Wondering what the difference is between a dietitian and nutritionist? Let me break it down for you!

What is a dietitian?

In the United States, dietitians are nutrition professionals who have gone through a specific program encompassing a set number of credits under the “Didactic Program of Dietetics,” which is then followed by a required internship.

Once the internship is complete, a national board exam follows. Upon passing the board exam, the Registered Dietitian credentials (R.D.) are awarded to the individual by the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics. Dietitians are considered healthcare professionals

What is a nutritionist?

Nutritionists are health specialists who are interested in food and nutritional science, preventative nutrition, diseases related to nutrient deficiencies, and the use of food and nutrients to cure disease and ailments.

However, the term ‘nutritionist’ is not regulated. There are varying degrees of education in nutrition and, most recently, vocational programs such as the Institute for Integrative Nutrition. Many nutritionists have not undergone the curriculum required of dietitians nor have they completed an internship in a clinical setting.

Speaking with a dietitian is more advisable when you’re seeking counseling and nutrition advice. This is because they have extensive knowledge in chemistry, biochemistry, anatomy, food science, and medical nutrition therapy. Dietitians provide advice based on evidence supported by studies and clinical trials.

While a session with an R.D. is likely more expensive than one with a nutritionist, there are plenty of ways to get feedback from dietitians that don’t involve private appointments. Here are some easy ways to connect with an R.D.:

  • Follow them on Twitter. More than likely, dietitians are tweeting a variety of informational advice and suggestions.
  • Check out forums such as Chick Rx. You can post a question and receive an answer from a variety of experts connected within the site.
  • Many companies offer corporate wellness benefits that involve connecting with dietitians. If your company doesn’t offer these programs, check if your insurance covers it under preventative measures. Some insurance companies allow for group sessions to be reimbursed.

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Anita Mirchandani, M.S, R.D, C.D.N received a Bachelor of Arts and then a Master of Science in clinical nutrition from New York University, and completed a dietetic internship at New York-Presbyterian hospital in 2011. She is now a practicing registered dietitian and recently co-founded FitMapped, a free ‘GPS for fitness’ concept that helps users find fitness easily and connect with fellow enthusiasts. Follow her @FitNutAnita for interesting updates of fitness and nutrition.