Nutrition Consultants - Comparing Nutrition Professions.

The field of nutrition can be confusing if you don’t have experience on the topic. A few of the most common career titles associated with nutrition are: registered dietitian, registered dietitian nutritionist, nutrition consultant, and dietary or food service manager.

While they are all related, to some extent, they are also very different. Today we’ll talk more about nutrition consultants, certified dietary managers, dietary technicians, and registered dietitians so that you can learn more about positions filled by Dietitian on Wheels

Nutrition Consultants: Job Description

Nutrition consultants are licensed nutritionists who focus on the health and wellbeing of individuals. They understand how foods affect us and that different foods can affect everyone differently. They also help to:

  • analyze clients’ current eating habits
  • develop meal plans to suit individual client needs
  • educate clients on the importance of specific foods and nutrients in their diet
  • introduce educational materials and nutrition workshops for schools, community centers, and the general public
  • promote food choice awareness and how food choices and exercise impact health

Education & Certification

Nutrition consultants need a minimum of an associate’s degree in nutrition, public health, food management, physiology, or a related field. However, there will be some jobs that require at least a bachelor’s degree in nutrition or a related field.

For a credible nutrition consultant title, you will need to complete the Certification Program in addition to your schooling program.  

Work Environment & Career Opportunities

The work environment for nutrition consultants varies and may depend on your geographic location, available job positions, etc. Some typical work environments include:

  • hospitals and urgent care clinics
  • in-home care
  • long term care facilities
  • schools and public programs
  • non-profit programs and organizations
  • health care facilities
  • community centers

Career opportunities include those related to health promotion as well as public health departments. With more of society focused on health, there is a greater need for those with nutrition schooling and qualified certification.

Is a Certified Dietary Manager the Same as a Nutrition Consultant?

No, a Certified Dietary Manager (CDM) is not the same as a nutrition consultant. Though both professions fall under the umbrella of nutrition, they are different in many other areas. 

Let’s take a look at CDMs’ job description, education and certification, work environment, and career opportunities.

Certified Dietary Manager: Job Description

Certified Dietary Managers oversee foodservice operations in different facilities. They ensure that food products meet safety and quality standards while also providing healthy food choices. 

CDMs also complete countless professional tasks within a foodservice operation. Some of these tasks include:

  • menu development
  • creating special menus for employees with specific health needs
  • directing inventory processes
  • using food legislation to help develop healthful food items for companies
  • training employees on topics of food safety, sanitation, individualized diets, allergens, etc. 
  • assisting dietitians in creating a cohesive and efficient work environment 

Education & Certification

To become a CDM, you must acquire a minimum of a two-year college degree in nutrition, food service management, or a related field.

Additional pathways towards becoming eligible to be certified include:

  • Graduating from a foodservice manager training program that is approved by the Association of Nutrition & Foodservice Professionals (ANFP)
  • At least 90-hours of foodservice courses plus two-years of full-time work in non-commercial foodservice management
  • Complete an ANFP-approved foodservice manager training program plus two-years of full-time work in non-commercial foodservice management
  • Present or past US military members that have graduated with at least 90-hours of foodservice management training from dietary manager program or related program
  • At least 5 years of full-time work in non-commercial foodservice management along with at least a two-year degree (that is not nutrition-related)

After completing one of the above pathways, you must also sit for the Certified Dietary Manager, Certified Food Protection Professionals (CDM, CFPPs) Credentialing Exam. 

Work Environment & Career Opportunities

A few common places where CDMs work include: facility cafeterias, school cafeterias, catering events, restaurants, hotels, and hospital kitchens.

You may have to work nights, weekends, and holidays depending on your facility and employer needs. There are many career opportunities in which you can excel as a CDM. 

A few example jobs that are affiliated with CDMs include:

  • Dietary Regulatory Affairs Specialist
  • Restaurant and Menu Development Consultant
  • Dietary Product Developer
  • Patient Services Manager (PSM)
  • Health Center Nutrition Manager
  • Specialty Nutrition Dining Manager
  • Assistant Director of Child Nutrition
  • Food and Nutrition Department Assistant Director
  • Food and Nutrition Department Director

Is a Dietary Technician, Registered the Same as a Nutrition Consultant?

Great question! But again, no, a Dietary Technician, Registered (DTR) is not the same as a nutrition consultant. DTRs assist with foodservice tasks and nutrition care in clinical settings, whereas nutrition consultants focus on overall wellbeing an lifestyle. 

Dietary Technician, Registered: Job Description

DTRs work under registered dietitians (explained later in this article). They help with nutrition programs, foodservice programs, and may help educate on the basics of food and nutrition. Their roles are adaptable and mainly focus on clinical nutrition care and food service

DTRs also assist in the relaying of information between dietitians, patients, and the food service staff. DTRs communicate with those in the kitchen to ensure that all meals are being made in accordance with the nutritional guidelines per each patient. 

Education & Certification

Similar to CDMs, DTRs have different pathway options before being eligible to sit for the DTR exam. 

Associate’s degree pathways: 

  1. Completing an associate’s degree from a United States Department of Education-accredited university or agency
  2. Completing a DTR program that is accredited by the Accreditation Council for Education in Nutrition and Dietetics (ACEND)

Bachelor’s degree and Didactic Program in Dietetics (DPD) pathways: 

  1. Completing a bachelor’s degree from a United States Department of Education-accredited university or agency
  2. Completing a DPD program that is ACEND-accredited

After completion of one of these four pathways, and being validated by the Commission on Dietetic Registration, you will then be eligible to take the DTR exam. 

Work Environment & Career Opportunities

DTRs can be found working in many different facilities such as hospitals, nursing care and assisted living facilities, local government, outpatient settings, healthcare offices, WIC offices, retail, supermarket, and colleges and universities.

Career opportunities for DTRs in these industries include (but are not limited to):

  • Food Service Manager (acute care hospital)
  • Food and Dining Service Manager (long-term care)
  • School Food Service Management
  • School Nutrition and Wellness Coordinator

Is a Registered Dietitian the Same as a Nutrition Consultant?

There’s a pattern here! Registered Dietitians (RDs) or Registered Dietitian Nutritionists (RDNs) are not the same as nutrition consultants. Keep reading to learn more about the RD/RDN profession.

Registered Dietitians: Job Description

RDs (or RDNs – these terms are used interchangeably) are known as food and nutrition experts. 

RDs assess and counsel clients on food and nutrition, discuss nutrition concerns, develop individual meal plans, debunk nutrition/fad diet myths, and provide nutrition education to the community. 

Additional roles of RDs include nutrition counseling, helping to manage chronic diseases, and guiding clients/patients who have food allergies/intolerances/sensitivities. 

Education & Certification

RDs actually sit at the top of the list of nutrition professions that we’ve discussed as they require a bachelor’s degree from an ACEND-accredited university or college and 1,000+ hours of supervised practice experience

Note that as of January 1, 2024, guidelines will officially change to needing a minimum of a master’s degree in nutrition or a related field to be eligible to sit for the CDR’s Registered Dietitian Exam.

Similar to both CDMs and DTRs, RDs have an option of multiple pathways to help them reach eligibility to take the RD exam. 

Dietetic Internship Pathway:

  • Obtain a bachelor’s degree from a USDE-accredited agency
  • Complete an ACEND-accredited DPD
  • Complete an ACEND-accredited dietetic internship

Coordinated Program Pathway:

  • Obtain a bachelor’s degree from a USDE-accredited agency
  • Complete an ACEND-accredited coordinated program

Graduate Program Pathway:

  • Complete a graduate-level ACEND-accredited nutrition program that includes courses and at minimum 1,000 hours of supervised practice experience

DPD Individualized Supervised Practice Pathway (ISPP): 

  • Obtain a bachelor’s degree from a USDE-accredited agency
  • Complete an ACEND-accredited DPD
  • No match for a dietetic internship
  • Complete an ACEND-accredited DPD ISPP

Doctorate ISPP: 

  • Obtain a doctorate degree from a USDE-accredited agency
  • Complete an ACEND-accredited doctorate ISPP

Additionally, and after completing their schooling and the national exam, RDs may choose to become licensed in specific state/s where they work. 

Work Environment & Career Opportunities

RDs are everywhere! Which is a good thing since nutrition and health are necessary for us all. You can find RDs working in environments such as: 

  • educational institutions
  • long-term care
  • hospitals
  • medical centers
  • corporate wellness programs
  • sports nutrition (at universities, colleges, schools, fitness facilities, etc.)
  • private practice
  • community/public health settings 
  • nutrition and food-related industries (marketing, consulting with professional chefs, product development, etc.)
  • research (such as hospitals, universities, and pharmaceutical companies)
  • home chef
  • online (blogging, content creation, course creation, video creation, product creation, virtual assistant to other RDs, etc.)

If you are looking for a nutrition expert, then finding an RD is the way to go. Check out the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics search tool to find a virtual RD or an RD near you. 

Nutrition Consultants: Comparing Nutrition Professions Wrap-up

We’ve learned a lot in this article! Especially how CDMs, DTRs, RDs, and nutrition consultants differ from one another. 

CDMs are experts at managing food safety, foodservice operations, and foodservice employee training. DTRs work under RDs and have similar roles as RDs (though less schooling is required and less experience hours are needed). 

RDs are registered nutrition professionals who are qualified to prescribe individualized diets for patients trying to manage their medical conditions/diseases. Nutrition consultants work with healthy individuals who want to better their diet and lifestyle. 

Overall health is a nutrition consultant’s main focus and this is completed through planning healthy meals, educating on nutrition topics, and encouraging lifestyle changes for individuals seeking advice. 

As a nutrition consultant, clients will be looking to you for nutrition advice and how the foods they eat affect how their body works.

As a nutrition consultant, and with your nutrition (or nutrition-related) degree, you’ll be able to explain the physiology behind eating specific foods. You’ll also be able to educate them on individualized eating that can best support their health goals. 

Being a nutrition consultant is fun and rewarding – no matter which work environment you decide to pursue. Learn more about Dietitian on Wheels nutrition services and be sure to stay in touch for upcoming nutrition consultant jobs!