Eating the right foods and following a healthy diet is imperative to build and maintain excellent health conditions. There are certain types of food items that must be avoided, and other food items that must be consumed to stay healthy. There are some qualified professionals who perform the task of informing people about these foods.
Both these fields deal with informing and educating people about the relationship between eating a proper diet and living a healthy life, but the difference between them comes out in the way that they carry out their work. The main difference is the formality of training that they receive, and the credibility of their operations.
A dietitian is a qualified professional who enables people to maintain good health by suggesting what food they should consume, and in what quantities. A dietitian will chalk out an entire food chart for a person, and inform them about their various benefits. Information about the proportion of each item will also fall under the expertise of a dietitian.
A nutritionist, on the other hand, is a health specialist in a way, and his job is to primarily study and advocate nutritional science to people. He will recommend the consumption of certain nutrients, and dish out advice and information regarding any diseases that may arise as a result of nutritional deficiencies.
Though their definition is quite similar, the difference between them becomes clearer when you consider the qualifications that they both require in order to practice their profession.
A dietitian requires a more formal mode of education as they are not permitted to practice without completing at least a bachelor's degree in food sciences or dietetics. A degree in a related field like food system management is also permissible.
On the other hand, a nutritionist does not necessarily require such a professional degree. It can simply be someone who has studied the field and advocates whatever they know to people who respect their opinion. It is more of an informal form of advice.
However, there are professional degrees and licenses available for them as well, that enable them to practice and improve their credibility and standing.
The prominence and significance of both these professions is well-known in the health sector, as both of them stress on the importance of good eating habits on the overall health of a person. Since a dietitian is a qualified health professional, you will most commonly find one at a hospital, a clinic, or any other long-term care facility.
The informality of a nutritionist means that they will be found in facilities where people focus more on short-term care, and the dishing out of advice is more of an informal kind. The most common place to find them is at a gymnasium, or at any local drug store or health store.
Another major difference between dietitian and nutritionist is the types of each profession that exist. They are mainly of two types - those that work as consultants, either for a private practice of their own or for a health institution, and those that are hired by a company for carrying out research and marketing activities.
The first category works for health agencies that educate people about healthy eating habits, second category treats patients that come to them for advice, and third category plans and supervises healthy meals for institutions like schools and colleges.
All in all, anyone can claim to be a nutritionist, so one must be wary before approaching them for advice. Since a license is not mandatory for them, anybody can portray himself/herself as one. Therefore, approaching a qualified and licensed dietitian is a much better option.
Both professions do not differ in many respects, apart from this one. The American Dietetic Association is the body that regulates the licensing of such professionals, and sometimes it is better to directly inquire from them about their credibility and authenticity.