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Ask the Dietitian: What is the difference between a dietitian and a nutritionist?

My cardiologist is sending me to a dietitian. I looked online and found dietitians and nutritionists. What is the difference between a nutritionist and a dietitian?


The term dietitian is often used interchangeably with nutritionist, but there is a distinction. The titles Registered Dietitian (RD) and Registered Dietitian Nutritionist (RDN) are protected professional titles in many states, including Florida. These titles guarantee that the individual has received extensive training in the field of nutrition. To become a registered dietitian one must have a degree in food and nutrition sciences, complete a rigorous internship program, and pass a nation-wide dietetic exam. Registered dietitians continue their education with professional development requirements to maintain national and state accreditation.


A nutritionist receives education in food and nutrition, but may or may not have completed an accredited internship. Nutritionist and health coaches are qualified to assist healthy patients to achieve their lifestyle and weight loss goals. Dietitians have more extensive education and training in medical nutrition therapy. They are qualified to work with individuals with medical conditions, in addition to general weight loss counseling. You will find Registered Dietitians in hospitals, doctor's offices, schools, and community centers.


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