A dietitian holds up a bowl of healthy fruits and veggies

What is a Dietitian?

Are you interested in health, nutrition, and maintaining a healthy diet? Do you think you would enjoy working with people in various settings to promote healthy living and healthy bodies? If you answered yes to both of those questions, then you should consider becoming a dietitian. Dietitians are professionals who have completed academic training in dietetics to become registered to consult and help people with nutrition and diet-related issues. Dietitians work in many occupational settings, including, but not limited to, hospitals, nursing homes, cafeterias, private practices, and health clinics.

Dietitians complete a number of tasks, but their primary goal is to provide expert advice to clients about food and nutrition. At their core, dietitians are committed to having a thorough understanding of what good human nutrition means and how people should see food in relation to their bodies. In the occupational world, this deep understanding translates into dietitians striving to create healthy food environments for clients and organizations.

Responsibilities

Typically, dietitians perform routine tasks such as assessing clients’ health needs, counseling patients on healthy eating habits, and creating dietary changes in clients’ lives. They may help clients develop meal plans by taking clients’ financial situations into account. Dietitians may also help evaluate the meal plans that they’ve created for clients and make changes as necessary.

Dietitians often help promote healthy living by giving talks or lectures to kids and adults in various settings about healthy eating and nutrition. To do this and other tasks, dietitians also have to keep up with the latest scientific research surrounding diets and nutrition.

While all dietitians can and may perform similar tasks across work settings, there are variations based on their chosen work area. Dietitians working in private practices or independently may work as consultants for individuals or organizations. Dietitians who work for cafeterias or other food-related organizations will typically help plan meals for larger groups with respect to nutrition and budgetary needs. Clinical dietitians who work in hospitals or other medical settings will typically work in conjunction with doctors to help advise patients who need to make dietary changes due to health issues such as high blood pressure or diabetes.

Dietitian vs. Nutritionist

You may be wondering if a dietitian is the same thing as a nutritionist, and the answer is both yes and no. Nutritionists and dietitians can work in the same roles and work environments, but a professional who uses the title “nutritionist” is not a registered dietitian. Dietitians, in order to be licensed, have to obtain a master’s degree in dietetics and pass state licensing exams. If you want to work in the nutrition and diet field, you should become a registered dietitian and enjoy higher salaries and better credentials than nutritionists. 

Last Updated: April 15, 2015