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What is the difference between nutritionists and dietitians?

When people are determined to focus on their personal health & wellness, fitness, and/or to improve performance the obvious starting points most often include attention to exercise and nutrition. If assistance is needed with exercise than the common course of action is to hire a Personal Trainer but what to do and who to work with when the central focus is diet and nutrition? Should you reach out to a dietician or a nutritionist and is there a difference?

Although dietitians and nutritionists both help people find the best diets and foods to meet their unique needs, they have different qualifications! The simplest way to understand the difference between the two is that dietitians are certified to treat clinical conditions, whereas nutritionists are not always certified.

The biggest difference between dietitians and nutritionists lies in the legal restrictions that each title carries. In the U.S., only nutritionists that become registered with Commission on Dietetic Registration (CDR) may legally declare themselves as dietitians or more precisely, registered dietitians (RDs).

Although some nutritionists may not need any educational background to practice in their state, they will likely need to complete some formal coursework in nutrition-related subjects to qualify for employment. Furthermore, organizations exist that certify nutritionists, such as the Board for Certification of Nutrition Specialists (BCNS). However, nutritionist training can vary. Keep in mind that not every state requires certification, so anyone in those states may offer nutrition advice and refer to themselves as a nutritionist!

The take home message here is knowledge, expertise, and training/education matters.

Other Nutrition Services

Other nutrition services include nutrition coaches, health coaches, and fitness instructors in gyms. Again, the level of training required among professionals and what services are specifically offered with these job titles can vary.

In order to use titles such as RDN or CCN, a person must have proper certification. It is important to thoroughly check a practitioner’s qualifications and experience before working with them, as their expertise may vary.

For a more in depth understanding of who is best qualified to serve specific needs, refer to articles sources:

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