In the future, I may dive more into the specifics of my day-to-day roles and responsibilities as a clinical dietitian, but I think it’s important to first acknowledge a question that I have been asked time and time again… What’s the difference between dietitians and nutritionists?
Dietitians vs. Nutritionists
First off, to become a dietitian you need to complete the follow:
- Minimum of a bachelor’s degree in an accredited university or college's dietetics/nutrition program (Note: By 2024 in the U.S., dietitians will be required to have a master’s degree),
- 1200 hours of supervised practice in the U.S. (or 35 to 40-week internship in Canada),
- And, pass an intense national registration examination.
- General Sciences: Anatomy and physiology I & II, general chemistry I & II, microbiology, organic chemistry, biochemistry, nutrition biochemistry… plus a bunch of labs
- Social Sciences, Communications, Statistics, and Business Courses
- Profession-Related: Food science, principles of nutrition, lifecycle nutrition, nutrition for fitness & athletes, nutrition education & counselling, medical nutrition therapy, community nutrition, food service management, advance nutrition practice, nutrition entrepreneurship, food and culture, and nutrition research courses
Because of all this schooling and practical training, the titles of “Registered Dietitian,” “Dietitian,” and “Registered Dietitian Nutritionist” are protected by law in many countries such as the United States, Canada, South Africa, Australia, and the United Kingdom. Registered dietitians are also members of one or more professional bodies — this means we (dietitians) are accountable for our conduct and the nutrition care and counselling we provide.
On the other hand, the title “nutritionist” is not a regulated title. Nutritionists are not always bound to the same ethical code as a registered dietitian or registered dietitian nutritionist. Now, there are many qualified nutritionists — those who received university degrees in human nutrition, food science, or food technology, for example. But… a “nutritionist” may also be anyone who has taken a 1-week course in nutrition or has given themselves this title without any training at all. And because nutritionists do not have professional practical training, they should not be involved in the diagnosis and dietary treatment of any diseases.
All registered dietitians are nutritionists, but not all nutritionists are registered dietitians.
So what should you do?
Anyway... Happy Dietitians Day to all my fellow dietitians!