A dietitian is a registered health professional with expertise in food and nutrition. Dietitians help people to improve their health and wellbeing by offering advice on what to eat and drink.

What is the role of a dietitian?

Dietitians can assess what your body needs for energy and optimum health. They can then work with you to provide evidence-based, practical ways to help you develop a balanced food plan to meet your body's requirements. They work with both healthy and sick people to prevent or treat a wide range of conditions ranging from heart disease and diabetes through to coeliac disease and food allergies. 

Is a dietitian different from a nutritionist?

Yes. Dietitians must have completed an undergraduate degree in human nutrition, as well as a post-graduate qualification in dietetics. They must also be registered with the national professional body (New Zealand Dietitians Board).  In contrast, the word ‘nutritionist’ is not protected. This means there is no specific qualification or legal registration process required for someone to call themselves a nutritionist. However, to become a registered nutritionist in New Zealand someone must have an undergraduate degree. So, while one nutritionist could be highly qualified, another nutritionist may have no formal training. Always check a nutritionist's qualifications. You can also see if they are registered with the Nutrition Society of New Zealand.

When to talk with a dietitian

There are many reasons to speak with a dietitian such as to: 

  • lose or gain weight
  • improve athletic performance
  • manage digestive issues
  • manage medical conditions, such as diabetes, high blood pressure, cardiovascular disease, coeliac disease
  • manage food allergies or intolerances
  • seek advice on eating disorders.

How to find a dietitian

To find a local dietitian, visit the Dietitian NZ website. The cost to see a dietitian will vary depending on the time and expertise required. 

For some conditions, such as diabetes, kidney disease and gut absorption problems, you may be able to see a dietitian free through your local hospital or outpatient services. In most regions, this service is very limited. You can ask your family doctor or nurse for more details. 

Learn more

Dietitians Board NZ 
Dietitian or nutritionist? Dietitians NZ

Author: Cardea Nutrition Dietitians. The team of registered dietitians at Cardea Nutrition are experts in sports nutrition and provide a range of articles and resources on their website or via online consultations. 
Credits: Cardea Nutrition Dietitians. Reviewed By: Pat Flanagan, previously a dietitian, now a Self-Management Consultant Last reviewed: 01 Jun 2017