What is a nutritionist?

What you eat is closely linked to your risk for many diseases, and diet is an important part of recovery from many medical conditions.

Whether you’re recovering from surgery or simply want to improve your daily diet, there are professionals who can help you develop an overall wellness plan. Usually, you will choose between nutritionists and registered dietitians, the two professionals who provide these consultations. It’s important to know the difference before you seek advice on a healthy diet.

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What Is a Registered Dietitian?

According to the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics, a registered dietitian (RD) — also known as a registered dietitian nutritionist (RDN) — is a trained specialist who has completed an accredited bachelor’s degree program. A registered dietitian can develop nutrition and overall wellness plans for individuals or groups. You may seek this type of nutritional counseling when dealing with specific diseases, including

When you meet with a registered dietitian about medical nutrition therapy, you will get an in-depth analysis of your eating habits. You should treat it like a nutritional education, meant to help you become healthier.

Your dietitian can help you create better eating habits, point out problem areas in your current diet, make science-based recommendations, and assist you in achieving your health goals.

You can also consult with a registered dietitian for weight management guidance that may not be tied to a health issue.

What’s the Difference Between a Dietitian and a Nutritionist?

Although the terms are sometimes used interchangeably, there are differences between registered dietitians and nutritionists to keep in mind when you’re seeking nutrition advice.

Dietitians must undergo rigorous academic and professional preparation. RDN coursework includes food systems management, nutrition, chemistry, biology, and other science, nutrition, and food systems-related courses. In addition to earning a college degree, RDNs must complete an accredited, supervised internship program. They also must pass an exam from the Commission on Dietetic Registration and, if required, receive licensure from their state. RDNs regularly engage in continuing education courses in order to maintain certification.

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A nutritionist’s training and knowledge may not be as thorough as that of a registered dietitian. Nutritionists often work as independent consultants or in wellness centers. Some may become certified by completing a program that focuses on food and health, according to the American Fitness Professionals and Associates. For trusted guidance, you should work with a registered dietitian.


About UPMC

Headquartered in Pittsburgh, UPMC is a world-renowned health care provider and insurer. We operate 40 hospitals and 800 doctors’ offices and outpatient centers, with locations throughout Pennsylvania, Maryland, New York, West Virginia, and internationally. We employ 4,900 physicians, and we are leaders in clinical care, groundbreaking research, and treatment breakthroughs. U.S. News & World Report consistently ranks UPMC Presbyterian Shadyside as one of the nation’s best hospitals in many specialties and ranks UPMC Children’s Hospital of Pittsburgh on its Honor Roll of America’s Best Children’s Hospitals. We are dedicated to providing Life Changing Medicine to our communities.