What is a Dietitian?

No, we are NOT the food police. So what does a dietitian even do (besides make recipes and share on a blog)? Well, a majority of dietitians work in a clinical setting such as a hospital (like myself) or a doctor’s office due to the large need for clinical nutrition interventions in these settings.

In the hospital setting, dietitians do much more than diet educations. My friends and family were so surprised when they first heard about other tasks that I have as a dietitian besides educating patients about weight loss. Who knew?! Dietitians may provide recommendations for tube feedings or IV nutrition for patients who are not able to eat food by mouth. They also provide recommendations to very sick patients (i.e. patients with going through cancer treatments) who are struggling to maintain a good nutrition status. We also do a lot of other things that I won’t go into detail on here (but email me if you’re interested!)

Also, dietitians are not always in a clinical setting. There are many dietitians who work in public health, WIC clinics, food service industry, and some even work in sports nutrition.

Dietitian vs. Nutritionist???

There is a quote that dietitians always like to say, “Every registered dietitian is a nutritionist, but not every nutritionist is a registered dietitian.”

You may hear the word “nutritionist” thrown around in place of “dietitian” and it may be hard to understand the difference. There are some major differences in these titles, however. First of all, a dietitian has several qualifications that a nutritionist does not have to have:

  • Bachelor’s degree
  • Completion of a dietetic internship (1200+ hours of supervised practice)
  • Passed a national exam
  • Maintains on-going and up-to-date continuing education credits
  • Held to a professional code of ethics

To be considered a nutritionist, there are no degree requirements, and technically, anyone can call themselves a nutritionist.

One other large difference between a dietitian and a nutritionist is that a dietitian is legally accepted as an expert in nutrition and is registered with the Commission of Dietetics Registration (CDR) and licensed to practice nutritional consultation.

Now, I am definitely not saying that those who have completed a higher education degree in nutrition is not knowledgeable about nutrition. However, it is illegal for them to be providing medical nutrition therapy “which involves in-depth individualized nutrition assessment and a duration and frequency of care in a clinical setting to manage disease” (from the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics).

The internet is full of information on “detoxes”, fad diets, and lots of confusing information about nutrition. It can get to be overwhelming. To be sure you are getting reliable information, consider checking out the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics website for up-to-date and reliable information written by registered dietitians. I also plan to share truthful and reliable information on my blog in a clear and understandable way.

Please email me if you have any questions about dietitians, what we do, or if you are interested in finding out more about how to become a dietitian!