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 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!

Talk to Leah: Leah McGrath is the corporate dietitian for Ingles Markets. Follow her @InglesDietitian. Contact her at, 800-334-4936 or at

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