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Dietitians and Nutritionists: What’s the Difference?

Trivia time: do you know the difference between a dietitian and a nutritionist?

If not, you’re not alone. It’s common for people to think that these two health professionals are one and the same.

But these two professionals are different when it comes to their education and qualifications.

Let's dive a little deeper and explore what those differences are.

Dietitians

Dietitians are food and nutrition experts. They hold a minimum of a bachelor’s degree, have completed an internship program with 1200 hours of supervised practice and passed a national exam to be credentialed as registered dietitians or registered dietitian nutritionists (RD or RDN). They are required to complete continuing education hours to remain credentialed.

They may have also earned a master’s or doctorate in dietetics or nutrition science. Dietitians work in various settings, including but not limited to community or public health, education, research, food service and health care. Many dietitians have specialized credentials in geriatrics, pediatrics, diabetes, renal nutrition, sports nutrition, oncology and nutrition support.

Dietitians evaluate your health and nutritional needs, then help you develop a plan to obtain your optimal health. Dietitians accomplish this by:

  • Determining your energy and nutrient needs
  • Providing weight management counseling
  • Helping you plan menus with healthy food choices
  • Giving you the education and tools you need to control your blood pressure, cholesterol or diabetes through healthy eating

Nutritionists

According to the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics, all registered dietitians are nutritionists, but not all nutritionists are registered dietitians. The term “dietitian” is regulated, while “nutritionist” isn’t.

This means anyone can call themselves nutritionists in some states, regardless of their education or professional experience. But some states, including Alabama, provide licensing for nutritionists practicing in the state.

That’s why it’s important to find out the credentials of any nutrition professional you plan to see.

If you have any nutrition questions or concerns, call 770-812-5954 or email gethealthy@tanner.org to learn how our registered dietitians can help.

For more educational resources on healthy eating, visit tanner.org/healthyeating.

Tanner Health System




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