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Food and Nutrition

Dietitian vs. Nutritionist: synonyms, or something more?

Enara Staff
/ August 7, 2017
Dietitian vs. Nutritionist: synonyms, or something more?

If someone gave you a multiple choice pop quiz with this single question, which answer would you choose?

Very fun pop quiz:                          

“A dietitian is similar to a nutritionist in the same way…”

(a) an apple is to an orange 

(b) a professional haircut is to my teenage sister holding scissors

(d) Tomato, To-mah-toe


At first blush, one might pick “C.”  To distinguish between a dietitian and a nutritionist might seem a game of semantics.  A matter of a thesaurus/other dinosaurs.  And certainly, websites and books and media often use the terms carelessly and interchangeably, so this brief post is here to clarify the important distinction.

To earn the title of dietitian, a professional completes the most comprehensive level of training to serve their community with current, scientific and accurate information and care.  A Registered Dietitian (RD) must possess a minimum of a four-year college degree with coursework encompassing nutrition science, human physiology, biology and chemistry.  He or she must be selected for a hands-on internship enabling at least 1,200 hours of supervised practice.  Even still, he or she must pass a comprehensive examination to secure the RD credential.  And when that’s said and done, our dietitian must complete ongoing professional education every five years.  

The “nutritionist” title, on the other hand, is not legally protected.  To call oneself a nutritionist, one need not any formal training nor education in the field of nutrition.  While the term has a certain ring to it, there’s no regulation for who/what gets to claim it their own.  Therefore, be careful when you see it used or attempt to use it yourself.  Because the correct answer to our pop quiz is “B”: a hairdresser (like a dietitian) is someone who’s certified and experienced to coif the coif.  A little different from a kid and her safety scissors.  

You’ve already met some of the rockstar registered dietitians of the Enara community.  Feel free to ask them more about what brought them to dietetics, and what they love about it, at your next appointment!

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