In a world of one fad diet after another, people are left a little confused. It’s no wonder that more people are seeking advice from dietitians … or is it nutritionists? People commonly interchange these titles, however, they are vastly different in regard to their legal restrictions.
What is a registered dietitian?
Registered dietitians must have a minimum of a bachelor’s degree, complete an ACEND accredited supervised practice program, and pass a national exam. Becoming a registered dietitian is not to the faint of heart. It is a lot of hard work, however, they are the most qualified when it comes to nutrition. Most dietitians are eligible for health insurance reimbursement. They may also work closely with your physician to give you the best nutrition prescription based on your health conditions.
What is a nutritionist?
A nutritionist or nutrition coach is not the same as a dietitian. Although nutritionists and dietitians are similar, the laws surrounding each practice is significantly different. Nutritionists have to carefully read their state’s laws regarding dietitian and nutrition practices. A few states have no opposition to individuals practicing nutrition on their own. Without state regulation anyone could charge for nutritional advice or diet prescriptions.
Thankfully, a large portion of our nation enforce stricter laws in order to protect people from the advice of less-than-qualified individuals. My home state, Georgia, for example, has some of the strictest laws in place regarding dietitians and nutritionists. Dietitians have to pass a national exam and must be licensed in whichever state they practice nutrition in. Nutritionists in Georgia, however, are not legally allowed to perform specific nutrition counseling.
What a nutritionist or nutrition coach CAN and CANNOT do.
What is a licensed nutritionist?
As I mentioned before, each state has specific laws and regulations. Some states are lax while others are strict. A handful of states fall in between and allow people to practice nutrition as a licensed nutritionist. Twenty-four states require nutritionists to earn credentials from a nationally recognized nutrition licensing body such as the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics or Certification Board for Nutrition Specialists.
How do these titles apply to you?
If you are planning on seeking guidance from a dietitian or nutritionist, these definitions and state laws will assist you in making an educated decision. However, before you reach out for nutritional advice, consult your physician. Your physician will help direct you to the proper nutritional help based on your health. The information in this article is not intended to replace your physician’s advice and guidance.