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What's the difference between a Dietitian and a Nutritionist - Aren't you the same thing?

When I get asked by people at social gatherings what I do for a living and say that I’m a dietitian, they tend to do one of three things:


1) Ask me a million questions (well, not quite a million) about their diet or they refer to me as a nutritionist. Some dietitians dislike being referred to as a nutritionist, kind of like how a physiotherapist who does extra years of study/training would hate to be called a personal trainer – but I’m cool with whatever someone calls me, as long as I can help them.

2) Tell me what their friend did to “lose weight” or;

3) State something completely wrong which has been published on social media/magazines or stated by their neighbour Joe, down the road. I mean, I can’t blame them, how many times have we heard that “eggs are worse than smoking 10 cigarettes a day” or “cut out all your carbs/carbs are the devil”? It’s confusing!


That’s where dietitians come in.


So, what is a Dietitian and what do we do?


According to Dietitians AustraliaDietitians understand how nutrition impacts the body and use this knowledge to treat a range of medical conditions. Trained in medical nutrition therapy, dietitians translate scientific nutrition information into dietary advice. They use specialised coaching strategies to improve wellbeing through lifestyle and diet changes.”


But to put it more simply, all Accredited Practising Dietitians are university qualified and are also Accredited Nutritionists, as we have all studied nutrition at the required level. However, anyone can call themselves a nutritionist. BUT, dietitians are far more than just a definition.


So what sets Dietitians apart from Nutritionists?


Education


As mentioned, dietitians have a different level of education and is accrued over 4-6 years of university, including a bachelor’s degree and in most instances, post graduate masters studies with a work experience component attached (roughly 3-6 months in the final year, in a range of settings). Now, I’m not saying nutritionists are bad, some are absolutely incredible and know their stuff, but for a vast majority, unfortunately this isn’t the case.


When compared to a dietitian, a “nutritionist” can have a university degree if they want to or they can fast-track an online course and call themselves a nutritionist in as little as six weeks! But if I’m honest, you can call yourself a nutritionist right now (even my puppy can if he could speak), without knowing a single thing about nutrition, human physiology or biochemistry.


Registration


All dietitians must be registered by Dietitians Australia if they are currently working, whereas nutritionists can register to Nutrition Society of Australia and/or Dietitians Australia, however, there is no legal requirement to do so. This is why people need to be careful as anyone can market themselves as a nutritionist without having a degree, extensive education (think about instead of going to your local GP for medical advice, you get the advice from a person at the local pub) or being certified/registered with a governing body. So, my advice – stay clear of social media “influencers” or people marketing products/programs, unless they have evidence that they’re registered!


Work


In Australia, only dietitians are legally able to prescribe clinical or medical treatment and consultations, when compared to nutritionists who are not qualified to do so. All dietitians can work as nutritionists if they want to, but nutritionists cannot work as dietitians without completing a of university dietetic qualification.


Rebate – $$$


One of the best things about seeing a dietitian is that you can save money! Dietitians are acknowledged by Medicare, National Disability Insurance Scheme (NDIS) and the Department of Veteran Affairs! This means if you have a consult with a dietitian you may be eligible for a rebate on services with a suitable referral from your GP or if you’re funded by the NDIS. Most private health fund extras cover also cover dietitian consultations (but look into this before going into an appointment) and as such, you can claim a rebate at the time of your appointment.


At the end of the day, just like your doctor, we are here to assist with helping improve your quality of life and meet your goals (and potentially save you thousands of dollars over the long-run). We can assist with a whole array of conditions, so head on over to the dietitian page now or give us a call to book your consult in today!



Chris Eldridge

Accredited Practising Dietitian and Accredited Nutritionist

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