A common question our Registered Dietitians at Synergy get asked is “What’s the difference between a Dietitian and a Nutritionist?” In honor of March being National Nutrition Month, we want to answer this burning question!
The terms Dietitian and Nutritionist are used to describe the primary two roles that relate to wellness, food, diet, and nutrition. While all Dietitians are Nutritionists, not all Nutritionists are Dietitians. So what’s the difference?
A Registered Dietitian, commonly referred to as an RD, has completed a minimum of undergraduate degree in nutrition science along with a year long, 1200 hour accredited internship program. After completing the required education, one must pass a national exam administered by the Commission on Dietetic Registration. RDs must maintain their protected title through continuing education, advanced degrees, and often specializations.
Dietitians can help translate the science of nutrition into everyday information about healthy eating and lifestyle. RDs are qualified to provide Medical Nutrition Therapy to individuals with specific health conditions. This includes conditions like Diabetes, Celiac Disease, Kidney Disease, Eating Disorders, and more. Dietitians also provide sound nutrition and wellness advice to individuals of all ages and physical capabilities.
In many cases, a nutritionist has completed some classes or an undergraduate degree in nutrition. However, the term Nutritionist is not regulated or protected, meaning that it can be used by anyone.
Nutritionists are often found in fitness centers, nutritional supplement stores, holistic wellness centers, and more. Nutritionists cannot provide Medical Nutrition Therapy like Dietitians but they do often offer basic nutrition and wellness advice. Some nutritionists have a focus on selling supplement products.
What does this mean for me?
When choosing a nutrition professional for general wellness advice, nutrition counseling, or diet counseling for specific health conditions, it is important to take education and experience into account. While both Nutritionists and Dietitian's want to help you to improve your total nutrition, it's generally safer to seek nutrition counseling from a Registered Dietitian. RDs work under a code of conduct and are held accountable for the care they provide. The reliability of their professional advice and care can be ensured.
If you decide to visit with a nutritionist, ask what type of training and qualifications they may have. Also consider whether you are seeking advice for a medical condition or just overall wellness.
If you decide to visit with a Registered Dietitian, you can be confident that they have sound training and experience. However, it is important to find a Dietitian that has experience in your specific health condition/concern and is willing to work with your goals.
March 9th, 2016 is National Registered Dietitian day! Thank your Synergy and Bend Dietitians for all of their hard work and dedication to improved nutrition and wellness!
This blog is co-authored by Synergy's team of Registered Dietitian Nutritionists, Licensed Massage Therapists, and Diabetes Educators practicing in Bend, Oregon. As providers following Health at Every Size® (HAES) and Body Trust® philosophies, they strive to help EVERY BODY thrive.