Nutritionist vs. Dietitian

One of the most common things people ask when I tell them that I am a nutrition major is… “Oh, so you want to be a Nutritionist?”. Well, not exactly; I want to be a Registered Dietitian (RD). There is a difference and it is important to understand this difference to know where to get reliable nutrition information.

Anyone can call themselves a Nutritionist. There is no education, class, test, or experience you need to be a Nutritionist, so theoretically we are all Nutritionists.

In order to become a Registered Dietitian, it gets a little more complicated. Registered Dietitians are food and nutrition experts that are certified by the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics. To be an RD, one must complete a bachelor’s degree, Dietetic Internship, and pass a national exam.

A Dietetic Internship is 1200 hour supervised practice program that is accredited by the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics. To be eligible to apply for this program, one must complete the DPD (Didactic Program in Dietetics) classes. These include Nutrition classes along with Microbiology, Organic Chemistry, Statistics, English, plus many others. The DPD program is usually completed at the same time as a bachelor’s degree, which is the point in the process that I am at now.

Once accepted to a Dietetic Internship, one completes different rotations in three areas: Clinical Nutrition, Food Service, and Public Health/Community Nutrition. Depending on the internship, different amounts of time are spent in each of these three areas. Once one completes the Internship, he/she is eligible to sit for the national exam to become a Registered Dietitian.

Besides boring you to death with my education plans for the next few years, the point of this is so you understand where nutrition information is coming from and how accurate it is. Books and articles that have authors who put “Nutritionist” in front of their name may not contain the most reliable information. Those who have RD (Registered Dietitian) or RDN* (Registered Dietitian Nutritionist) after their name have gone through extensive coursework and are probably sharing more accurate and trustworthy information. For now, I am just a Nutritionist but give me a few years and hopefully I will be Dana Goldberg, RDN!

*RDN is a new title that is being given out in place of RD. They are exactly the same thing just different words.

9 thoughts on “Nutritionist vs. Dietitian

  1. lindaravello says:

    Interesting post. Are you in US or UK?
    I work wit some dieticians in France (teaching them English) And am obviously interested in food and nutrition, as attitudes are very different here to in the UK – much healthier in my opinion, eating almost entirely seasonally, with very few ready prepared foods, so that I make almost everything from scratch myself (bread, cakes, desserts, soups, pizzas, tarts, quiches – including their bases amongst all starters and mains) drinking only water or wine! (plus herbal teas)
    It will be interesting to see what you are being taught


    • dagoldberg95 says:

      I am in the US. There is a small emphasis on eating seasonal and home-cooked foods but we are mainly taught the importance of increasing or decreasing consumption certain foods in order to prevent chronic disease.


      • lindaravello says:

        There is no real emphasis on not eating certain foods her, but processed food is generally not eaten, there is also very little carbohydrate in the diet, save for bread, which is eaten in moderation at breakfast of with cheese, desserts are generally fruit based and pastry very thin – just a vehicle for the fruit, as I have pointed out in my blog, rather than an entity in itself. I have noticed that a lot of the US blogger feature cookies and muffins and desserts quite heavily, while Europeans tend to post more savoury dishes.
        You cannot actually buy things out of season here and most things are grown locally, even in the supermarkets, it states what region – sometimes farm, the produce originates from. I read a quite interesting medical article yesterday about France having less than 1% incidence of ADHD while the S is currently running at around 17% and UK 15% – I think that chemicals in food is to blame. Really looking forward to following your journey.

        Liked by 1 person

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