“Registered Dietitian” vs “Nutritionist”

I have heard many people ask, “What is the difference between a Registered Dietitian and a nutritionist? Aren’t they the same thing?”

I am here to sort out the facts and tell you that they are not the same!

The term “nutritionist” is not protected by the state of California. The California Business and Professions code allows anyone to call himself or herself a nutritionist, regardless of education or training. Therefore, if you read and studied a nutrition related article in the SELF magazine you just bought at lunch today, than you could be a “nutritionist” too!

“Registered Dietitian” is a protected term. RD’s are required to have a bachelor’s or master’s degree in Dietetics or nutrition from an accredited college or university. Once that is complete, then you required to have at least 900 hours of supervised practice experience working with an RD at an accredited program through the American Dietetic Association institution.

Next, you are “RD Eligible” and you must successfully complete the National Registration Examination for Dietitians. Re-certification is maintained by completing at least 75 hours of continuing education (through attending seminars, webinars, workshops, journal clubs, nutrition presentations, reading cutting edge research and taking mini quizzes, etc) every 5 years.

Registered Dietitians are the true nutrition experts and are the most qualified to treat nutrition-related disorders and help people plan healthy, balanced diets and lifestyles based around behavior modifications. RD’s are trained to assess past medical history, supplements, vitamins and minerals, medications, eating and exercise habits in order to provide clients with safe and effective nutrition counseling to reach overall health, wellness and exercise related goals.