If you landed here, chances are you have diabetes and are looking to make a change to your diet and lifestyle to control it. Maybe your doctor recommended working with a nutrition professional. Perhaps you’ve tried to make modifications on your own without much success.
Regardless of how you got here, you’re looking for some help in the nutrition department.
At this point, you likely know that working with a dietitian or nutritionist would be a key step forward in your health journey, but you aren’t sure which is right for you.
While these terms are often used interchangeably, they do not mean the exact same thing. All dietitians are nutritionists, but not all nutritionists are dietitians. We know this may sound confusing, so we’ll explain more soon.
As a registered dietitian myself, I know how overwhelming it can be to deal with a condition like diabetes. Finding the help you need shouldn’t be overwhelming on top of that! We are here to help.
In this article, we will discuss the difference between dietitians and nutritionists. We’ll also discuss a specific group of health professionals called Certified Diabetes Educators (CDE) or Certified Diabetes Care and Education Specialists (CDCES).
By the end of the article, you will feel confident in knowing who to turn to for help managing your diabetes so you can take the first step toward better health.
What Is A Nutritionist?
The term nutritionist encompasses nutrition professionals with a broad range of credentials and training.
Many nutritionists hold a bachelor’s degree in nutrition. Some even hold master’s degrees or doctorates in nutrition. However, there are no standard education or training requirements for nutritionists.
Additionally, nutritionist is not a regulated title in many states. This means that individuals may call themselves nutritionists without having formal education or training in nutrition.
This is not to say that qualified nutritionists do not exist, because they absolutely do. It just takes a little more effort to ensure that the nutritionist you are looking to work with is qualified.
If you are looking to work with a nutritionist to control your diabetes, but are not sure if they are qualified, you can ask the following questions to ensure they are a good fit for you and your condition:
- Do you have a degree in nutrition?
- Do you have any nutrition certifications?
- Did you complete any formal, hands-on training?
- Do you specialize in diabetes?
- Have you worked with other clients with diabetes?
- Have your other clients with diabetes successfully managed their diabetes long-term?
Can A Nutritionist Help Me With My Diabetes?
Yes, an educated, qualified nutritionist can help you control your diabetes.
Finding a nutritionist who specializes in diabetes management and has a proven track record of success with other clients with diabetes will help ensure they are a good fit for you.
What Is A Dietitian?
Dietitians, formally called Registered Dietitians (RD) or Registered Dietitian Nutritionists (RDN), are considered experts in food and nutrition.
Dietitians are required to complete extensive education and training that includes a bachelor’s degree, a supervised practice program, and a national examination. Many dietitians also hold master's or doctorate degrees in nutrition.
Dietitians are trained to provide evidence-based medical nutrition therapy to individuals with diabetes and other chronic conditions. Medical nutrition therapy includes:
- A review of your eating and exercise habits, as well as your overall lifestyle
- A thorough assessment of your nutritional status
- A personalized nutrition plan
With their extensive training, dietitians are trained to tailor your nutrition plan to address your diabetes, as well as any other medical or health-related concerns you have.
Can A Dietitian Help Me With My Diabetes?
Similar to finding a nutritionist, searching out a dietitian who specializes in diabetes management and has helped other clients successfully manage their diabetes will help ensure your success.
Certified Diabetes Care and Education Specialists
What Is A Certified Diabetes Care and Education Specialist?
CDCESs, also referred to as Certified Diabetes Educators (CDE), educate and support people living with diabetes.
The CDCES certification is a specialty certification for experienced health professionals who provide specialized diabetes care and education.
Registered dietitians who specialize in diabetes can become CDCES. However, other healthcare providers can also become CDCES including:
- Physician Assistants
- Nurse Practitioners
- Registered Nurses
- Physical Therapists
- Occupational Therapists
- Clinical Psychologists
- Exercise Physiologists
Before any of these providers are eligible to become a CDCES they much complete two years of professional experience in their field and 1000+ hours of providing diabetes care and education to patients.
Can A Certified Diabetes Care and Education Specialist Help Me With My Diabetes?
Yes, a CDCES will absolutely be able to help you manage your diabetes.
Registered dietitians who are CDCES are the most highly trained dietitians when it comes to diabetes care. Without asking additional questions about their background, you can know that these dietitians have been educated, trained, and worked directly with people like you.
Who Is Right For You?
When it comes to the decision of nutritionist vs. dietitian vs. CDCES you want to make the choice that is best for you, your diabetes, and your overall health.
If you want the most educated professional with a large amount of practical experience working specifically with people with diabetes, a CDCES is your best option.
Registered dietitians are also well-trained, and many have experience working with diabetes as well.
Nutritionists’ backgrounds vary, but many are also educated, trained, and have diabetes experience.
Asking questions and finding a professional that you find is a good fit for you is also key to your long-term success and overall health. You want to feel confident in the person you are choosing to help you along your journey.
Where To Go From Here
Your nutrition is an important factor for controlling your diabetes and optimizing your overall health.
Nutritionists, dietitians, and CDCES all work to help you make sustainable changes to your diet and lifestyle for a healthier, better life. However, at this point, you may find yourself leaning toward one category specifically based on your condition and your needs.
Here at OnPoint Nutrition, our team includes nutritionists, dietitians, and CDCES. All of our nutrition coaches provide one-on-one nutrition counseling that is educational and affordable. We work with clients with diabetes, as well as many other health conditions.
If you’re ready to take the next step to start managing your diabetes and optimizing your health with the help of our team, schedule your free consultation today.
Liz has been reading nutrition labels since she learned how to read. Growing up with severe peanut and tree nut allergies she learned that it’s important to know what you are putting into your body. She made her first big lifestyle change as a freshman in high school, when she decided to become a vegetarian. However, it wasn’t until she took a food class in Italy as part of a study abroad program in college that it clicked in her mind that she wanted to make food and nutrition her career. Liz graduated from Penn State University in 2015 with a bachelor's degree in Nutrition, as well as a bachelor's degree in Marketing. She completed her dietetic internship with Aramark in Philadelphia, and her master's degree at Northeastern University shortly after.