Dietitian, Nutritionist, Health Coach, Nutrition Consultant...What’s The Difference?

Earlier this month, I officially completed my Institute for Integrative Nutrition Health Certification Program!  I began this journey in January 2017, after losing some weight and finally beginning my discovery of what I actually enjoy doing.


In earlier 2017, somewhere between lectures, study groups and tests, I decided that I wanted to get a bit deeper.  Being a Certified Health Coach gives me the ability to take on clients and work with them through nutrition coaching programs.  Most Health Coaches have a good understanding of the various dietary theories out there and practice bio-individuality, which is a concept that healthy living is not “one size fits all.”   I felt as though gaining this skillset, along with getting a masters in Nutrition would be a good combination for me and my goals.  It gives you an opportunity to not only understand how the food you eat results in the contour and production in your body, but also tools to help implement programs for future clients.


So, when you are looking for a health and wellness professional, do you know all of the differences?  How do you know what type of professional to choose to most appropriately help you with your goals?   What if you're interested in getting yourself into a career or side hustle around focusing on helping others with their nutrition goals?   When starting out, many confuse the terminology of professionals in the nutrition space.  It's pretty straightforward to understand what a doctor does, but when it comes to a nutritionist, not all credentials are created equal.  The Chicago Tribune published an article that lays out the differences nicely and gets very specific.  I’ve summarized some of the more common practitioners out there:



Generally in most states, anyone can call themselves a “Nutritionist.”  This ranges from a Certified Nutritionist to someone who just has a knowledge of nutrition and offers that advice for free or for a fee.  Some states like Ohio specify rules around who can and cannot provide nutrition advice, but this space is largely unregulated.


“Certified Nutrition Specialist” and “Certified Clinical Nutritionist”

Typically the gold standard in the industry is a “Certified Nutrition Specialist” and “Certified Clinical Nutritionist.”  Both of these titles require a masters degree in Nutrition, as well as a supervised internship and passing of a certification exam.  You will find these practitioners in hospitals, doctors offices and running their own nutrition practices.


“Registered Dietitian”

A “Registered Dietitian (RD)” is a nutrition expert who has attained a 4 year undergrad degree at a specific school, interned and passed a certification exam administered by the American Dietetic Association.  Many times you will find RDs in hospitals developing eating plans for patients, as well as in schools acting as private practitioners.


“Health Coach”

A “Health Coach” is someone who has a general knowledge of nutrition, as well as health and wellness.  Their main goal is to provide coaching and advice on attaining personalized nutrition and wellness goals.  Health Coaches tend to provide accountability and are experienced in helping clients think through goals and will provide plans to attain those goals.  More and more doctors offices and companies are now hiring a staff of health coaches to help their patients and employees navigate through recommendations given by doctors.


So - what does this all mean for you when choosing a nutrition professional or even thinking about a career move in this space?  I personally feel as though you can only learn so much from books and certifications; first-hand, “real life” experience with either clients or yourself is also a greater learning mechanism. Luckily I’ve been able to experiment with various eating plans on my own body and have worked with others to really determine what works for them.


Where do you think the world of health and wellness is headed?  What other questions do you have for me?  


Until next time, catch me in the comments.




About Performing Nutrition:  Jon is a certified Health Coach through the Institute for Integrative nutrition, and pursuing a M.S. in Nutrition at the University of Bridgeport.  Performing Nutrition offers tailored programs for men and women of all sizes and backgrounds looking to lose fat, get stronger and become all around healthier.


Disclosure… Even though he is a certified health coach and studying to be a nutritionist, opinions shared here should not be a replacement for your doctor.