Dietitian vs. Nutritionist

June 25, 2010 at 12:50 am 2 comments

What is the difference between a dietitian and a nutritionist?  Which is better?  How do you know if someone is a dietitian or a nutritionist?  Today I will explore the differences between the two – then you decide for yourself!

A dietitian is a shortened term for a Registered Dietitian (RD).  RD is a designation that is legally protected and can only be used by those who are authorized by the Commission on Dietetic Registration of the American Dietetic Association (ADA).  RD’s often call themselves nutritionists because it is a more common and understood term.  However, nutritionists cannot call themselves dietitians unless they have completed the qualifications to become a Registered Dietitian.

What are the qualifications to become a Registered Dietitian?

1.   Bachelor’s Degree with course work approved by the American Dietetic Association Commission on Accreditation for Dietetics Education.

2.   Completion of an accredited, supervised practice program at a health-care facility, community health agency and/or a food service corporation.  Another term for this is an internship.

3.   Pass a national exam administered by the Commission on Dietetic Registration.

4.   Complete continuing professional education requirements to maintain registration.

The coursework to become a dietitian includes Anatomy and Physiology, Biology, Chemistry, Biochemistry, Food Service Management, Community Nutrition, Food Science, Clinical Nutrition, Nutrient Metabolism, and Medical Nutrition Therapy.  About half of all RD’s have advanced degrees.

The definition of nutritionist varies.  Some states have licensure laws that define the scope of practice of a nutritionist, but most do not.  In some states, anyone may call themselves a nutritionist.  Many nutritionists rely on information and practices that have little or no scientific evidence of their efficacy.

What do you think?  Which would you trust your health to?  Tell me experiences you’ve had with either.

Tomorrow:  A yummy, healthy recipe!


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2 Comments Add your own

  • 1. Elise  |  July 2, 2010 at 8:49 pm

    Great post Marcia!


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