A dietitian is a degree-qualified health professional. By law to call yourself a dietitian you must have a graduate qualification in nutrition and dietetics in the UK and be registered with the Health Care Professional Council. Dietitians are regulated by law and are governed by an ethical code. These are the only people legally trained to diagnose and help treat medical conditions such as; heart disease, obesity, diabetes through diet therapy. Not even a GP is qualified to do this.
The title of nutritionist is not governed by law. It is the term used by a person who has gained any qualification in nutrition. This could be a short basic online course specific in one food group or it could be a long practical course studying the in-depth biological breakdown of food in the body. They can advise on which foods are rich in essential vitamins and minerals to help support your health.
Basically any health professional who wants to provide you with a personalised eating plan must be a legally qualified and insured dietitian. If they want to look at what you’re normally eating and advise on healthier alternatives to support your health goals, then a nutritionist who specialises in your needs is ideal. For example, if the nutritionist gained qualifications in ‘raw vegan foods’ they are great to advise vegans how to get the most out of their diet but they won’t be best qualified to advise the carnivores out there. A level 3 sports nutritionist, like me, has studied the biological effects of macronutrients, vitamins and minerals and advises how diet changes can help to support an athletes lifestyle.
Always question someones level of learning to find out if it’s right for you. If someone’s specifically telling you what to eat you need to ensure they are 100% qualified to do so. Most diet clubs work on providing you with all the tools and information you need to make healthy choices for yourself. The most important part is to learn about what you’re putting in your body and finding a balance that works for you.