People often use the titles “dietitian” and “nutritionist” interchangeably.
In fact, in the last 10+ years that I have worked in the field of dietetics, I have been called a dietitian, dietician, nutritionist, nutritionalist (this is not even a word)… and even doctor (which I am not). Dietitians and nutritionists both help people make healthier food choices to improve their health but their qualifications and credentials vary greatly.
Simply stated, “all dietitians are nutritionists but not all nutritionists are dietitians”. What does that mean?
- A Registered Dietitian or Registered Dietitian Nutritionist are licensed and credentialed professionals who treat and manage medical conditions such as obesity, heart disease, diabetes, cancer, etc.
- Nutritionists are not always certified and regulations can vary from state to state Nutritionists may include anyone who calls themselves a nutritionist with no formal training to those who obtain advanced degrees. Those with advanced degrees may obtain a Certified Nutrition Specialist (CNS) or Integrative Functional Nutrition Certified Practitioner (IFNCP) credential.
Let’s dive in deeper to discuss the difference between these two nutrition experts:
|Gives food and nutrition advice||Yes||Yes|
|Support clients through consisting appointments||Yes||Yes|
|Track clients’ progress||Yes||Yes|
|Offer nutrition-related presentations or seminars||Yes||Yes|
|Qualified to write a meal plans for individuals with obesity, heart disease, diabetes, food allergies, etc||Yes||No|
|Prescribe medical nutrition therapy||Yes||No|
|Requires degrees and credentials||Yes - Requires a Bachelor’s degree in Nutrition or science-related field, 1200 supervised practice hours, pass registration exam and maintain continuing education (Note: starting in 2024, all RDs/RDNs will need a graduate degree to sit for their boards)||Can vary state to state. Certain states require RD or Certified Nutrition Specialist titles Other states require no credentials|
|Requires state licensure||Yes||Only needed in states requiring RD or CNS|
|Requires accreditation||Yes- accredited by the Academy of Nutrition and Dietitian||Only needed in states requiring RD or CNS|
|Accepts health insurance||Yes||No|