As a nutrition student, I am constantly on the lookout for new nutrition information and studies. Like most people, I can usually tell when a website or magazine article is giving me bogus sources or complete BS facts. However, it's so easy to get caught up in the buzz of a new diet trend or superfood breakthrough that a lot of people can lose sight of where their information is coming from.

In school, I learned the difference between a dietitian and a nutritionist my freshman year, and it has since been drilled into my brain. A dietitian is the person you go to if you are seeking accurate and reliable food and nutrition advice.

A nutritionist can give you some insight, but there's usually not much proof or evidence backing them up. Seek advice from a nutritionist at your own risk, as they should not be involved in nutrition diagnoses or treatment. A nutritionist provides basic nutrition education, which is public information distributed by the government.

There is a clear difference between the two titles and it is important for everyone to know that difference when it comes to food and health advice.


Most people get confused or assume information is credible when they see some crazy abbreviation. A nutritionist can just call themselves a nutritionist, or they can use terms like Certified Nutrition Specialist (CNS) or Certified Nutritionist (CN) to make themselves seem a bit more fancy.

A dietitian is an abbreviated version of Registered Dietitian Nutritionist (RDN), but some just call themselves a Registered Dietitian (RD). In addition, an RDN can receive qualifications in a number of different areas, such as oncology nutrition, vegetarian nutrition, or sports nutrition, among others. 


Next, the education levels of the two titles are completely different. One who calls themself a nutritionist usually has a bachelor's degree in nutrition or a related field and only some have master's credit or a certification. While they may have studied the basics of food and nutrition, most only have a general understanding of food and its effects on the body.

Registered Dietitians have received an undergraduate degree and completed a year long internship that deals with everything from clinical nutrition to community issues. After the internship, they can take the exam that's required to become an RD. Once an RD earns their credentials, they must become a member of the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics.

The Academy is a network of dietitians where studies are published and information is shared. They also have a monthly magazine jam packed with nutrition information. RD's also have to do a certain amount of continuing education each year, and soon they will all need to have a master's degree.

The License

The scary part is, anybody can market themselves as a nutritionist. A trainer or a brand ambassador offering nutrition advice is not only dangerous, but it's considered illegal in most states. People freely labeling themselves as a nutritionist have no license to do so, and should realize the consequences that could follow if someone gets hurt. 

Dietitians have a license, and also must follow all laws in the state in which they practice. They also have their own code of ethics about offering nutrition advice.

When it comes to food, a Registered Dietitian Nutritionist is truly the gold standard. They're considered food and nutrition experts, and can change lives with their expertise. There is so much misinformation on the internet and in magazines today, so it's important that people know how to spot it. While not all advice it bad, consider the difference between a dietitian and a nutritionist, and then decide what to believe.