Dietitian or Nutritionist – What’s the Difference?

 In Living Plate

If you believe that nutrition impacts your health [we do!], it’s important to understand the qualifications of the nutrition professional you select to help you meet your health goals. We are often asked, “What is a Registered Dietitian?” and thought it would be worthwhile to explain here.

Registered Dietitians:

  • Complete a 4-year undergraduate and/or 2-3 year graduate degree in nutrition from an accredited institution
  • Complete 1,200 hours of supervised practice in healthcare facilities and community settings
  • Often participate in published, peer-reviewed research
  • Must earn continuing education units [CEUs]
  • Follow a strict code of ethics and must be HIPAA compliant
  • Pass a board exam administered by the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics
  • Must maintain malpractice insurance
  • Can use the credential RD or RDN [Registered Dietitian Nutritionist]
  • May accept health insurance for their services

The title of “nutritionist” is used to convey expertise. Certificates from online programs are advertised as credentials or degrees, but they are not. Nutritionists without credentials may identify as health care practitioners without having the clinical experience or formal education required of Registered Dietitians. This type of nutritionist is not accountable to any organization or laws.

It is important to understand the qualifications of the person to whom you entrust your health. Before you let someone review your blood work, test your hormones, recommend supplements, or advise you on following a particular nutrition plan, ask about their education and credentials. It’s your right to know.

See more information on the benefits of working with a Registered Dietitian.

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Showing 2 comments
  • Maria Claps

    I believe there is a place for everyone (RD, nutritionist, health coach) in today’s health landscape. Also, there is a move afoot to credential health coaches starting in 2017 via the National Consortium for Credentialing Health and Wellness Coaches.

    • Jeanne Petrucci

      Agreed! Collaborating with other health professionals benefits everyone. Here are two organizations that already provide a path to credentialing for nutrition professionals and health coaches: Board for Certification of Nutrition Specialists for the CNS credential [MS or PhD required] and National Commission for Health Education Credentialing for the CHES credential – Certified Health Education Specialist. It’s encouraging that other organizations are moving in this direction of oversight and accountability.

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