What Are The Differences Between A Dietitian And A Nutritionist
By Nicholas Gala, Accredited Practising Dietitian
Nowadays, it seems like anybody and everybody is claiming to be a ‘nutrition expert’. These so-called ‘professionals’ disseminate information which can be misleading and detrimental to your health. So who can you really trust?
Firstly, let us start off by saying that both titles ‘Nutritionist’ and ‘Dietitian’ are not regulated by law, leaving open to people with little or no education to claim them. Your safest bet is to turn to an Accredited Practising Dietitian (APD) or an Accredited Nutritionist (AN), since their accreditation is evidence they have met certain requirements to practice under these titles. Let’s find out how to tell the difference between a Dietitian and a Nutritionist.
Who is a Nutritionist?
An Accredited Nutritionist’s main role is to provide general information on healthy eating, food and diet choices (e.g. vegetarian diets) and weight loss to the public. They have a good understanding of food and nutrition and can give you some tips and tricks to lose those few extra kilos you’ve stacked on recently.
Before we get into the roles of a dietitian, it is important to understand that an APD can also call him/herself an Accredited Nutritionist as the scope of practice for nutrition education and services cover that of a nutritionist and more.
Who is a Dietitian?
An Accredited Practising Dietitian (APD) is the highest qualified food and nutrition expert, having graduated from an accredited Australia university dietetics course. This four-year university degree covers biochemistry, food science, physiology and most importantly, medical nutrition therapy.
The education and extensive training in medical nutrition therapy is what sets an accredited dietitian apart from a nutritionist, allowing a dietitian to help improve the health of individuals with conditions such as diabetes, gastrointestinal diseases, high cholesterol and more.
In addition to possessing an in-depth scientific understanding of food and nutrition, accredited dietitians are also assessed on skill sets including communication, counselling and education throughout their studies. Gone are the days of the ‘one-size-fits-all’ approach – the APD’s role is all about you, their client.
They are trained to understand that no two people are the same, so their nutrition management shouldn’t be either.
It is a dietitian’s role to understand you as an individual and provide both long- and short- term strategies to encourage long-term behavioural changes to help you achieve your goals towards better health.
To add to this, APDs are required to continually develop their professional knowledge as a part of their requirements to hold their APD certification. This means you will always be provided with the most up to date, evidence-based nutritional information. APDs are recognised by the Australian government, Medicare, the Department of Veterans Affairs and most private health funds, so you always get the best bang for your buck!