I get asked almost weekly if there’s really a difference between a “dietitian” and a “nutritionist”. The answer is yes and I’ll explain in a moment … but on a side note what’s funny to me is that people will actually argue that I am misspelling the word “dietitian”. For the record, it’s like the word “gray” or “grey”. Both spellings indicate the same color and either is fine to use. The word “dietitian” can also be spelled “dietician” and both are accepted. The Commission on Dietetic Registration (CDR) is the credentialing agency that sets the standards for who is eligible to become a Registered Dietitian (RD) and they use the spelling “dietitian”.
So back to the question, is there a difference between a dietitian and a nutritionist? Legally, yes. In the state of Oklahoma, anyone can claim to be a nutritionist without any background, education, or experience. On the other hand, it is illegal for an individual to claim they are a dietitian and practice without licensure. Registered Dietitians (RDs) are required to be licensed through the Oklahoma State Board of Medical Licensure & Supervision. That agency then grants the credential of Licensed Dietitian (LD) which is why you will then see dietitians listed as RD/LD behind their name. Getting the LD requires a list of accomplishments that include a Bachelor of Science degree, completion of a credentialed internship, followed by successfully passing the national exam.
A nutritionist can simply hang a sign outside their door advertising that they want to sell their services. The word “nutritionist” is used often to describe someone who has interest or a background in nutrition. Many people tend to migrate towards a nutritionist rather than a dietitian. They are fearful to meet with a dietitian simply because the word itself includes “diet” and they falsely assume that all dietitians will expect them to give up their favorite foods and to severely restrict their calories. They expect to hear “if it tastes good then spit it out.”
On the contrary, dietitians are very attentive to the needs of their clients and will offer alternatives and options rather than a “one size fits all” approach. Dietitians are educated in Medical Nutrition Therapy and can tailor meal plans according to the client’s allergies and medical diagnosis.
I agree that it sounds much less intimidating to visit with a nutritionist. But I encourage anyone seeking nutritional counseling to remember that you, as the consumer, are paying for the service. You have every right to inquire about the education and credentials of the person that you are paying.
Share this post: