Many people believe that dietitian and nutritionist are interchangeable words which basically describes someone who knows nutrition. The internet and the infamous infomercials have really blurred the lines between who we can trust for credible nutrition information.
Here are what the terms really mean: all dietitians are nutritionists, but not all nutritionists meet the educational standards and credentialing to be called a dietitian. The term Nutritionist is a general wellness term that may be used by anyone, with or without a credential or proper schooling. Some nutritionists do have a degree in Nutrition but many do not. Literally anyone can call themselves a nutritionist, especially the person trying to selling you nutritional supplements who may have very little knowledge about what is safe or not. Beware!
A “Registered Dietitian Nutritionist” (RDN) is a credentialed nutrition expert recognized nationally by government policy makers and medical professionals. The state of Texas, among several states in the US, credentials dietitians to provide services in Texas–thus the Licensed Dietitian (LD) credential is added after the RDN in a dietitian’s title.
Registered Dietitian Nutritionists and Licensed Dietitians (RDN/LD) have the most rigorous education and training of any healthcare practitioner in the field of nutrition. The RDN/LD is a professional with a minimum of a bachelor’s degree in food and nutrition/dietetics, nutrition education, food service management or other related sciences from an accredited US college or university. Now, this is where the differences start...they must have also completed a post-graduate accredited internship of at least 1200 hours of on-site training and passed a rigorous national credentialing examination. To remain credentialed, a minimum of 75 continuing education credits must be obtained every five years nationally. Credentialing protects the public from being harmed by unqualified incompetent practitioners. Intense, right?
This is why dietitians (and only dietitians) can call themselves the nutrition experts and why you should seek their guidance when you have questions or concerns about your nutritional status.
I rarely find any dietitian who likes to be called a nutritionist, so do us a favor and call us by the right term but most of all call us if you want to start your journey to a healthier, happier you!