Nutrition and Wellness Blog

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Registered Dietitian vs Nutritionist: Which one should I work with?

Jul 2023 | Health and Wellness

I recently had a potential patient tell me that they didn’t want to pay for a dietitian’s services when they can just get the information online. This comment taught me a lot about the public’s perception of dietitians. If you do not understand the training and value of a dietitian, then you will never consider dietitians as a valuable player in your health care. So let’s dive into the difference in registered dietitian vs nutritionist and why a registered dietitian can be a valuable asset to your health plan.

A woman talks to a registered dietitian who is holding up various fruits and vegetables, Registered Dietitian vs Nutritionist

What’s makes someone a Registered Dietitian vs nutritionist?

What is a registered dietitian (RD) or registered dietitian nutritionist (RDN)? First, these credential titles are the same. Nutritionist was included as part of the title “Registered Dietitian” to create a clearer understanding for the general public. Registered dietitians are nutritionists. However, the important distinction is that not all nutritionists are registered dietitians! Registered dietitians are nutrition experts that understand how to treat disease with food interventions and how to promote wellness and prevent acute and chronic health issues through diet. As RD/RDNs, it is our job to help you implement food choices to meet your individual needs. We are able to provide safe recommendations and educate effectively because of the rigorous academic and continued education required to hold such a credential.

A woman gratefully accepts a certificate

Requirements for a Registered Dietitian Credential

A Registered Dietitian or Registered Dietitian Nutritionist is achieved by completing the following:

  1. A bachelor’s degree from a didactic program in dietetics. This program is accredited by the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics. By 2024, the Commission on Dietetic Registration will require a master’s degree to sit for the board exam.
  2. Apply to and complete an accredited internship. These internships range from 6-12 months in length and require exposure to various health care facilities, community programs and food service operations. This is imperative as dietitians can hold positions at a variety of institutions and need experience in all the above.
  3. Pass national examination. This examination is administered by the Commission on Dietetic Registration.
  4. Maintain registration as a dietitian. This credential is maintained through continued professional education requirements.

A group of adults sit in a continued education learning classroom, Registered Dietitian vs Nutritionist

Additional Certifications Dietitians May Acquire

Dietitians also participate in additional certification programs to establish specializations. These additional credentials are also monitored by the Commission on Dietetic Registration or other organizations that are recognized by the dietetic academy. Specializations include:

  • integrative and functional nutrition
  • diabetes education
  • sports dietetics
  • pediatric nutrition, and
  • renal nutrition.

The bachelor’s degree in dietetics requires the student to complete coursework in nutrition, food service management, culinary curriculum, business, economics, computer science, sociology, microbiology, anatomy, physiology, chemistry and biochemistry.

Dietitians are trained to work with various medical professionals. They can interpret lab data. They understand food and drug interactions. And dietitians can incorporate your various diagnoses into food recommendations. Dietitians treat the whole body with food.

A woman's hand holds out a handful of cashews above a table full of nutrition charts and various foods, Registered Dietitian vs Nutritionist

What is the difference between a registered dietitian and a nutritionist?

Registered dietitians are nutritionists. Nutritionists are not registered dietitians. Nutritionists may complete a certification course but they are not required to have certification to identify as a nutritionist. The certification courses for nutritionists are varied and not managed by a commission.

A woman types on a laptop

How is a registered dietitian better than an online nutrition search?

  1. The internet doesn’t know your health history.
  2. The internet doesn’t know your supplements and medications.
  3. The internet doesn’t know the quality of your current diet.
  4. The internet doesn’t know your food preferences.
  5. The internet cannot merge all this information to create a practical plan that yields long lasting and potentially life changing results.

A registered dietitian holds out an apple with a clipboard and bowl of fruit in front of her, Registered Dietitian vs Nutritionist

Finding a Registered Dietitian to Work With

If you are trying to improve your general health in a natural way, food is your first line of defense. Food can be your body’s best medicine, and it can be safely incorporated into any health care plan. Reach out to a registered dietitian to learn how you can modify your diet to feel your best and support your health care plan. And remember, diet interventions do not always require significant changes. You do not have to restrict your food choices or participate in a rigorous program to see results. As dietitians, we celebrate food and focus on nourishing your body with a liberalized diet! You can find a dietitian near you by going to or you can reach out to learn more and work with me here.

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