What is a Nutritionist vs Dietician?

Nutrition is trending, and we’re all for that! That said, buyer beware. A nutritionist and a dietitian are both professionals in the field of nutrition, but they differ in terms of their qualifications, training, and the range of services they offer. ‘Nutritionist’, simply put, is not a regulated title. Anybody, anybody can call themselves a nutritionist, not so for dietitians.

Let’s take a closer look at the differences.


A nutritionist is a term that anyone who has an interest in nutrition can call themself. Unlike “dietitian,” the title “nutritionist” is not regulated, leading to variations in the education and qualifications of those who identify as nutritionists.

What does a NUTRITIONIST do?

  • Education: Nutritionists may have diverse educational backgrounds, from informal self-study to formal degrees in nutrition or related fields. However, their education and training are often not standardized or subject to regulation in many regions. Basically, if someone read a book about nutrition, went to a weekend seminar, or simply uploads social media posts about the latest nutrition trends.
  • Scope of Practice: Nutritionists typically provide general nutrition advice and guidance. They can be found working in various settings, such as fitness centers, wellness programs, or as part of broader health and wellness teams.
  • Examples of Services: Nutritionists commonly offer advice on general healthy eating, weight management, and fundamental nutrition principles. For instance, they might help clients create balanced meal plans or suggest ways to incorporate more fruits and vegetables into their diets.
  • Nutrition Interventions: Nutritionists can offer general nutrition interventions, including recommendations for dietary changes like reducing sugar intake or increasing fiber consumption. However, they may not possess the expertise or qualifications to provide specialized medical nutrition therapy for specific medical conditions.


A dietitian is a regulated and credentialed healthcare professional specializing in nutrition. Dietitians undergo rigorous education, training, and certification processes to ensure they can provide evidence-based, medically tailored nutrition advice and interventions.

What does a dietitian do?

  1. Education: Dietitians typically hold bachelor’s degrees in nutrition or related fields and must complete dietetic internships or supervised practice programs. They are required to pass national examinations to become Registered Dietitian Nutritionists (RDNs) in the United States.
  1. Scope of Practice: Dietitians have a broad scope of practice and are qualified to work in various healthcare settings, including hospitals, clinics, long-term care facilities, and private practice. They often collaborate with healthcare teams to provide nutrition therapy for medical conditions.
  1. Examples of Services: Dietitians can offer comprehensive nutrition assessment and counseling for a wide range of health issues. They are qualified to manage complex medical conditions like diabetes, heart disease, and gastrointestinal disorders through specialized medical nutrition therapy. This includes providing key nutrition support to optimize fertility, pregnancy, and postpartum healing.
  1. Nutrition Interventions: Dietitians can provide highly specialized nutrition interventions based on medical diagnoses. For example, they can create personalized meal plans for individuals with celiac disease, offer guidance on managing blood sugar levels for those with diabetes, or recommend dietary modifications to address IBS, autoimmune disorders, food sensitivities, and more.

As dietitian nutritionists and functional nutrition therapists, we believe that, while pregnant, a woman should seek nutritional support from a Registered Dietitian Nutritionist to ensure she receives science-backed information about the best nutrition practices to support a healthy pregnancy, reduce the risk of complications during labor, and ensure her growing baby gets the nutrients they need.

What should you look for in a dietitian?

Before hiring a dietitian, it’s essential to ask a series of questions to ensure that they are the right fit for your specific needs and goals. Here are some key questions to consider:

  1. Credentials and Qualifications:
    • Are you a registered dietitian (RD) or a certified nutritionist?
    • What is your educational background and training in nutrition?
  2. Specialization and Experience:
    • Do you have experience working with clients who have similar goals or dietary needs to mine?
    • What areas of nutrition do you specialize in (e.g., weight management, prenatal nutrition, clinical nutrition, etc.)?
  3. Approach to Nutrition:
    • What is your nutrition philosophy or approach to creating dietary plans?
    • How do you customize nutrition plans to meet individual needs and preferences?
    • Can you provide examples of successful cases you’ve worked on?
  4. Availability and Communication:
    • What is your availability for consultations?
    • How do you prefer to communicate with clients (in person, phone, email, video calls, etc.)?
    • Do you offer ongoing support between sessions?
  5. Fees and Payment:
    • What is your fee structure? Is it hourly, per session, or based on a package?
    • Are there any additional costs, such as meal plans or materials?
    • Do you accept health insurance, and if so, which providers do you work with?
  6. Client Feedback and References:
    • Can you provide references from previous clients?
    • Do you have any client success stories or testimonials?
  7. Collaboration with Healthcare Providers:
    • Are you open to collaborating with my healthcare team or primary care physician if necessary?
    • Do you have experience working with clients who have specific medical conditions or dietary restrictions?
  8. Approach to Dietary Supplements and Medications:
    • How do you view the use of dietary supplements, and do you provide guidance on them?
    • How do you handle clients who are on medication that may interact with their diet?
  9. Personalized Plans:
    • How do you create personalized nutrition plans, taking into account my goals, preferences, and lifestyle?
    • Can you provide an example of what a typical nutrition plan might look like for someone with my needs?
  10. Long-Term Goals and Follow-Up:
    • What is your approach to helping clients maintain their dietary changes in the long term?
    • How do you handle setbacks or challenges that clients may face along the way?
  11. Cancellation Policy:
    • What is your policy for canceling or rescheduling appointments?

By asking these questions, you can gain a better understanding of the dietitian’s qualifications, approach, and whether they are the right fit to help you achieve your nutrition goals. It’s important to choose a dietitian whom you feel comfortable with and who can provide you with the support and guidance you need on your dietary journey.

While both nutritionists and dietitians offer nutrition guidance, their qualifications, training, and the range of services they provide differ. When seeking nutrition advice, it’s important to consider your specific needs and the qualifications of the person offering services.