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  • Writer's pictureCarly Onopa

Dietitian vs Nutritionist - What’s the Difference?

A picture of different food options with a white rectangle in the foreground with the title "Dietitian vs Nutritionist - what's the difference?"

March is National Nutrition Month and March 13th is Registered Dietitian Nutrition Day. Today we will be answering a common question I get asked as an eating disorder dietitian: dietitian vs nutritionist - what's the difference? Who should I see to help me with my recovery! 

Let’s cover the basics. What is a registered dietitian? A registered dietitian is a health professional that is trained in the field of nutrition and dietetics. You may see a Registered Dietitian credential abbreviated as RD, RDN, or simply dietitian. To call yourself a dietitian, you have: 

  • Completed coursework that prepares you to provide medical nutrition therapy 

  • At least a Master’s Degree in a Nutrition-related field 

  • Completed a 1,200 hour (minimum) supervised practice program that exposes you to different areas of practice within the field of dietetics (hospitals, community organizations, long term care facilities, private practice, food service, etc) 

  • Passed an RD Credentialing exam 

  • Maintain your credential by having at least 75 continuing education credits for every 5 years you are a dietitian 

  • Maintain your state licensure (as needed) by completing their state requirements 

So how is that different from a nutritionist? There are no standardized requirements for someone to call themselves a nutritionist. Some nutritionists will have gone through a nutrition training program while others may not have received formal training at all. Nutritionists cannot use the title dietitian or provide medical nutrition therapy. It’s important that if you are working with a nutritionist or dietitian that you know what they can and cannot help you with. 

Do I need a dietitian? As an RD, I may be biased, but I think that there’s immense value in working with someone who has received formalized training to help you with your nutrition. If you have a medical condition, it would be even more important to connect with a dietitian rather than a nutritionist to help you with specific nutrition recommendations for your medical condition. 

Just like with any health professional, you want to make sure that you find a dietitian that meets your specific needs and that feels like a good fit for you. While we at Devoted Recovery are weight inclusive dietitians, that is not the case for many dietitians. Before reaching out to a provider, I would encourage you to think about what is important to you in finding the right provider and try to set up a time to chat prior to your first appointment to ask any questions. I’ve compiled a list of questions that can help you get started: 

  • What is your nutrition philosophy? 

  • What is your experience with my specific medical condition? 

  • How do you gauge progress? 

  • Do you meet with patients in person or via telehealth? 

  • How often do you meet with your patients? 

  • What is the cost of sessions? 

  • Do you accept my insurance? 

My hope is that these questions give you a framework to build off of and truly find a dietitian that works best for you. What questions would you add? We’d love to hear from you! 

If you are looking for a dietitian to support you in healing your relationship with food, we have openings available and would love to help. Schedule your discovery call now!  


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