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  • Writer's pictureStacey Simon, RD

Ask the Dietitian: Nutritionist vs. Dietitian

One of the most commonly asked questions I receive is: What's a Dietitian vs. Nutritionist? In short, a dietitian must undergo years of education, supervised practice, sit for (and pass) an examination, and keep up to date with continuing education each year. Anyone can call themselves a nutritionist! So, while all dietitians are nutritionists, not all nutritionists are dietitians.

What Makes a Dietitian?

To me, this question is of the utmost importance in selecting a provider to work with. Dietitians must complete a bachelors degree (mine was in Nutritional Science from UConn... go Huskies!), get matched with a dietetic internship (mine was with the Department of Veterans Affairs in the Bronx, NY. It was one of the most competitive in the country!), pass a certification examination, and complete ongoing continuing education (it's important that we stay up to date!). Many dietitians also have advanced degrees and certifications (I did my Master of Science at New York University, went on to become a Certified Intuitive Eating Counselor, Board Certified Specialist in Gerontological Nutrition, and a Board Certified Health Coach). A dietitian uses best scientific evidence and best practices to counsel clients. No fad diets, no trendy influencer gimmicks or supplements... just real nutrition that works!

So... What's a Registered Dietitian, or RD?

You may see the term Registered Dietitian (RD) or Registered Dietitian-Nutritionist (RDN). You should know that both of these terms mean the same thing: your dietitian is registered with the national governing board, the Commission on Dietetic Registration. You'll want to look for the term RD or RDN to know you're in the right place. You may also see dietitian spelled with a 'c' (dietician). While there's no difference between dietitian vs. dietician, us nutrition pros generally like to use the spelling with a 't'!

How do I decide which Dietitian to Work With?

Great question! My best advice is to look for dietitians with the right credentials, and then pick one based upon their area of expertise and counseling style! Are you looking for a dietitian who works with kidney disease? Improving your relationship with food? You'll want to ask your possible dietitian soulmate if they specialize in the area of your need. A good dietitian should also be able to share their credentials, experience, and what makes them a good match for you. Do you want a dietitian who is compassionate and gentle, or someone who can be your own personal drill sergeant? Do you want a dietitian who meets face-to-face, or via Zoom or telephone? There's no right or wrong answer here; do your research and make the choice that feels good to you!

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