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Dietitian vs. Nutritionist: Which One Should You Choose for Weight Loss?

Author: Cecilia Snyder, MS, RD

If you’ve ever embarked on your own weight loss journey, or a journey of any kind for that matter, you’ve probably found yourself wondering… who should I talk to about my plans? How do I know which information I can trust, and which information is a bunch of rubbish? Basically, in the beginning, you’ll probably be thinking… am I doing this right?

When it comes to weight loss journeys specifically, you might find yourself turning to experts on the matter to help answer these questions for you. Maybe it’s your physician, a personal trainer, psychologist, nutritionist, or a dietitian. As you decide which types of professionals you want to work with, you might find yourself wondering–what’s the difference between and dietitian and a nutritionist anyway? And which one is better to work with on a weight loss journey? 

Let’s find out…   

Nutritionists: The authority on food and diet

To put it simply, a nutritionist is an expert on the practice of using food and nutrition to maintain health and prevent disease. Nutritionists work in a variety of different settings, everywhere from medical clinics to schools to community health centers, and you might see a variety of different credentials behind their names. These include (but aren’t limited to): 

  • Certified Nutritionist (CN)
  • Certified Nutrition Specialist (CNS)
  • Certified Clinical Nutritionist (CCN)
  • Certified Nutritional Consultant (CNC)
  • Registered Dietitian (RD) 
  • Osteopathic Doctor (OD)
  • Chiropractic Doctor (CD)
  • Naturopathic Doctor (ND)
  • Medical Doctor (MD)
  • Nutritional Therapy Practitioner (NTP)
  • Traditional Naturopathic Practitioner (TNP)
  • Certified Traditional Naturopath (CTN)

Depending on which credential your nutritionist has, they could be more knowledgeable on certain topics and types of nutrition therapy than on others. In addition, nutrition might not be their only area of expertise, and they could even combine their nutrition practice with another type of health practice as well. 

Dietitians: The specialist in human nutrition

You probably noticed that registered dietitians are listed as one type of nutritionist. This is because, since their areas of expertise is in human nutrition, all dietitians are nutritionists. But on the other hand, that doesn’t mean that all nutritionists are dietitians. Let me explain… 

In order to be credentialed as a registered dietitian, you’ve got to meet a certain set of criteria that includes:

  • Earning a bachelor’s degree at an accredited university and completing a specific set of courses approved by the Accreditation Council for Education in Nutrition and Dietetics (ACEND) of the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics 
  • Participating in a supervised practice program that has also been approved by ACEND
  • Passing a national registration examination

However, each type of nutritionist credential, whether it’s a certified nutrition, a naturopathic doctor, or any of the other types of credentialed nutritionists, also likely requires that practitioners meet a similar set of criteria before they can become credentialed. 

So what truly sets dietitians apart from other nutritionists is that, in some states, only dietitians are legally allowed to prescribe certain types of diets or make personalized nutrition recommendations. Plus, the “registered dietitian” credential is legally protected by law. So while only those individuals who have met the set criteria listed above can legally refer to themselves as a dietitian, anyone can refer to themselves as a nutritionist, whether they’ve completed some type of nutrition-related education or not. 

Dietitian vs. Nutritionist: Which one is right for you?

So we covered what the difference is between a nutritionist and a dietitian. But you’re probably still wondering about which one you should choose for weight loss. The truth is… one isn’t always necessarily better than the other. What it really comes down to is your own set of individual preferences, needs, and expectations from the practitioner you decide to work with. 

Dietitians have their area of expertise, and in some states, you might legally need to work with a dietitian in order to receive certain types of prescriptions or personalized diets. However, as you can see from the lengthy list of credentials above, nutritionists can be experts in their own right. So what’s more important than choosing between a dietitian and nutritionist, is finding a practitioner that is:

  • Credentialed (whether it’s as a dietitian or as a nutritionist)
  • Attentive to your personal needs
  • Enjoyable to worth with
  • Trustworthy 

Noom: Your personal team of experts! 

Now I want to let you in on a little secret… 

If you decide to work Noom on your weight loss journey, you’ll have the opportunity to learn from nutritionists and dietitians plus so many more types of educated and credentialed experts on weight loss. Psychologists, personal trainers, exercise physiologists, social workers, counselors, and more! The thing about Noom is that we realize when it comes to weight loss… there simply isn’t a right or wrong answer to a lot of these types of questions. 

We’re all walking on our own path, and what works best for me might not be what works best for you. So instead of encouraging you to make specific decisions that are “right” or “wrong”, we’ll provide you with all of the information you need to make those big decisions on your own. And even better yet, we’ll help you learn how to make those decisions with confidence.    

Sound like it could work for you? The best part is, signing up for Noom probably isn’t even nearly as expensive as working with a personal nutritionist or dietitian would be. 

If you’re ready to work with your own personal team of experts, come on over to Noom and get started on your weight loss journey today