One of the top questions I’m asked is, “What’s the difference between a nutritionist and a dietitian?”
Before answering this question in more detail it is important to note that all Registered Dietitian’s are nutritionists, but not all nutritionists are Registered Dietitians.
In short, the term nutritionist isn’t regulated, so technically, anyone who has an interest in nutrition (or a food/health blog, large social media following etc) can call her or himself a nutritionist, despite having no formal training, certification or license.
While some nutritionists may have an educational background in nutrition without the RD credential (such as a Bachelor’s or Master’s degree in nutrition), others may use this title with after taking a short online course. Therefore, I highly encourage you to always research someone’s credentials prior to working with them to ensure that you will receive appropriate and sound advice.
What is a Registered Dietitian?
A Registered Dietitian, noted by RD after one’s name, or RDN for registered dietitian nutritionist (note: both RD and RDN are used by dietitians) is a title that indicates that an individual has met the following professional requirements in order to be considered an expert in the field of nutrition:
1) Completion of a minimum of a four-year college degree from an accredited program that includes specific course requirements covering a variety of subjects, including food and nutrition sciences, biochemistry, physiology, microbiology, anatomy, chemistry, foodservice systems, business, pharmacology, culinary arts, behavioral social sciences
2) Completion of a 1,200 hour supervised dietetic internship with rotation experience through hospitals, outpatient and community settings, and food service.
3) Passed 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) Maintenance of the credential by completing 75 units of continuing professional education requirements every 5 years and abides by a professional code of ethics.
Nutrition advice should be individualized
It’s important to note that what works for one person may be totally inappropriate, not effective, or even dangerous for another person. This is why formal training and credentials are so important.
Throughout my 7 years as a nutrition practitioner, I’ve both seen and heard of clients and friends harmed by nutrition advice given by people without adequate training. In many cases, the advice was given with good intentions, however without looking at the person’s individual needs due to lack of training and expertise sometimes the wrong care can be provided.
Bottom line: do your research. Before you seek out help from any health professional’s hands, including a nutrition professional, be sure you feel confident in his or her qualifications and experience.