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Expert Advice, Healthy Living

The Difference Between a Nutritionist and a Dietitian

March 29, 2021

The world of nutrition and wellness can be a confusing, noisy place, which is why we’re so glad to have Registered Dietitians (RDs) at Snap Kitchen that we can rely on. They’re the ones who come up with our list of standards, work with our chefs to create balanced meals, and write a lot of the content you’ll find on the Snap blog, too.

When it comes to being a nutrition or wellness professional, there is a wide range of credentials, from legitimate to not-so-much (we’re talking certificates you can print off the internet after a couple of weeks of classes). Curious how the Registered Dietitian credential stacks up against that of a Nutritionist? We’re sharing the scoop below.

What’s the Difference Between a Nutritionist and a Dietitian?

First, it’s important to note that while these terms may sometimes be used interchangeably, Nutritionists and Registered Dietitians (RD) are two different things. Here’s a little-known fact: while all Registered Dietitians are nutritionists, not all nutritionists are Registered Dietitians.

Registered Dietitian (RD) Certification 

Registered Dietitians (sometimes called Registered Dietitian Nutritionists, or RDNs) have gone through rigorous amounts of education and are registered and board-certified food and nutrition experts. They also need to complete a set of criteria set forth by the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics, including 1200 hours of supervised practice. In other words, a lot of education and practice hours go into becoming a Registered Dietitian. 

RDs are trained and certified to handle many different situations, from clinical work in hospitals to working in food service or 1:1 with clients in private practice. Much like doctors, dietitians can choose to work in a wide range of specialty niches, from Type 2 Diabetes management to cardiovascular health or digestive issues. 

Nutritionist Courses

The education for nutritionists is more varied since there’s no one credentialing body. There are many different courses that offer a nutritionist credential, with options like a ‘Certified Nutritional Consultant’, a ‘Certified Nutrition Specialist’ or a NASM ‘Nutrition Coach.’ While there are many legitimate courses and credentials that specialize in nutrition, they aren’t all created equal. 

Compared to the standardized educational requirements for an RD, the path to becoming a Nutritionist is not nearly as defined, and in some cases, a lot less legitimate. 

Nutritionist Qualifications

Only 6 US states; Alaska, Florida, Illinois, Maryland, Massachusetts, and Pennsylvania; Nutritionists are required to hold the same license as certified RDs. But other than those six states, there is no regulation around who can call themselves a Nutritionist. And while most nutritionists are not legally allowed to provide specialized medical nutrition therapy (or MNT) to 1:1 clients, it may still happen.

Don’t Registered Dietitians Offer Old School Recommendations?

Since the education for Registered Dietitians is so standardized, there is some criticism around the potentially outdated nutrition recommendations being shared in some school curriculums. But just as not all doctors or nurses are created equal, the same is true for dietitians too. There is a large group of practicing dietitians who prescribe more up-to-date, holistic health principles when practicing with clients or working with brands. 

Here at Snap Kitchen, we’re proud to say that our registered dietitians fall into this segment, with a passion for more integrative nutrition that is anchored in up-to-date research. 

Want to experience the balance that comes along with dietitian-curated meals and snacks? Order your box today.

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