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Dietitian vs. Nutritionist

So you have decided that you need to improve your health and that working on your diet is the best place to start. You have heard about the benefits of working with a dietitian or a nutritionist, but you aren’t sure which you need or how to choose who to work with.

Theoretically, both a dietitian and a nutritionist are professionals who can provide you with similar advice and guidance when it comes to your diet – whether it be for weight loss or to improve a medical condition that needs to be treated through making changes to your diet.

However, the main differences are the type of study that has been completed by each professional, and the regulations attached to each title. A dietitian has met the national and international standards for professional legislation. Dietitians are the only nutrition professionals to be regulated by law, and they are governed by an ethical code (much like doctors are) to ensure that they always work to the highest standard.

On the other hand, someone who has the title of a nutritionist is not accredited or protected by law in many countries.  All dietitians are considered to be nutritionists; however, nutritionists without a dietetics qualification cannot take on the specialised role of a dietitian. Someone who has completed just a short course, for example, could call themselves a nutritionist as this term is not regulated.

For someone to become a registered dietitian, they need to have completed a 4 year university degree in Nutrition and Dietetics, or a 3-year science degree followed by a Master Degree in Nutrition. To qualify as a dietitian, practical training in hospitals or clinics is also required. Only qualified practitioners, who have met the required education qualifications including the practical component and who continue to maintain their knowledge and skills through continuing professional development, can use that "Registered Dietitian” or "Dietitian" title.

Both dietitians and nutritionists are able to provide information to their clients about food and inform people about food and health. They can work with you on special dietary needs, to promote wellbeing and to prevent nutrition related problems. However, only dietitians can be involved in the diagnoses and dietary treatment of diseases such as food allergies, diabetes or cancer, for example.

Nutritionists are qualified to provide information about food and healthy eating but because they do not do not have any professional practical training, they should not be involved in the diagnosis and dietary treatment of any diseases. Only dietitians can be held accountable for their conduct and the care they provide, making the reliability and safety of their advice higher than that which might be provided by someone who calls themselves a nutritionist.

At Spectrum Health, in keeping with our high standards in allied health, our nutrition team comprises of registered dietitians only. Our dietitians can help in treating weight management, digestive disorders, and eating disorders and are able to prescribe specialist diets.

We encourage you to book in for an assessment to find out more about how we can help you to achieve and maintain a healthy body, based on science, and to provide you with a personalised plan so you can get the results you need for your overall wellness.