What’s the difference between a dietitian and a nutritionist?
It’s hard to believe that I’ve been the corporate dietitian for Ingles Markets for 17 years! One of the most common questions I get is: “What’s the difference between a dietitian and a nutritionist?” What we often say is, “Anyone can say that they’re a nutritionist, but not everyone can call themselves a dietitian.”
A Registered Dietitian Nutritionist (RD or RDN) is a licensed title. Educational and training background of dietitians consist of:
- Minimum of an undergraduate degree with specified coursework that includes biochemistry, anatomy and physiology, organic chemistry, food science and advanced nutrition.
- Competitive application process to enter an internship
- Supervised 1,200 hour internship with rotations in clinical(hospital) nutrition, community/public health nutrition and food service.
- Must pass a nationally administered board exam.
- Must complete annual continuing education.
- Must practice nutrition ethically and according to evidence-based information.
- Many states also require dietitians to be licensed in the state to practice nutrition.
Meanwhile, there are no specific qualifications for someone who wishes to call themselves a nutritionist. Occasionally registered dietitians may refer to themselves as nutritionists but a nutritionist cannot call themselves a dietitian without having the required training, education and credentials.
How to find a registered dietitian nutritionist
- Your local hospital or health department will typically have RDNs on staff.
- Search www.eatright.org to find dietitians according to your zip code.
- Make sure you check the credentials of anyone providing nutrition information.
- Red flags: If your nutritionist is selling a specific brand of supplements, food sensitivity tests or detox kits, this is not practicing evidence-based nutrition!