist and a dietitian?” 

Before answering this question it is important to note that all Registered Dietitian’s are nutritionists, but not all nutritionists are Registered Dietitians.

In short, the title of nutritionist is not a regulated position. In theory, basically anyone who has an interest in nutrition can call her or himself a nutritionist. This is the case even if that person possesses no formal training, certification, or license in nutrition. 

While some nutritionists may have a Masters or educational background in nutrition, some may claim this title after only taking just a short online course. Therefore, it’s important to emphasize that potential clients should always research the credentials of nutritionists prior to seeking out their services. 

What is required to become a Registered Dietitian?

A Registered Dietitian (noted by the letters RD or RDN for registered dietitian nutritionist) is a title that indicates that someone has met the following professional criteria: 

1) Completion of a a four-year college degree from an accredited program/university with a focus on food and nutrition sciences, biochemistry, anatomy, physiology, chemistry, foodservice systems, psychology and communication.

2) Completion of 1,200 hours of a supervised dietetic internship that combines clinical, outpatient, community, and food service experience.  

3) Successful passage of a national examination administered by the Commission on Dietetic Registration (CDR). For more information regarding the examination refer to CDR’s Website at www.cdrnet.org.

4) Adherence to a strict professional code of ethics and completion of 75 credit hours of continued learning every five years.

Red flags to look out for when it comes to nutrition advice:

If it sounds to good to be true… it probably is! 

Also, It’s important to note that what works for one person may be totally inappropriate, ineffective, or dangerous for another person. This is why formal training and proper credentials are crucial. 

Nutrition advice should always be individualized!

Throughout my 7 years as a nutrition practitioner, I’ve encountered numerous individuals who have been harmed by improper nutrition advice. In almost every case, the advice was given with good intentions. However, good intentions are no substitute for experience and formal training. Without looking at a person’s individualized needs, the wrong care can result.

Bottom line: Always do your research. Before you seek out nutrition advice from a nutrition provider ensure that you are confident in his or her qualifications and experience.

References:

https://www.eatright.org/food/resources/learn-more-about-rdns/qualifications-of-a-registered-dietitian-nutritionist