One question I’m asked a lot is, “What’s the difference between a nutritionist and a dietitian (RD)?” Here is the difference!
Many people mistakenly use the terms “dietitian” and “nutritionist” interchangeably.
The biggest difference between an RD and nutritionist is their qualifications.
The term nutritionist isn’t regulated, so technically, anyone can call himself or herself a nutritionist, even with no formal training or certification. It scares me to think of all the people listening to so called “nutritionists” out there, knowing how little these so called nutritionists could actually know aside from their own google searches and what may have worked for them.
Unlike a nutritionist, someone can ONLY receive the RD credentials/title after completing these 4 things:
- a minimum of a four year college degree from an accredited university’s program that includes specific course work in human physiology, nutrition science, and other sciences
- a 900 hour supervised hands-on internship
- passing a comprehensive examination
- completing ongoing continuing education.
- Bonus: RDs are also held to a professional code of ethics.
Bonus #2, All RDs are nutritionists. But nutritionists can’t called themselves RDs.
One commonly seen problem with a lot of “nutritionist” out there, is that they find something that works for them, or have obtained a good body themselves, and therefore, think they are qualified to coach others. And people believe if they just do what this person did, they will obtain similar results. BUT nutrition isn’t one-size fits all. Nutrition is VERY individualized. And it’s scary to think people listen to these so called nutritionists, just because they may have the body someone wants, or has won some type of athletic event a person aspires to win, or is a social-media-famous body builder/figure competitor that, “looks great”.
Another reason why it is frustrating for dietitians (and RDs to be like me!) to see people listening to “nutritionists” on the internet, is because it often sounds GREAT. A lot of the “newest fads” and solutions in the nutrition realm out there on the internet, sound SEXY. It all sounds great. Take this, don’t eat that, voila!
Whereas a dietitian’s advice/coaching, can sometimes sounds not-so-sexy. We stick to the research. We don’t run with an idea of a new supplement or food, until their is concrete evidence to show it works. I get asked a lot about specific foods or supplements, and you know what my answer has to often be? “It seems right because x, y and z, but there’s not enough evidence to support it yet”. Whereas if someone were to jump on the internet, they could read an eye-catching, attractive, “sexy” blog post on why, say, eating ____ leads to weight loss (or fill in with other desired outcome). But is it true?
This is why nutrition can seem so confusing and even frustrating to some. They read one day that a food cures cancer. The next they read it causes cancer. They read that this drink will lead to weight loss, and after trying it out, they don’t get the promised outcome.
Unfortunately, any quick fix will never be a long term solution, even if it works for some time. It may be enticing to listen to “nutritionists” out there, who have taken over the blog world and social media world. However, I caution you to be careful about who you listen to.
When you read something, don’t just believe it.
I challenge you to be skeptical. Very skeptical.
Be very picky who you listen to. If they are not an RD, and are trying to offer nutrition advice, ask their background. Ask what education they have. Ask what experience qualifies them to be giving nutritional advice.