Dietician, Dietitian or Nutritionist?

If you suspect you’ve got a food issue it can be hard to know who you should be turning to – a dietician, a dietitian or a nutritionist.

First of all, dieticians and dietitians are the same thing. In Australia, USA, Canada and the UK, the spelling dietitian is preferred. Spelling dietitian with a ‘c’ is a great way to frustrate a dietitian! Regardless of the spelling, the accepted, international definition of a dietitian is as follows:

A dietitian is a person with a qualification in nutrition and dietetics recognised by national authority[s]. The dietitian applies the science of nutrition to the feeding and education of groups of people and individuals in health and disease.

Source: Dietitians Association of Australia

Both dietitians and nutritionists require tertiary qualifications, however they perform very different roles and have different scopes of practice. Dietitians are held to strict competency standards, while there is no specific authority that assesses the qualifications of nutritionists.

Nutritionists are qualified to work in areas relating to nutrition, public health nutrition, policy and research, and community health. While dietitians are also qualified to work in these areas, they also have the expertise to provide individual dietary counselling, medical nutrition therapy, group dietary therapy and food service management. In Australia, all dietitians are nutritionists, however nutritionists cannot be dietitians unless they taken on additional education and training to attain a dietetics qualification.

Nutrition Australia states that in Australia, “professional nutritional practice is not regulated by the government, and there is no legal protection over the terms ‘Nutritionist’ and ‘Dietitian’ – anyone can call themselves a Nutritionist or Dietitian, no matter their level of training. This situation opens the possibility for misinformation to the public.

When seeking the advice of a nutrition professional, it is therefore important to ensure that you consult with someone who has a credential which is provided and governed by either the Dietitians Association of Australia (DAA) or the Nutrition Society of Australia (NSA).”

Ashleigh Jones

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