Make the Best Choice for Your Health: Decoding Dietitians vs. Nutritionists

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Author Name: Mia Barnes
Date: Tuesday June 11, 2024

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Figuring out what foods are best for your body can be confusing. There are so many foods to choose from and endless delicious recipes to try. How can you know if you’re buying what’s best for your long-term health when you’re at the grocery store? Read this guide to compare dietitians vs. nutritionists and decide which type of professional could best help you understand nutrients, vitamins and more.

What Is a Dietitian?

A dietitian is a health care professional credentialed in counseling clients to form customized meal plans based on their health needs. After completing their undergraduate studies in a related field, they get credentialed with the Commission on Dietetic Registration (CDR) to add “RD” to their professional title. Anyone who says they’re a dietitian without an RD title isn’t licensed to help people.

What Is a Nutritionist?

A nutritionist is someone who earned an undergraduate or master’s degree in human nutrition to help people treat existing medical conditions with food or reach health goals through their diet. They apply for certification with one of two organizations: the Clinical Nutrition Certification Board or the Board for Certification of Nutrition Specialists. They may work with your doctor to improve specific health conditions and potentially accept payment through health insurance plans.

It’s worth noting that nutritionist certification varies by state. Some require registration with the above organizations, while others don’t. Research your state’s requirements for nutritionists to understand if you’re signing up to work with an educated expert or someone who’s just passionate about nutrition.

Reasons People Visit Dietitians

Check out these common reasons people decide to visit a dietitian. Once you compare dietitians vs. nutritionists, you’ll know you’ve picked the best professional to help with your goals.

1. You Want Help Avoiding a Food Allergy

Strange, recurring symptoms might have led you to consider getting help with your diet. You could potentially have a food allergy related to dairy, starches, whole grains or spices if meals leave you uncomfortable. A dietitian can help you eliminate triggering foods to identify potential allergens and construct a more comfortable diet.

2. You Need Assistance With Your Irritated Digestive System

Some symptoms, like bloating and irregular bowel movements, might mean your digestive system is more sensitive. Dietitians regularly establish low-FODMAP diets that reduce or eliminate monosaccharides, fermentable oligosaccharides, disaccharides and polyols. They could help you live more comfortably and form a more positive relationship with food.

3. You Want Advice While Learning How to Cook for Yourself

Whether you just started living on your own or not, many people don’t know how to plan nutritionally supportive meals or snacks. A dietitian can help you. They’ll break down the benefits of your favorite foods so you understand what nutrients you’re getting and which you need to eat more often.

4. You Need Help Feeding a Picky Eater

Making a picky eater happy often means sacrificing their nutritional intake. If your child only eats mac and cheese, they won’t get the vitamins and minerals available in vegetables. Dietitians know how to introduce foods in fun ways or sneak healthy ingredients into comfort foods so every picky eater gets healthier without a fight.

Reasons People Visit Nutritionists 

Forming more targeted health goals might mean you should go see a nutritionist for guidance. These are common reasons people book an appointment and start an ongoing client-nutritionist relationship.

1. You Need to Manage Abnormal Lab Values

People undergo laboratory tests for numerous reasons. Your doctor might recommend drawing a blood sample or sending another test off for a closer look at your health, depending on your medical history. While the results may also lead to recommended medications, your doctor could advise that you visit a nutritionist to further manage your health with your daily diet.

Nutritionists can formulate meal plans to target specific nutrients, like iron. If you get more iron in your diet consistently, you may get better lab results after your next health appointment. Bring your lab paperwork to your nutritionist appointment to give them context for your upcoming dietary changes.

2. You Want to Improve Your Fertility

Fertility issues affect 11% of cisgender women and 9% of cisgender men. You could work with your doctor to try strategies like hormone treatments when you’re ready to start a family, but that isn’t always everyone’s first choice. Medical treatments always have some side effects. If you’d like to try something different, nutritionists are standing by to help.

Your diet influences your hormone production by fueling your body with nutrients and vitamins it might naturally lack. Research shows that the Mediterranean diet may boost a cisgender woman’s fertility if she maintains it long-term. You’ll know you’re on track after discussing your fertility goals with a nutritionist who has experience helping clients get pregnant.

3. You Need to Hone Your Athletic Performance

There are numerous reasons why people want to reach specific health goals when they’re more active than others. They might need to meet specific body type requirements for their sport, build muscle to compete more effectively or improve their speed with better heart health.

Nutritionists help clients strategize their meals and snacks to reach those goals on the client’s chosen timeline. You’ll need to bring specific information to each recurring meeting so they know how to advise you next. Tracking your physical metrics over time will point to what’s working and what’s not. Look for a nutritionist with experience helping athletes to get the best help available.

4. You Want Guidance While Undergoing Treatment

Some health diagnoses require ongoing treatment that makes eating difficult. You might not be able to eat a well-rounded diet if certain aromas trigger nausea. Other treatments, like chemo, can erase your appetite entirely. A nutritionist could help you structure your diet around what you’re able to eat and still find ways to make every bite more nutritious while your treatments last.

Make the Best Decision by Comparing Dietitians vs. Nutritionists

Now that you’ve compared dietitians vs. nutritionists, your path forward should feel much more clear. Consider your health goals to pinpoint the best expert for your nutritional needs. You’ll accomplish your goals and feel more confident about your diet with some help from the right expert.

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