Dietitian or Nutritionist?

In Australia there is a distinction made between dietitians and other occupations in the nutrition and food science field, including that of a nutritionist.

A nutritionist may be a tertiary qualified nutrition professional that has the expertise to provide a range of evidence based nutrition services related to nutrition, public health nutrition, policy and research, and community health. It’s important to note that the term ‘nutritionist’ is not regulated. Therefore, this title may be used by dietitians, nutrition scientists and nutrition graduates – and also those with very limited qualifications in nutrition.

Dietitians are also qualified to provide this range of evidence based nutrition services, but in addition, dietitians have the expertise to provide individual dietary counselling, medical nutrition therapy, group dietary therapy and food service management. A dietitian has undertaken a course of study that included substantial theory and supervised and assessed professional practice in clinical nutrition, medical nutrition therapy and food service management. A detailed list of the knowledge, skills and attributes of dietitians in Australia can be found in the National Competency Standards for Dietitians.

DA recognises that the differentiation between nutrition and dietetics is not universal. In Australia all dietitians are nutritionists however nutritionists without a dietetics qualification cannot take on the expert role of a dietitian.

Below are official definitions for the profession of dietetics and dietitians.

The key purpose of the profession of nutrition and dietetics is embodied in the following statement:

“The profession of dietetics contributes to the promotion of health and the prevention and treatment of illness by optimising the nutrition of populations, communities and individuals. Dietitians have a defined and recognisable body of knowledge and utilise scientific principles and methods in the study of nutrition and dietetics, applying these results to influence the wider environment affecting food intake and eating behaviour. The scope of dietetic practice is such that dietitians may work in a variety of settings and have a variety of work functions.”

Ratified by the DAA Board June 2013
– Revised June 2015

This is consistent with the international definition of dietetics set in 2014 by the International Confederation of Dietetic Associations (ICDA), of which Dietitians Australia is a member.

“A professional who applies the science of food and nutrition to promote health, prevent and treat disease to optimise the health of individuals, groups, communities and populations.”

Definition of Dietitian-Nutritionist, ICDA By-Law
– September 2016

Dietitians in Australia who meet strict criteria are eligible to join the Accredited Practising Dietitian (APD) program. APD is the only credential for dietitians recognised by Medicare and the Department of Veterans’ Affairs (DVA) and many private health insurers. Find out how an APD can help you in Why Choose an APD?