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The 3 differences between a nutritionist and a dietitian

The 3 differences between a nutritionist and a dietitian

March 17, 2023

Food is one of the basic pillars for our survival, and one of the most important aspects in the maintenance of our health. It is also part of our cultural identity, and influences our image and self-concept. However, although eating is a pleasure, a large part of the population does so in a way that does not fit their needs. That is why the figure of a nutritionist or a dietitian is necessary.

Both professionals are often confused or even integrated into the same profession (It is not uncommon to hear about a dietitian-nutritionist), but the truth is that they are not the same type of professional or necessarily do the same things. In this article, we will look at the main differences between a nutritionist and a dietitian.

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Nutritionist and dietitian: what are we talking about?

To understand the differences between nutritionist and dietitian we must first know how each of the terms is defined, as well as the objective of each of these professions.


In the case of the profession of nutritionist (sometimes also called dietitian-nutritionist), we are facing professionals who have studied a degree or degree in Nutrition and Dietetics at the university level (or they have specialized in medicine in that branch).

Nutritionists are trained in such a way that they are experts in nutrition (that is, not in eating, but in the nutrients and elements that are obtained with it and how they affect the organism) and in dietary guidelines focused on the needs of the patient, regardless of If he is healthy or otherwise suffers some kind of disorders or illness.

It is advisable to use their services for those who suffer from some type of medical disease (for example, diabetes) or psychiatric (in the case of bulimia or anorexia nervosa).


With regards to the dietitian, It is a professional focused on the process of eating as such: the act of eating . Its main function is the establishment of adequate food and activity guidelines, generally applicable to most of the population according to aspects such as weight, height and what objectives they have. Of course, their training trains them mainly to serve people without serious health problems. Their training is more limited, generally based on courses and modules superior in Dietetics that tend to last between several months and two years.

Similarities between both groups

As we can see, both have very palpable similarities: both nutritionist and dietitian work in order to promote and maintain health through the management of intake and nutrition. In both cases, specialized pre-preparation is also required.

In both cases, it is also possible that in addition to direct contact with the client, they may participate in research, advice in the field of education and marketing. The similarities are quite marked: in fact, often instead of differentiating them, we talk about the dietitian-nutritionist (although its formation would be the one of the previously mentioned nutritionist), but this does not imply that there are not also differences.

Main differences

Although with the definition of both terms it is possible to perceive a large part of the differences between nutritionists and dieticians, it is useful to make them explicit. So we can find that the main differences between both areas are the following.

1. Training level

One of the most notorious differences between nutritionist and dietitian is the level of training required to get to get that degree. In Spain, the nutritionist must have completed university studies in the form of a degree or degree in Nutrition and Dietetics or have specialized in that branch during medical studies. With regard to the dietitian, his training tends to be shorter, taking modules of FP in Dietetics that qualify him as a technician in this area.

2. Type of user

As we have seen, people who go to a dietitian are usually people with a good health or who do not suffer from diseases that require changing dietary guidelines. ANDThe usual goal of this type of user is to lose weight or keep fit , although they can also participate in marketing and education advice or participate in multidisciplinary research.

In contrast, nutritionists tend to be required not only by people with a normative level of health but also by those with pathologies or altered states to be taken into account.For example, people with heart problems, pregnancies, diabetes, psychiatric problems or chronic consumption of drugs that can cause severe alterations if combined with certain foods should be used by a nutritionist. They can be part of the national health system.

3. Ascription to the General Health System

While they can perform similar functions in some cases, only one of the branches is considered part of the National Health System . In Spain it is the figure of the nutritionist, whose training is more specialized and allows him to face counseling and intervention in cases of pathology.

Territorial differences in the consideration of one and another profession

However, being one or the other depends among other things on the country in which we are and the legal regulations that they have regarding the regulation of these professions. It is possible that the terms are not the same or even that they are reversed.

This is what happens for example in the United States or the United Kingdom: a nutritionist would correspond to what in Spain we call a dietitian and vice versa. In these countries the law covers the figure of the dietitian (or dietitian-nutritionist), who must be registered in the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics and can be part of the health system. As far as nutritionists are concerned, they are not asked to be registered and have less consideration, but voluntary registration associations have been formed.

But these are not the only countries in which these differences occur. For example, in countries such as Mexico there is a difference between a nutritionist (which would equal the Spanish dietitian in terms of training and skills) and a nutritionist (corresponding to our nutritionist, with a higher level of training and specialization).

Bibliographic references:

  • Marcason, W. (2015). Dietitian, Dietician or Nutritionist? From The Academy. Question of the Month Journal of the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics.

Dietitians and Nutritionists | Video FAQs - UCLA Family Health Center (March 2023).

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