Many people ask, ”what is the difference between a Nutritionist and Dietitian?”
The simple answer is fairly simple; both focus on food and nutrition but the Dietitian has more extensive training.
A Dietitian, which is what I am, has obtained either a Bachelor’s or Master’s Degree in Nutrition from an accredited university. Curriculum usually contains prerequisite science classes, human anatomy, food science, nutrients and many clinical nutrition classes. In addition, Dietitians must complete a supervised internship that lasts six to ten months. The internship is a combination of hospital rotations in various specialties, as well as community nutrition, alongside a Master’s level course.
The American Dietetic Association accredits Dietitians that pass an exam and maintain credentials by obtaining continuing education credits each year. The title for a Dietitian is Registered Dietitian Nutritionist (RDN) and is accredited by the American Dietetic Association (ADA).
Becoming a Dietitian is a broad degree so many Dietitians choose to specialize in specific areas. For example, Certified Diabetes Educators must complete 1,200 supervised hours and pass a board exam. Other specialties, including Renal (kidney), Sports, Cancer and Pediatrics all require similar supervised hours and board exams.
Dietitians can also be great holistic nutritionists.
Health insurance companies, hospitals and physicians will only recognize Dietitians to provide nutritional counseling. It’s not likely you get reimbursed unless you see a Dietitian.
A Nutritionist, on the other hand, requires very little training in nutrition. Basically, anyone can read a book on nutrition and call themselves a Nutritionist. There are some programs that last as little as six months and require no hospital experience.
With this generations boost in enthusiasm on health and diet topics these days it’s important to ask your nutrition health professional about their training and accreditation. There are many different types of diet programs available now, which leads to greater confusion and some that can be very dangerous if not supervised by the appropriate healthcare provider.