What is the Difference Between a Dietician and a Nutritionist?

November 11, 2016   21 Comments

Before you get advice from a diet expert you should know the difference between a dietician and a nutritionist...

What is the Difference Between a Dietician and a Nutritionist?

Isabel Maples, Med, RDN (photo above), is a registered dietician nutritionist and a deeply kind person.

I met her at FNCE, the Food & Nutrition Conference and Expo where registered dieticians meet every year to go over the latest research.

Before I share what I learned from Isabel, I want to discuss the difference between a registered dietician nutritionist and a nutritionist.

The title "nutritionist", in most of the US states is not legally protected. Anyone may call themselves a nutrition expert even if they are wholly self-taught. One way to look at the two professions is that all dietitians are nutritionists, but not all nutritionists are dietitians.

To become a registered dietitian nutritionist you need to:

1 Take the specific set of courses outlined by the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics (AND). This can be completed at the undergraduate OR graduate level.

2. Complete the required internships, also outlined by AND.

3. Pass the RDN exam.

After becoming an RDN, you must continue to take classes and attend events to maintain your certification.

Isabel worked hard to become a registered dietician and I found her to be excellent source of nutrition information and strategies for healthy eating.

If you feel like an individualized approach will help you get to your goals, check out a RDN in your area. Sometimes you get lucky and your health insurance will pay for you to be seen by an RDN.

I asked Isabel about the biggest challenge she has seen for her clients. She told me that many people want to eat healthier but they don’t want it to interfere with their lifestyle. Having to commit time to shopping, scratch cooking, and learning new cooking skills is a big barrier for many.

Her advice was to choose one nutrition goal and make it the focus until you achieve it. For example, if you go out to lunch four or five times a week, try to get that number to once or twice. If you want to eat less, try smaller plates. She firmly believes that you don't have to deprive yourself of the unhealthy foods you love to get healthier (but you will have to eat less of them).

She helps her clients identify the changes they can easily make to have the biggest impact on their road to healthier eating.

Personally, I think Registered Dietitians Nutrtionists are the bees knees. They know their stuff, they want to share it, and they help many make huge diet and lifestyle changes that lead to better lives.

Big hugs to all of them!!

If you need an RDN go to and click on "find an expert" in the upper right hand corner. You can enter your zip code there and find a dietitian near your home to help you.

Have you ever worked with a registered dietician? Please share your experiences.

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First 20 Comments: ( See all 21 )

Informative and useful post. Many of us really confuse the differents between these two and you give a good answer.

Thanks for sharing this awesome post.

Don't forget we are now called RDNs (Registered Dietitian Nutritionists). Just to confuse people even more. (And that dietitians are sticklers about it being spelled with a 2nd T.... DietiTian, even if the dictionary recognizes dietician.) Thanks for the support!!

My husband was just placed on a "j tube" .NPO otherwise. I am having a terrible time finding anyone that has the necessary knowledge about the use and feeding of his device. He went from 118lbs to 105lbs in 2 weeks. He also has COPD. The tube was placed because of aspiration pneumonia. I would like to use thyme tea for the mucus. Can you advise or have a referral in the 33837 zip code. Thank you.

go to eat and click on "find a dietitian" you can enter your zip code there and find a dietitian near your home to help you. if you have trouble feel free to email me and i will assist you. Pat Becker RDN

thank you for all the good info, and helping folks know what to eat and who they can talk to help them 1:1.


Great post! I've followed your blog for a while now and its great to see you recognizing dietitians. :)

Thanks Lisa for the education! I appreciate knowing the difference.

Great article. I am going back to school for my degree in nutrition. I had considered being a registered nutritionist first but found out that as you stated that anyone can pass themselves off as one and that seriously peeved me off. So decided I want to be a RDN (registered dietitian nutritionist) because I want the certification and not have it look like I got my qualifications out of a cereal box.

Great article! Thanks 4 recognizing RDs/RDNs as the nutrition experts!

Thank you for this information, Lisa. I never knew the difference. Its good to know a RD/RDN has to keep up their certification by taking courses and staying current in their field. My daughter is a massage therapist who also has to take courses to stay current and maintain her license. Professionals such as these are invaluable to our health. Great subject!

As a registered dietitian, I appreciate this post so much!

Yes, also, the correct spelling has been changed to "DietiTian" with two Ts instead of a C :)

Dietician vs. dietitian - spell correct kept giving me dietician - ack! I believe both are correct but RD's prefer dietitian. As for RDN - that is confusing! Thanks for the info.

@Val - I am updating the post to help people find an RDN in their area.

Thanks for this tid-bit of info that can make a world of difference! As a dietitian, we constantly compete with others who have no credentials, schooling, etc. I appreciate your support!

Thanks for clearing up what is often very confusing territory!

Another RD who reads your blog, chiming in with a Thank You. I'm "old" and am used to RD versus RDN; then there is also LDN in some states (Licensed Dietitian Nutritionist). I work in WIC; some folks who need a dietitian might find one at their local health department. Some insurances and Medicaid will cover MNT (Medical Nutrition Therapy)for certain conditions.

thanks for debunking all the confusing information that's out there. This was really helpful.

Thank you, thank you for this post!I encourage all to investigate this point when looking for someone to help them with any type of nutrition intervention. RDNs have the expertise, the tools, and the diversity of practice to get you moving in the right direction:) We do what we love, and love what we do!

Please respect us by spelling dietitian correctly and we are RDN.

I’ve heard of RD, but RDN is new to me. Are these the same?

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