Dietitian vs. Nutritionist: What is the Difference?

Many people mistakenly use the terms ‘dietitian’ and ‘nutritionist’ interchangeably. Although these two professions are undoubtedly related, they maintain distinctive qualities. 

We sat down with nutritionist, Kate Jeffries from Katalyst Nutrition to uncover the key differences. 

Based in Brisbane, Kate holds a Bachelor of Behavioural Science (Psychology) and an Advanced Diploma of Nutritional Medicine and she uses her background in both of these areas to work to achieve optimal health and nutrition for her clients.

Read on to see her insights and some top tips when choosing a dietitian or nutritionist. 

So, what's the difference between dietitians and nutritionists?

Dietitians in Australia are predominantly found in hospital settings and in government and community-based roles.  

In the medical setting, dietitians work heavily with disease states and conditions such as diabetes, cardiovascular disease and kidney disease to assist their clients to manage their medical conditions through diet.  

In government and community settings, the role of dietitians is to plan meals that meet the nutritional needs of the entire community, organisation or population that they serve.

Dietitians also practice privately with clients on an individual basis but will generally focus on food intake alone as opposed to a holistic approach focusing on whole body treatment.  This is where dietitians and nutritionists differ most. 

What does a nutritionist do?

A nutritionist generally works more one on one with clients in a clinical setting. 

Most nutritionists adopt a holistic approach to case taking and treatment.  This means that they will look at the functioning of all your body systems including areas such as digestion, metabolism, hormones, energy levels and sleep to name just a few.  

Nutritionists will also look at diet, lifestyle and levels of stress to assess the nutritional requirements for their clients.  This individualised assessment and treatment stems from the concept of bio-individuality - that there is no ‘one-size-fits-all’ approach when it comes to achieving optimal health.  Every client is viewed as a unique individual with highly individualised nutritional and energy requirements, body compositions, metabolism, backgrounds and lifestyles that all influence their overall health and the foods that make them feel at their best. 

What are your top tips when choosing a dietitian or nutritionist?

It is important to note however that these are general guidelines and there will be dietitians who adopt more of a holistic approach as well as nutritionists that tend to adopt more of a dietetics approach.  

When looking for the appropriate practitioner for you it is important to ensure that the dietitian or nutritionist has a professional membership with an appropriate association.  This will ensure that they have the necessary qualifications, are held to specific legal and ethical standards and have ongoing Continuing Professional Education requirements.  

Some people may call themselves a nutritionist or nutrition consultant when they have in fact only undertaken a few nutrition subjects.  This is why it is imperative to ensure your practitioner is appropriately qualified so that you can be sure that you are dealing with someone who can provide you with the most accurate and up to date nutritional information. 

Thanks Kate.

Stay tuned for Kate's next article in January. 

In the meantime, if you wish to get in touch with Kate phone 0423 493 330 or click the button below.