A Registered Dietitian ≠ a Nutritionist: Mind Blown?

registered dietitian

If you feel like you may you need professional help to realize your nutrition goals, here’s your primer. It’s important to understand the differences between a registered dietitian and a nutritionist so you can choose who’s right for you.

We are well aware of the overarching goal: making healthier nutrition choices daily, which should translate into a healthier you! But you can accomplish this goal far more easily with help. Enter a registered dietitian. Or is it a nutritionist you need? Turns out, they’re not the same thing. Below are four key differences between registered dietitians and nutritionists.

A registered dietitian must have a four-year degree in nutrition and dietetics, or a master’s degree in nutrition. 

Nutritionists may have a degree, but this is not a requirement. The term “nutritionist” is a non-regulated, non-accredited title. Anyone has the ability to call themselves a nutritionist – whether they went to college or not. Surprisingly, some nutritionists may not have any nutrition training at all, formal or informal. For your own safety and success, it’s important to ask the person about their qualifications.

The law protects the term “dietitian,” on the other hand. Registered dietitians must have a four-year degree in nutrition and dietetics (along with some other qualifications listed below).

“Getting advice from a registered dietitian is really beneficial because you know you’re getting recommendations that are evidence-based,” says Caitlin Griffin, RD, LD, outpatient dietary educator at Renown Health. “The information you’re being provided is legitimate, so you can take comfort in the fact that the program you’re following should work, and that it’s going to be healthy for you.”

Registered dietitians must complete professional training after graduation.

Unlike nutritionists, registered dietitians are also required to complete 1,200 hours of supervised practice in various hospital and community settings, after completing a four-year-degree.
“We go through a dietetic internship, which is similar to medical school,” says Stephen Compston, RD, LD, CDE, outpatient dietary educator at Renown Health. “This teaches us how to prescribe food as medicine. Just as doctors treat patients with prescriptions, we use food to treat medical conditions or help improve your overall health and well-being.”

A registered dietitian must pass a national exam. 

Once their schooling and professional training is complete, registered dietitian credentials aren’t automatically handed out. In that last step to becoming a certified registered dietitian, individuals must pass a standardized, national exam to really put their knowledge to the test.

“I can still remember how happy I was after passing the registered dietitian exam,” Caitlin says. “All of the hard work and long hours spent studying in college and working during the internship had finally paid off.”

Registered dietitians must complete continuing education credits every year. 

Registered dietitians must not only have a four-year degree, they also have to pursue continuing education, which is similar to other medical professionals.

“We have to be constantly learning, because the information in nutrition is continuously changing,” Stephen says.

If you’re interested in meeting with a registered dietitian, please contact Renown’s Health Improvement Programs at 775-982-5073.

Renown Health Improvement Programs | 775-982-5073

Renown Health Improvement ProgramsRenown Health offers a number of educational and support programs to help people overcome the challenges of their health conditions and adopt a healthy lifestyle. Our team of registered dietitians and nurses also work to provide patients and their loved ones with tools. These tools manage disease and help them live a healthy and happy life.

    We Offer:

  • Diabetes Programs
  • Medical Weight Management
  • Nutrition Programs

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  1. I didn't even realize the different (that there was a difference) until I read this article. I thank you for en-lighting me (us)! These simple messages are SO beneficiary to us all.... :O)