Dietitian VS Nutritionist: similarities and differences

[Article updated on 19/09/2023]

The terms “dieticians” and “nutritionists” are often used when it comes to calling on professionals to help you with your diet and/or to treat your weight problems. These two professions are so often confused, or even considered synonymous, that it becomes difficult to make a real distinction between the two.

Before reading on

I’m not an expert in this field, but I am passionate about nutrition and health.

The articles you’ll find on my site are the result of in-depth research that I’d like to share with you. However, I would like to stress that I am not a health professional and that my advice should in no way replace that of a qualified physician. I’m here to guide you, but it’s important that you consult a professional for specific questions or medical concerns. Your well-being is important. So be sure to consult the appropriate experts and take the best possible care of yourself.

Although they have many points in common, it is still important to differentiate them. Here is a focus on these two professions so that you can see more clearly.

Common points

Let us first look at the common points between the profession of dietitian and nutritionist to explain the reason for the frequent confusion attributed to these two notions.

Difference between nutritionist and dietitian.
The dietician and the nutritionist are health professionals who work in the field of food.

The same vocation

From a global point of view, the dietitian and the nutritionist have the same vocation, that is to say, to offer diets perfectly adapted to the needs of each patient. In order to establish a tailor-made program, they are based on different criteria such as age, gender, lifestyle or eating habits as well as the reasons which led patients to consult them.

The two specialists have in-depth knowledge of the composition of foods as well as their effects on health and their energy values.

Similar consultation conditions

As a health professional, the dietitian is free to set his fees which will vary according to his location, his diplomas, his specialties, and his way of working. Generally, the consultation price varies between €25 and €70.

The dietician can practice in a private setting or in a hospital center in collaboration with other doctors. He can also work within communities such as schools or businesses. However, his fees are not covered by Social Security, and therefore non-refundable, given that he is not a doctor.

The nutritionist can also set fees as he wishes according to the same criteria as those of a dietitian. The price of a consultation can vary between €20 and €90. Just like the dietitian, he can very well practice in a liberal profession and open his practice or work in a hospital center.

But, unlike the dietitian, Social Security reimburses part of the consultation costs while respecting certain criteria.

Identical qualities

Whether a dietitian or a nutritionist, both specialists must have the following qualities to properly practice their profession. First, they must be attentive and listen to their patients. They seek to identify the real sources of their problems and must take into account all the details that patients tell them.

Secondly, they must be as objective as possible without criticizing or making patients feel guilty. Establishing a relationship of trust and overcoming the communication barrier are essential steps that they must succeed in each case.

Third, he must know how to adapt to each patient. The most difficult thing about this profession is that there is no ready-made prescription, but each case has its own treatment and it is up to the dietician or nutritionist to find the right formula.

Finally, the two specialists must take the time to analyze each case without rushing. Consultations must take place in the form of dialogue and not rapid interrogation. This is the only way for the patient to open up completely to them.


Let’s now move on to the differences that exist between these two professions so that you no longer confuse them in the future.

Different training

Medical training for nutritionists

The nutritionist is qualified as a doctor and specialized in nutrition. After having completed six years in the medical sector, he can move towards numerous specialties such as endocrinology-diabetology.

He then continues his studies to obtain a University Diploma or an Inter-University Diploma in nutrition two years later. It is important to remember that these two diplomas are not recognized by the National Council of the Order of Physicians. He can complete his training by obtaining a Complementary Specialized Study Diploma.

Difference between nutritionist and dietician.
The nutritionist, unlike the dietitian, has a medical degree.

Paramedical training for dieticians

As for the dietician, he must first pass a scientific baccalaureate, a Baccalaureate in health and social sciences and technologies or a Baccalaureate in laboratory sciences and technologies. He then continues his studies by obtaining a BTS in dietetics after 2 years or moves towards a University Diploma of Technology in biological engineering with a dietetics option.

Different roles

The roles of the nutritionist and the dietician are also different. The first acts as a doctor and can care for patients suffering from nutrition-related illnesses such as diabetes, cholesterol, obesity and others. He is authorized to prescribe medications and medical examinations to his patients.

The nutritionist can also treat patients with bulimia, anorexia and all kinds of food phobias.

The dietitian, for his part, focuses on dietary rebalancing with a view to losing weight, gaining weight or facilitating the lifestyle of people suffering from eating disorders (diabetes, cholesterol, etc.).

He plays the role of trainer, coach and regularly monitors the progress of patients throughout their diet. He can work with children, adolescents and adults as well as pregnant women.

The way of working

Overall, the nutritionist anticipates, diagnoses and manages eating-related disorders. It is necessary to consult him to treat cardiovascular and metabolic pathologies linked to nutrition such as diabetes, gout, or cholesterol. He is able to administer drug treatments.

The dietitian is limited to training and educating patients regarding good eating habits to adopt. He establishes tailor-made dietary programs and ensures that they respect it, at least, throughout the treatment. General practitioners often refer patients with metabolic disorders to the dietician who will recommend the appropriate diet.

To go further, discover our city guides to the best dietitians/nutritionists: