Difference Between Dietitian and Nutritionist

Main Difference – Dietitian vs Nutritionist

Selecting the right person to look for help and advice regarding healthy diets and nutrition may sometimes be a confusing and difficult task. Many patients claim to be experts in nutrition sector yet have a very narrow knowledge and offer less protection to the society. Many people also incorrectly use the terms dietitian and nutritionist interchangeably. However, the profession of a dietitian is a specific term because a dietitian is a registered health professional who meets standards required by the Dietitians Board under the ministry of health in most of the countries. In contrast, the profession of a nutritionist is not a specific term and therefore can be used easily by anyone who expertises in health and nutrition related areas, and there is no specific qualification or legal registration process required. Although this is the main difference between dietitian and nutritionist, their professional roles and responsibilities may also differ. Therefore, it is important to identify the difference between dietitian and nutritionist in order to select the right person. In this article, let’s elaborate the difference between dietitian and nutritionist.

Who is a Dietician

Professional and registered dietitians are the one and only competent health professionals that evaluate, diagnose and treat dietary and nutritional related complications at an individual and broader public health level. Dietitians are the only professionals in nutrition sector to be regulated by law and they are administered by an ethical code to confirm that they always work to the highest standard. These dieticians mainly deal with both healthy and sick people. They should use the latest public health and scientific research outcomes on food, health and disease which they transform into practical guidance to assist people to make appropriate lifestyle and food choices. Dietitians advise and guide food and health policy through the range from government to local societies and persons.

Main Difference - Dietitian vs Nutritionist

Who is a Nutritionist

Nutritionists are competent to deliver information about food and nutrition and healthy eating. But this profession is not protected by law. They work in diverse roles such as public health, health improvement, health policy, local and national government, the private sector, Non-Government Organisations and in education and research. However, in many countries, nutritionists also assist people to make appropriate lifestyles and food choices and advice food and health policy.Difference Between Dietitian and Nutritionist

Difference Between Dietitian and Nutritionist


DieticianDietician is the one and only nutrition professional to be regulated by law and is directed by an ethical code to guarantee that they always work to the highest standard.

Nutritionist: Nutritionist is a healthcare professional who helps people achieve optimal health by providing information and advice about health and food choices.

Government and Law

Dietician: The profession of dieticians is implemented and governed by the Ministry of health in many countries of the world.

Nutritionist: Anyone who is an expert in human nutrition field can call themselves a nutritionist


Dietician: In order to be a registered dietician, a BSc in Dietetics or another related BSc degree with a postgraduate diploma or higher degree in Dietetics is the minimum requirement.

Nutritionist: In order to be a nutritionist, they should have at least a BSc degree with a major in Human Nutrition. However,  ‘registered nutritionists’ have post-graduate qualifications required for membership of the Nutrition Society of many countries in the world.


DieticiansDieticians are familiar with biochemistry, physiology, applied sciences and research methods which support nutrition and dietetics. Also, they learn social and behavioral sciences and the theories of communication to support the improvement of skills necessary for professional dietetic practice.

Nutritionist: They are qualified in a number of fields, including nutrition, food science, and public health.

Work Place

Dieticians: They mainly work in National hospitals and in private clinics. They can also work in the food industry, catering, education, sport and the media. Other alleyways they work in include mental health, learning disabilities, community, acute settings and public health. They frequently work as essential affiliates of multi-disciplinary groups to treat multifaceted clinical conditions such as malnutrition or diabetes etc.

Nutritionist: They mainly work in all non-clinical surroundings such as the Government institutes, educational institutes, food industry, research, sports and exercise industries, international work in developing countries, media and communications, animal nutrition and NGOs.


DieticiansThey give advice to healthy and sick people in a variety of settings. They provide advice to caterers and nursing homes to ensure the nutritional care of all clients. They also design and implement public health and nutrition related programs to endorse health and prevent nutrition related diseases. Another main role of a dietitian is to train and educate other health and social care workers. They also give dietary advice to evade the side effects and interactions between medications.

Nutritionists: They are capable of providing guidance and information about food and healthy eating, but not about distinctive diets for different medical illnesses.


Dieticians: In some countries, dietitians are legally able to recommend and administer drugs such as insulin, phosphate binders, and pancreatic enzymes. They can also adjust this medication. Also, they can recommend approved nutritional products and supplements, with or without prescription.

Nutritionists: They are not able to prescribe drugs or recommend diet plans for acutely ill hospitalized patients.

In conclusion, both dietitians and nutritionist interpret the science of nutrition to improve health, nutritional status and treat mainly diet-related non-communicable diseases and conditions by educating and giving practical advice to clients, patients, caregivers and colleagues.Difference Between Dietitian and Nutritionist - infographic


Conestoga College. In British Columbia, Langara College of Vancouver offers a diploma program for dietetic technicians with a focus on foodservice management. Also the Canadian Healthcare Association, based out of Ottawa, offers a certificate in foodservice management for diet technicians. Program Details: Dietetic Technician.

Dietitians in Business and Communications (DBC) – dietetic practice group of the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics.

Hwalla N, Koleilat M. Dietetic practice: the past, present and future. Eastern Mediterranean Health Journal, 2004, 10(6):716-730

Image Courtesy: 

“Image 1” by Keith Ellison (CC BY 2.0) via Flickr

“Image 2 ” by Spmallare – Own work, (CC BY 3.0) via Commons Wikimedia 

About the Author: Geesha

Geeshani has a BSc (Hons) degree in Food Science and Technology and Master's degree in Food and Nutrition. She is currently a PhD Student at the Massey Institute of Food Science and Technology. Sharing what she learned is a passion of hers and enjoys writing.