Who should I visit, a nutritionist or dietitian?

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Who should I visit, a nutritionist or dietitian?

At Healthy Food Guide, we call our contributors nutritionists when they have, as a minimum, a nutrition degree or post-graduate qualification in nutrition.

However, anyone can actually call themselves a nutritionist so it is important when seeking help to check what qualifications and/or registrations they have.

A New Zealand registered nutritionist must have, as a minimum, a science degree majoring in nutrition and they must have met the professional experience requirements and the continuing competency requirements of the Nutrition Society of New Zealand.

A New Zealand registered dietitian must have a science degree in human nutrition as well as a post-graduate diploma or masters of dietetics. They must also meet the requirements of the New Zealand Dietitians Board as well as the continuing competency requirements of the New Zealand Dietitians Board. Some dietitians working in wellness choose to call themselves nutritionists. They may be registered but want to avoid the common misconception that dietitians are only trained to work in a hospital setting.

Registered dietitians, registered nutritionists, and degree-qualified nutritionists who have not yet met the experience requirements for registration, all provide nutrition advice.

Dietitians are trained and experienced to provide advice for particular diseases and conditions such as diabetes and heart disease and may also have experience in providing practical support for lifestyle nutrition, eg. eating for wellness, weight management , sports nutrition, etc.

For wellness advice, it is best to check the credentials and seek references if necessary for the person you are considering seeing. Some dietitians have only worked in a hospital setting while some registered nutritionists have only been involved in research and have no practical experience. Where you have specific needs, you can expect any professional to be happy to discuss their experience or refer you to someone more appropriate if needed.

While advice and treatment options are important, a key factor that will determine how successful you are at changing behaviour will be the quality of the relationship you have with either the dietitian or nutritionist.

First published: October 2017

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