What's the difference between a nutritionist and dietitian?

Most people today understand the importance of proper nutrition. They know that eating healthy foods and regularly exercising helps to ensure that they live a long and healthy life. They also recognize the importance of visiting a medical professional when necessary. 


If you have specific questions regarding your diet, you can always schedule an appointment with a dietician or nutritionist. These experts can provide you with thorough answers to all of the questions you have. 


But what’s the difference between a nutritionist and a dietician? Are they the same, or are there differences between the two? 


Read on to learn more. 


From harmful diets to fake information on social media, there’s a lot of dangerous nutritional information out there. Both dieticians and nutritionists help you ignore misinformation while providing you with the knowledge you need to tackle dietary questions or concerns. 


They can offer advice for topics such as:

  • Weight loss
  • Weight gain
  • Food allergies and sensitivities
  • Chronic diseases
  • Vegetarianism
  • How to feed picky kids
  • Athletic performance

In addition to those food-related challenges, dietitians and nutritionists can also provide you with general advice that can help you live as healthily as possible. 

Education and training

So if dieticians and nutritionists essentially do the same thing, how are they different? The answer lies in their education and training. 


To become a registered dietician nutrition (RDN), a person needs to get certified by the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics. Before they can do that, however, they first need:

In contrast, the education and training of a nutritionist can vary a bit. While credentials like certified nutrition specialists (CDS) require extensive education and training, others don’t. For example, a certified clinical nutritionist (CCN) just needs a degree in nutrition. 


Furthermore, while some states require nutritionists to receive certification from the Board for Certification of Nutrition Specialists (BCNS), not all do. Regardless of whether you meet with a CCN, a CDS, or an RDN, make sure that their credentials check out! 


As the United States has one of the priciest (and least effective) healthcare systems in the developed world, it’s important to know whether you’ll have to pay out of pocket for a consultation or treatment plan. 


Luckily, many insurance providers recognize the importance of proper nutrition. Most healthcare plans cover visits to RDNs. 


If you’re on Medicare, the Medical Nutrition Therapy Act of 2020 extends access to medical nutritional therapy to people with:

  • Prediabetics
  • Obesity
  • HIV or AIDs
  • Celiac disease
  • Cancer 
  • Hypertension
  • Eating disorders
  • Malnutrition 
  • Any condition that leads to weight loss

The 2020 act also lets psychologists and nurses recommend patients for medical nutritional therapy. 

Know who you’re seeing 

While dieticians and nutritionists both help people take control of their health, there are some differences between the education and training needed. No matter which type of professional you choose to see, ensure that they have all the necessary credentials!

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