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Dietitian vs. Nutritionist

Nutritionist vs Dietitian

I am asked many times by people interested in nutrition as a profession, what the requirements are. They seem genuinely confused when told, and I realize that there are many so-called nutrition schools that are offering nutrition programs not satisfying requirements for credentialing.

Here is a great article explaining the difference between a dietitian and a nutritionist.

Tara Gidus, MS, RD, CSSD, LD/N

Have you ever wondered what the difference is between a nutritionist and a dietitian? To put it simply, a nutritionist has no concrete definition, while a dietitian has credentials to go with the term. Any person working in a health food store or otherwise can call themselves a nutritionist.

A Registered Dietitian (RD) is a credential just like a Registered Nurse (RN) or Medical Doctor (MD). To become a Registered Dietitian you must:

  1. Earn at least a Bachelor's Degree in dietetics, a 4 year degree from an accredited college or university
  2. Complete an internship with at least 900 hours
  3. Take and pass the RD exam
  4. Complete 75 Continuing Education Credits every 5 years to maintain license.

To earn a Bachelor's Degree, Registered Dietitians study food and nutrition sciences, foodservice systems management, business, economics, computer science, culinary arts, sociology, communications, biochemistry, physiology, microbiology, anatomy and chemistry.

A Registered Dietitian is knowledgeable in the science of nutrition. They learn how to interpret research studies and apply that knowledge to counseling individuals on how to improve their lifestyle and health. He or she is able to look at your medical history, current symptoms, medications, supplements, exercise routine, weight, and eating habits and give advice that is safe and effective for you to reach your goals.

A nutritionist may or may not have the credentials of a Registered Dietitian. An RD is the authority on nutrition in the US. If you are looking for someone to help you with your diet and aren't sure if the person you find is credentialed, ask them if they are an RD and to see their credentials. Some nutritionist claim they have credentials, but if he or she is not an RD then their credentials are not backed by science, education, and experience like they would be if they were an RD.

The picture on this blog is of Connie Diekman, the current President of the American Dietetic Association with her dog, Eddie, who has a certificate calling him a nutritionist from the American Association of Nutritional Consultants. No education or experience was needed to apply for this certificate.

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