Choosing Between a Nutritionist and a Dietician
Nutrition is an integral part of everyone’s life, both individually and collectively. In truth, it’s not just one’s food consumption that determines one’s health; one’s eating habits (lifestyle) also contributes significantly.
Therefore, when deciding on the best dieting choice, it is recommended that a nutrition enthusiast consult a professional who has the proper experience and knowledge to analyse the type of food product to consume. But then there’s the question of which specialist to see: a nutritionist or dietician?
Ironically, the terms “dietician” and “nutritionist” are sometimes interchanged, even at nutrition conferences. Some people are of the opinion that they are the same.
In actuality, there is a big difference between the two and hence a need to define the terms. But it doesn’t end there; what follows are aspects to look out for when choosing between a nutritionist and a dietician. This is to be clear and avoid confusion. So, kindly read on to learn more.
Defining the Boundaries
On the surface, the roles of a nutritionist and a dietician appear to be the same: one is a nutrition expert, while the other is a diet and nutrition specialist. The slight difference is in dietetics. But is that all there is to it? Let’s find out. While both professionals are well-versed in food and dieting and provide health care, a nutritionist has a more regulated role.
Unlike dieticians, nutritionists are not required to receive formal nutrition certification, education, or training to practice. A nutritionist can be someone who has a thorough understanding of nutrition. A dietician, on the other hand, is formally known as a registered dietician (RD), which means that the individual is certified to practice in the field of nutrition and dietetics.
As a result, it is unlawful to become a dietician without first meeting the criteria.
Starting with certification, although not all nutritionists are certified, some get personal training from a reputable board, such as the Board for Certification of Nutrition Specialists (BCNS). As a result, they have more credibility to handle nutrition-related issues. Of course, not everyone would work with an untrained nutritionist. Nonetheless, certification isn’t a prerequisite in some states.
Some nutritionists may specialize in healthcare fields, like autoimmune diseases, digestive disorders, ketogenic diet, and even sports nutrition, to mention a few. Others may provide general weight-loss, fatigue-reduction, and healthy-dieting recommendations.
Dieticians, on the other hand, are certified by a different trusted board. In the United States, the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics oversee such certifications. Similar to nutritionists, they provide nutritional advice and treat special conditions, like eating disorders.
Moving Up the Professional Ladder
How does a certified nutrition specialist differ from a certified clinical nutritionist and a registered dietician nutritionist? Let’s start by examining their roles, education, certification requirements.
Registered Dietician Nutritionist
When it comes to treating specific medical conditions related to nutrition, one can count on these healthcare experts. They specialize in helping patients to improve their diet and health by providing medical nutrition therapy (MNT). An RDN’s role in the medical field is important, which is why this specialist can be found working in private clinics and hospitals.
RDNs also work in public health organizations, food corporations, assisted-living homes, and academic institutions, providing nutrition instruction and healthcare guidance. The Academy of Nutrition and Diabetics certify them according to these guidelines.
- At least a bachelor’s degree from a regional-accredited US-based university
- ACEND-Approved or accredited Coursework
- Maintaining registration by completing ongoing professional educational requirements
- Completing a nationwide examination conducted by the Commission of Dietetic Registration
- Over 1,200 hours of practice in an ACEND-accredited curriculum
Certified Nutrition Specialist
Becoming a certified nutrition specialist is limited to the U.S. However, applying for this training and certification comes with its demands.
- A master’s degree or doctorate in nutrition or a related discipline
- Completion of courses at a regionally approved university
- Successful completion of the required examination
- 1000 hours of supervised practice
- Recertifying with CEUs every five years
A CNS spends more hours of learning than a CCN, and frequently covers additional fields like nutritional disorders, drug interactions, and pharmacology.
Certified Clinical Nutritionist
This professional specializes more in analysing nutritional needs and making personalized recommendations that are tailored to an individual’s health goals and lifestyle. The areas of interest include but are not limited to fitness, nutrition, stress reduction, and supplements. The Clinical Nutrition Certification Board (CNCB) certifies CCNs.
However, becoming one would require any of the following degrees or an advanced formal degree in another regulated healthcare sector: BSc, M.Sc., PhD, D.Sc. To get certified, a nutritionist with a bachelor’s degree must complete at least three hours of coursework in specific disciplines, like microbiology, biochemistry, and human physiology.
When to See a Nutritionist or a Dietician
A person may choose to see a nutritionist for reasons, like:
- Having an Upset stomach
- Trying to get pregnant
- Having irregular bowel
- Having an allergy
- Lacking enough nutrients in the body
- Being diagnosed with high cholesterol
- Noticing serious changes in hunger levels
- Having heartburn or acid reflux
- Overeating when emotional
- Having a rough time that could affect dieting
- Being constantly preoccupied with the thought of food
- Not dieting sufficiently to keep up with a hectic schedule
- Intending to lose weight or having difficulty shedding it
Some of, seeing a dietician will be helpful when:
- Suffering from allergies
- Planning to have babies or breastfeeding
- Having eating disorders or digestive problems
- Intending to improve body composition or performance
- Attempting to lose weight through diets or gain weight based on a medical condition
- Having a medical condition, like high cholesterol, coeliac disease, diabetes, and high blood pressure, which can be managed through dieting
Some of the conditions for seeing a nutritionist and a dietician are the same, which shows the similarities in the roles they perform.