What’s the Difference Between a Dietitian and a Nutritionist?

by Lisa Shettle | Sep 09, 2020

People ask me all the time to explain the difference between a Dietitian and a Nutritionist:

Dietitians, also known as Registered Dietitians (RD) or Registered Dietitian Nutritionists (RDN), are food and nutrition experts qualified to assess, diagnose, and treat nutrition related problems. We work in a variety of settings ranging from hospitals, long-term care facilities, community health centers, and various outpatient settings.

How do you become a dietitian?

Dietitians must complete a bachelor’s degree from an accredited institution with coursework that is heavily science focused. Coursework focuses on food and nutrition science, biology, chemistry, biochemistry, microbiology, anatomy, physiology, and food service. Beginning in 2024, dietitians will also be required to have graduate degrees in a related field. After graduation, dietetic students become dietetic interns and complete 1,200+ hours of supervised practice under the guidance of other dietitians through an accredited internship program. Only after this completed internship is an individual eligible to sit for the national Registration Examination for Dietitians by the Commission on Dietetic Registration. Registered dietitians are required to complete 75 continuing education units every 5 years.

Lisa Shettle, Dietitian Nutritionist

Dietitians are held to rigorous academic and scope of practice standards. Registered dietitians are the only legally recognized nutrition experts and the title of “Registered Dietitian” and the RD/RDN credentials are protected by the law.

However, “Nutritionist” is not a protected title. This means ANYONE can call themselves a nutritionist because there are no formal education requirements, no regulated examination or credentialing, and no continuing education requirements.

When it comes to medical conditions and nutrition therapy Registered Dietitians truly are the nutrition experts. An added bonus is that most health insurance covers medical nutrition therapy nutrition counseling by a registered dietitian.

If you need help reaching your nutrition goals, please make an appointment with me for individualized nutritional counseling.

It’s easy….call Pronatural Physicians Group at 860-829-0707 for an appointment.

Resources:. https://www.eatrightpro.org/about-us/what-is-an-rdn-and-dtr/what-is-a-registered-dietitian-nutritionist