What does a dietician do?
Dietitians are health professionals who provide personalized nutrition advice and apply the science of food and nutrition to promote health, prevent and treat disease and optimize overall wellbeing. Dietitians assess nutritional needs, develop personalized eating plans, provide nutrition counselling and support to individuals and groups and translate scientific nutrition information into practical dietary advice.
There is a common misconception that the dietitian’s only job is to put their clients on restrictive meal plans and tell people lose weight. While weight management is one of the services dietitians offer, it is only a very small part of what they do.
Food and nutrition play a key role in our mental and physical health, and the food choices we make have an impact on the human body. With so much conflicting nutrition information available, it can be difficult to navigate and identify what information is factual. Dietitians use evidence-based research and science to deliver accurate nutrition advice and provide tailored dietary interventions to their clients, to improve wellbeing and optimize health outcomes for an array of health conditions. Dietitians also understand that there is not a ‘one size fits all’ approach to diet and nutrition, and consider multiple individual factors including lifestyle, medical history, personal goals and needs when developing a treatment plan.
Dietitians commonly work with patients with a variety of conditions including:
- Gastrointestinal disorders
- Diabetes, high cholesterol and heart disease
- Food allergies and intolerances
- Disordered eating
- Overweight and obesity
- Depression and anxiety
Dietitians also work with patients who want to improve health in other ways, for example with individuals wanting to use nutrition strategies to increase the chance of conception, or during pregnancy to promote wellness. They can also work with athletes to help make food choices which will optimize athletic performance.
Nutritionist vs dietitian
Accredited Practicing Dietitians (APDs) must undertake ongoing training and education to ensure that the are the most up-to-date credible sources of nutrition information, and they have the expertise to provide individualized dietary counselling and medical nutrition therapy.
It is important to note that the term ‘nutritionist’, is not regulated; therefore, this title can be used by people with varying levels of education (including dietitians) who provide a range of services related to nutrition. Nutritionists provide advice which is general in nature and they are not qualified to provide individualized nutrition advice or prescribe diet plans to their clients.
Unlike a nutritionist, a qualified APD will consider all factors which influence your food choices to provide support that is personally tailored to you and your situation and help empower you to improve your health and meet your goals. Many patients may benefit from including nutrition therapy in their treatment plan to improve their outcomes.