Is there a difference between a dietitian and a nutritionist?
You betcha! In my experience, most people use "dietitian" and "nutritionist" interchangeably. In fact, not too many people know the difference. But there is one...a big one! If you hear someone call themselves a "nutritionist," that could mean a LOT of things, since it's not a nationally regulated term. In some states, there are guidelines around who can and cannot call themselves a nutritionist. But in other states, literally anyone can call themselves a nutritionist. Anyone!
On the other hand, if you're a Registered Dietitian (RD) or a Registered Dietitian Nutritionist (RDN) - those two terms are interchangeable - it means you: have earned a degree in nutrition from an accredited university, have completed a rigorous hands-on dietetic internship in various professional settings (clinical, community and food service), have passed a national exam, and re-certify your credential every five years with continuing education. In other words, it means you are formally trained in nutrition science. And only RDs and RDNs are able to prescribe diets.
So when you're looking for dietary guidance, make sure you look for an RD or RDN after the name - you'll be getting someone who has been formally trained with the most current, science-based information.