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What is a dietitian?

Last week was Dietitians Week and we wanted to give a nod to all the fantastic dietitians we have worked with on our mission to share evidenced based science related to food and nutrition. We also wanted to answer some of the frequently asked questions we get about dietitians – what’s do they do, how are they different to nutritionists and how do you find one.

What is a dietitian?

 

Dietitians interpret the science of nutrition to improve health and treat health conditions through education and personalised advice. Dietitians are trained to use only the latest public health and evidence based scientific research to underpin their guidance.

 

Dietitians are the only nutrition professionals to be regulated by law - they are registered with the Health & Care Professionals Council.

 

They work in many roles and sectors from NHS hospitals (e.g. working with tube feed in intensive care wards), seeing patients privately for consultations, in education and research or in the media.

What the difference between a dietitian and a nutritionist or nutritional therapist?

 

Aren’t they the same thing? The names do get use interchangeably but there is a big difference. The term ‘dietitian’ is a protected title. No just anyone can call themselves a Dietitian (by law) unless they have undertaken a specific university degree.

 

Unfortunately, anyone can call themselves a Nutritionist, a Nutritional Therapist, a Clinical Nutritionist or a Diet Expert. Only registrants with the UK Voluntary Register of Nutritionists (UKVRN) can call themselves a Registered Nutritionist (RNutrs).

 

Nutritionists are qualified to provide information about food and healthy eating, but not about special diets for medical conditions.

 

Nutritional therapists see individuals on a private basis who wish to consider alternative/complementary medicine.

Where can I find a dietitian?

 

You can be referred by your GP Practice to see an NHS dietitian for free. Or you could try to contact the Dietetic Department at your local hospital to enquire whether they operate a ‘self-referral’ system. Some departments don’t need a referral.

 

Alternatively, if you wish to see a dietitian who practises privately, you can search online for a dietitian near you on the Freelance Dietitians website. Most of them now offer online consultations too so you can speak to them from the safety and comfort of your own home.

For more information

 

Visit the British Dietetic Association

Sasha Watkins

Registered dietitian and co-founder of Field Doctor

IG: @sashadietitian

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