Enough times, I have had several people wondering what are the differences between nutritionists and dietitians. In fact, most people who would like to work in the profession are often wondering where to begin since both of these professions sound similar. In the first place, none of these professions make us food police, chefs, or herbal medicine practitioners among another plethora of things you may have heard.
Again, it’s common for people to think that both Dietitians and Nutritionists actually do the same thing but in essence, these are two very different professions in terms of education, qualification, and daily roles.
On an international front, Dietitians don’t just follow the newest diet trends and make standard recommendations to their patients. They also work with other stakeholders such as doctors, policymakers, industry leaders, market researchers, Educators, and so on. So in the United States and in Kenya, for instance, dietitians are board-certified food and nutrition experts and are highly educated in the science of food and nutrition and how it affects human health. Through a series of training, dietitians usually acquire the expertise to tailor individual needs in a span of settings such as hospitals, clinics, research institutions, and local communities. So to earn the credential of Registered Dietitian or Registered Dietitian Nutritionist, someone needs to complete the criteria set by governing bodies including Kenya in this case. So the credentials of Registered Dietitian and Registered Dietitian Nutritionist are actually interchangeable and someone must earn a bachelor’s degree or an equivalent from a University or College.
Typically this involves studies in biology, microbiology, organic and inorganic chemistry, anatomy, physiology just to name a few. In addition to completing studies, one has to go through an internship in a facility that mirrors the typical practice for successful completion of the qualifications.
There can be clinical, community, research, and foodservice management dietitians who prescribe different nutrition therapies while working closely with different health stakeholders for the well-being of a person.
A nutritionist can be an unregulated term that can be loosely used in different countries without a person necessarily having lengthy qualifications. In most cases, you might find people applying their anecdotal experiences or their nutrition interests to masquerade as nutritionists. However, since most could be uncredentialed, it is crucial to ensure that you do a background check on anyone who goes by this title, since their advice may not be seasoned. You would need to also verify whether the person is board certified by the governing bodies of your country and be wary of those that may not have gone through proper training.
Individuals who refer to themselves as Nutritionists could also either be Health coaches, wellness coaches, or nutrition specialists. While they may also offer some sound advice, ensure that you are doing your own study and you can watch for red flags as I mentioned in a previous video HERE: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=XfTyJO3aJGM
All in all, while you are safe listening to a Registered Dietitian Nutritionist, like I always say here, ensure that you are getting what is personalized for you and not just advice out of the blues, or some advice that seems to have worked for someone else.