Dietitian vs Nutritionist

Dietitian vs Nutritionist

What the heck is the difference between a Dietitian vs Nutritionist? With so many people claiming to be nutritionists it can be easy to mistake their advice for good solid medical advice. But there is a difference between the qualifications, function, education, and licensing between a dietitian and a nutritionist.

Let’s Define the Terms


In the USA, a nutritionist is a person who offers advice to people on nutritional information. This is typically a self-appointed title and their actual experience and knowledge can vary widely. Be warned, there is no standardization to this title and no testing or accreditation associated with it. Many people become nutritionists when they become personal trainers or fitness instructors. This isn’t to say that all nutritionists are unqualified or should not be listened to. Many have the best intentions at heart. But, use caution and common sense when speaking to a nutritionist, simply because they are not medical professionals.

Registered Dietitian:

A registered dietitian is a medical professional who is very similar to a nutritionist in their function. In some countries, the word nutritionist is interchangeable with dietitian. Because of this, there is a growing movement for Dietitian’s to adopt the term as part of their licensing, making it illegal for a non certified person to use the term nutritionist.

A registered dietitian (RD) is an expert in nutrients, diets, is certified, and often an employee of a hospital. To be a registered dietitian, you have to have a degree in dietetics and pass a licensing exam. Because of this, dietitians will have a specialty just like any other health care professional. The one you will see most often with cancer treatment is an oncological dietitian. You can identify a dietitian because they will often bare the initials RD LD behind their name. Because dietitians go through a fairly standardized training, they will tend to give you similar advice based on your situation. I do recommend working with a dietitian in conjunction with your oncologist. They can help make certain that you are getting all of the necessary nutrients that your body needs to heal quickly and properly.

Making Sense of Their Roles

Hopefully defining the terms helps make more sense to dietitian vs nutritionist. During cancer treatments you are definitely going to want to seek the advice of an oncological dietitian. A dietitian can help craft a meal plan that will work for you. You can then take this information, apply the Cooking for Chemo cooking techniques to this information and create healthy cancer recipes that you and your family will love and enjoy.

Often a nutritionist is an adherent to a dietary philosophy. These dietary philosophy could be paleo, vegan, vegetarian, low-cab, ketogenic, etc etc etc. You can see how pushing a dietary agenda can be very dangerous to a cancer patient. They can’t possibly take into account the myriad of different cancers, and different cancer drugs and how they will interact with you and specific foods. Trust me, this stuff is complicated!

Nutrition, in addition to being an incredibly boring topic, is also an incredibly personal topic. Because everyone’s body is different, everyone will have different successes and failures with different types of foods and food groups. You must treat your diet uniquely and not blindly follow other peoples advice. Especially not internet advice. If you find it on the internet, it probably isn’t true. You are your own best advocate. No one dietary regime will work for everyone.

I especially urge you to use caution if you are deciding to try a new dietary program during cancer treatment. A drastic change in your diet can come as a shock to your system and can cause you further complications. Any changes that you do make in your diet should be introduced slowly. So, I guess what I am saying here is don’t try to get fancy. Remember that you already have cancer. Our first objective is to get rid of that cancer. Once your cancer has entered remission, that’s when we can try to get fancy and switch things around. I also strongly advise you to work with your dietitian and your doctor to come up with a nutritional plan that works best for you.

Misinformation on Nutrition

There is a lot of misinformation when it comes to food and its relationship to cancer. I need to set your expectations correctly. To date, the only proven treatments for cancer, that I am aware of, are chemotherapy, radiation, and immunotherapy.

But to set your expectations correctly, you need to know that food, no matter what you eat, will not cure your cancer. It doesn’t matter how much raw food you eat, leafy greens, gluten-free, or whole foods. Food simply does not cure cancer.

It is not that I wish to take your hope from you. I simply wish to be realistic with you that there is no single miracle cure for cancer. If there was, you could patent it and sell it for any price that you wanted and be the richest person on earth. Remember, cancer is not one disease. It is a group of related diseases. This is the reason why treatment for cancer varies based on the disease.

Setting Correct Expectations

Now that I have set your expectations correctly, and thoroughly explained the difference between a dietitian vs nutritionist, I do need to say that nutrition is very important. Nutrition is especially important during cancer treatment. What you eat when you are sick determines your ability to rebuild damaged cells.

In the case of children, it determines their ability to continue to grow and develop. Kids need healthy protein, vitamins and minerals, carbohydrates, healthy fats, and fiber in their diet so that they can grow big and strong. This is also important so that their body can heal during and after cancer treatment.

Cancer treatment can be very hard on your body. This is where your oncological dietitian can step in and help create a dietary action plan to make certain that you are getting the essential nutrients that you need. So in the rest of this section, I am going to teach you about macronutrients and a simplified nutritional theory that will make getting healthy rounded meals into your loved one a bit easier.

On to What are Macronutrients?

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