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Nutrition Counseling vs. Registered Dietitians: Understand the Differences

July 14th, 2021 | 2 min. read

By Allison Kaminski, Health Coach

food suggested by a registered dietitian

Whether you’re on a weight loss journey or looking to maximize your health, putting a focus on nutrition can be an impactful way to reach your goals.

There are several different professionals who can assist with your nutrition goals. You may be researching registered dieticians or nutrition counselors and wondering who will be the best option for your needs.

We’ll discuss the details of each of these professions and how they can help you on your path to healthy eating.

Nutrition Counselor: A Supportive Resource

A nutrition counselor is a supportive resource in helping you make healthier choices. They’ll work with you to identify problems and gaps in your nutrition and suggest ways to incorporate healthy foods into your lifestyle. They will also show you how to accurately track your food and set realistic weight loss goals (if needed).

You’ll learn what foods will maximize your health and energy, as well as foods you may want to avoid. Your nutrition counselor will discuss your current lifestyle and food habits to evaluate which components you might benefit from eating more or less of to help reach your goals.

Taking a hands-on approach to your diet, nutrition counselors are able to help you prepare a list of snacks, create a tailored grocery list and target specific eating habits you want to curtail.

Although nutrition counselors take a more standardized approach, you will leave each appointment with the information needed to make healthy nutrition choices.

Working with a nutrition counselor is a great starting point if you’re looking to get on the path to a healthier you. 

The Role of Registered Dieticians

If you’re in need of a more specific nutrition plan, a registered dietician may be a more appropriate solution. Registered dieticians will consider any medical issues or requirements your physician has set for your nutrition, and develop a nutrition plan that best fits your needs.

Registered dieticians will provide you with a detailed, specific meal plan personalized to your body. They’ll review your blood work to identify any potential deficiencies, consider any dietary issues you have, and even work around allergies such as gluten intolerance.

Rather than recommend general guidelines for your meals, they’ll outline specific foods in distinct quantities for each meal that will cater to your needs. 

These food and nutrition experts have met the academic and professional requirements associated with the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics' Accreditation Council for Education in Nutrition and Dietetics (ACEND).

Registered dieticians have extensive accreditations and are regulated by the federal government, giving them to the ability to prescribe the necessary nutrition requirements and supplements for healthy living.

Where Should You Start?

Nutrition counselors are an ideal starting point when you’re on the path to a healthier lifestyle. They can identify unhealthy eating habits and suggest ways to best improve your nutrition.

If at any time your medical needs require a more detailed nutritional plan personalized for you, your nutrition counselor or physician can refer you to a registered dietician who can help. 

PartnerMD’s wellness team includes in-house certified health coaches who also double as nutrition counselors. They can help you begin working toward your health goals and improving your lifestyle. They also have the expertise to refer you to a registered dietician if you should ever require more extensive nutritional guidance. 

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PartnerMD memberships include access to our members-only wellness program, Wellness University, which delivers more than 70 physician-approved courses and certified health coaching targeting the 4 areas most critical to your health, including stress and sleep, brain health, nutrition, and strength and mobility.

With offices in Richmond, VA; Midlothian, VA; Short Pump, VA; McLean, VA; Baltimore, MD; Greenville, SC; and Atlanta, GA, you can experience primary care built around you, one focused on wellness and prevention to help you stay as healthy as possible, as long as possible. Learn more about health coaching at PartnerMD


Allison Kaminski, Health Coach