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Understanding the Difference: Dietitian, Nutritionist and Health Coach

by Loop Nutrition on

So you are looking for help reaching your health goals but aren't sure what health professional to reach out to for support. You browse social media and find yourself even more confused. Your old college roommate is now offering health coaching packages, and hundreds of influencers are posting about their favorite smoothie recipes with the hashtag #nutritionist.

What's the Difference?

Let's talk about the difference between a dietitian, nutritionist, and health coach. While these terms are often used interchangeably, they each represent unique skill sets and qualifications. Understanding these differences can help you decide which type of professional aligns with your wellness goals. 

Loop-RD vs Nutritionist-1080

Registered Dietitians

Let's begin by discussing Registered Dietitians (RDs). They're certified and licensed healthcare professionals with advanced education in nutrition.

Every RD holds a bachelor's and/or master's degree in nutrition, has completed a supervised 1000-hour internship, and has passed a national exam. They are experts in food and nutrition and can provide medical nutrition therapy to manage chronic diseases like diabetes, heart disease, and kidney disease.

Most dietitians have additional nutrition counseling and coaching training and can educate clients on proper nutrition to promote healthy lifestyle choices. They work in a variety of settings, including hospitals, doctor's offices, government agencies, and food service operations.

Dietitians are referred to as Registered Dietitian Nutritionists; however, not all nutritionists are dietitians — we know, confusing, right?


The term "nutritionist" is broader and less regulated, encompassing a variety of professionals with diverse educational backgrounds. Nutritionists are not regulated by a governing body, and there are no set qualifications for someone to call themselves a nutritionist.

Some nutritionists have formal education in nutrition or related fields or may have received a certification in nutrition, but many do not. It's important to verify the credentials of a nutritionist to ensure their expertise aligns with your health goals.

Health Coaches

Finally, health coaches provide clients with broad health guidance, motivation, and support to facilitate lifestyle change. Those trained in motivational interviewing and behavior change can help with adopting habits that promote overall well-being. Their backgrounds may be in nutrition, fitness, or counseling, and some in this field choose to pursue additional training along with a National Board Certified Health & Wellness Coaches (NBC-HWC) credential.

While certification can provide credibility and demonstrate proficiency in the wellness field, it's not a mandatory prerequisite for someone offering health coaching services.

In Conclusion...

Whether you're managing a medical condition, seeking holistic wellness, or aiming for lifestyle improvements, the right professional can guide you toward a healthier and more fulfilling life. 

If you're interested in working with a registered dietitian, you can book a free 15-minute consultation with Loop Nutrition and get customized nutrition guidance and expert advice.