Dietitian or Nutritionist?
Do you know the difference between a nutritionist and a Dietitian? Many people assume they’re the same thing, but they’re not.
In Australia, anyone can call themselves a Nutritionist or Dietitian, no matter what their level of training is, because the government doesn’t regulate the practice of professional nutrition.
To help overcome the potential problems that this can cause, two bodies provide accreditation of qualifications relating to nutrition and nutritional advice that helps protect consumers from misinformation given by unqualified people.
Given that anyone can call themselves a Dietitian or Nutritionist, from now on we’ll be referring to accredited Dietitians and accredited nutritionists.
The basic difference between Dietitians and Nutritionists
The basic difference between accredited Dietitians and nutritionists are their level of education and training, and the type of education and training that they have undertaken. Based on both the type and level of training, each is accredited in the types of advice and services they can offer too.
Accredited Dietitians are typically the highest trained of the two, and suitably accredited Dietitians are recognised by government bodies and health providers as bona fide providers of diet related advice.
Dietitians are qualified nutrition experts in food, nutrition and dietetics who can provide tailored advice to people of all ages on weight loss, healthy eating, medical nutrition therapy, and disease prevention and treatment. Because of their education, training and experience, Dietitians can tailor eating plans which take into account your person preferences, lifestyle and medical history. In addition, they can provide ongoing support and expert guidance.
The cost of seeing a dietitian can vary depending on their level of experience and area of expertise. If referred by a GP, some dietitian fees are subject to Medicare and private health insurance rebates.
Some Dietitians specialise in sports nutrition and are qualified to advise athletes on nutrition specific to their needs.
If you have been referred to a Dietitian by your doctor, the Dietitian will often work closely with the doctor.
Unlike Dietitians, nutritionists aren’t typically employed in roles that provide tailored nutrition advice to individual patients. They tend to provide expert advice to wider audiences, like the general public, on topics like public food safety, the health benefits of food, etc.
Some accredited Dietitians working in broader government or commercial roles use the title nutritionist to accurate reflect their day to day role. These people are still qualified to provide one-on-one advice and support, they just tend not to in their current roles.
There are currently no Medicare rebates, and only limited private health insurance fund rebates for Nutritionist fees.
Other providers of dietary advice
In addition to Dietitians and Nutritionists, dietary advice is available from weight loss consultants employed by weight loss companies like Weight Watchers and Tony Ferguson, naturopaths and even personal trainers.
Weight loss consultants are typically trained by the companies that employ them, often including Dietitians, but their education is fairly basic, but useful in a general sense.
Naturopaths are often trained and accredited by bodies such as the Australian Natural Therapists Association. Naturopaths typically adopt a more holistic approach involving things like natural medicines, homeopathy, herbalism, and acupuncture, as well as lifestyle techniques.
Personal trainers are experts in exercise, and for weight loss, diet and exercise go hand-in-hand. As part of their accreditation, most personal trainers receive some formal education in basic nutrition, and of course they also learn from the experience of their many clients.
When choosing a Dietitian, make sure to check their qualifications and look for the APD credential.
Also ask if they specialise in weight loss, or anything else you are seeing them about.
When it comes to all the other professions offering dietary advice, remember that each of these groups have varying levels of education, training, experience and knowledge, so as a general rule, look for professionals with the highest possible level of education and experience.
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This article was written by Scott Haywood.
Scott is the editor of weightloss.com.au. Scott has developed an expertise in fitness and nutrition, and their roles in weight loss, which led him to launch weightloss.com.au in 2005. Today, weightloss.com.au provides weight loss and fitness information, including hundreds of healthy recipes, weight loss tools and tips, articles, and more, to millions of people around the world, helping them to lead happier, healthier, lives.
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