Nutritionist and Dietician: What’s the difference?
Nutritionists and dieticians have more or less the same kind of work description. But a nutritionist cannot be called a dietician and vice versa. But these two can work in partnership.
A dietician has a definite professional qualification. He/she interns with a healthcare provider or food service company before starting to work as an employee. They need certain certifications and need to follow professional practices. They draw individual meal and nutrition plans depending on client requirements, advice on lifestyle health practices. Dieticians can also practice privately taking on clients.
A nutritionist need not be a qualified professional. Their education and certification train them on food and nutrition sciences. They can help patients dealing with eating disorders and difficulties. Food sciences concern work in manufacturing and food companies where they need to come up with new products and combinations. Most nutritionists are engaged in public health programs.
Qualifications and credentials
The qualifications and after-school certifications needed for these two professions are different in different countries. The licenses are also different. In general, more the qualification and experience, more is the likelihood of expertise. For example, there are combined nutrition and dietetics courses offered in India. There are a few institutions that offer nutrition courses with an emphasis on food sciences too.
Need of the hour
In today’s world where quick food fixes and processed foods are on the rise, there is a growing need for dieticians. Dieticians stress on the diet- a healthy, local, sustainable diet. They tell us how important diet is and how it makes a difference in our lifestyle and wellbeing. And the plan to eat right and well starts right from the young age. Expert nutrition specialist Rujuta Diwekar talks about the need to introduce culturally significant, locally and seasonally available foods to children. She also points out that it is important to follow our elders’ advice and have certain foods in the morning and certain other foods during the other times of the day. Ghee, she points out is one of the most important lubricants. Well known celebrity cook and author Nigella Lawson claims that it is important to moisturize our bodies inside out with the intake of good, beneficial fats.
The demanding role
These experts tell us what we have been doing wrong all this while and why we have not seen desired results. They turn our plan on its head. They bust myths and set our understanding right. They clarify our doubts about changing food practices. How to eat in moderation? Are pesticides cancer-causing? Why we should not store food in plastic containers? Is clean eating consistently doable? Depending on our lifestyle and daily activity, they also advise us how and whether to eat small meals, the ideal weight we need to maintain good health, etc. Also for people with allergies, intolerances and specific medical conditions, they recommend the best suitable diet.
In present times, there are a lot of research findings on how to eat and varieties of food items. The public is swayed by fancy weight loss and weight gain fads. Convenience has come to matter more than health. On the other hand, forgotten herbs and concoctions are finding their way back to our palettes. Consider some new age foodisms:
- Fermented foods are proven to be highly rich in vitamins and minerals and beneficial to the body.
- The humble starchy rice water left to ferment a day, our farmer ancestors had in empty stomach is a rich source of protein. Rice is a gluten-free, easily digestible staple.
- Whole grains are storehouses of nutrients. A satiated stomach is better than a full, bloated stomach.
- Sugar has no nutrients except empty calories.
- With the glut in food items and cuisines, the current generation also faces the danger of over-eating.
Though the internet is full of information, it is always better to consult these experts for what will work for you, individually. We are what we eat. It is also important to understand the social and cultural context of food and eating habits. Sudden and unwarranted shifts in this could cause a great impact on a country’s economy and global food security. The generic science of nutrition should stem from the consideration of well-balanced, healthy and holistic eating practices and rely more on tradition.
Vijayalakshmi Sridhar’s stories explore human relationships and their dynamics. She is enjoying her journey as a writer of fiction and features.