A registered dietitian (RD)is a qualified health professional that has been specially trained up to university degree level, particularly to work in hospital and clinical settings, but is also able to advise you on all aspects of your diet.

Dietitians work in a wide variety of environments including the NHS, private practice, industry, education, research, sport, media, public relations, publishing, non-government organisations and national and local government.

Dietitians are statutorily regulated, with a protected title and governed by an ethical code, to ensure that they always work to the highest standard. The title ‘dietitian’ is protected by law, and can only be used by those appropriately trained professionals who have registered with the Health Care Professions Council (HCPC) and whose details are on the HCPC website.

The professional association for dietitians is the British Dietetic Association (BDA).

You can find a registered dietitian

• by contacting your local hospital or GP surgery
• by searching for a freelance dietitian on the Freelance Dietitians website, which is run in conjunction with the British Dietetic Association (BDA)
• through the Health and Care Professions Council (HCPC)


The term ‘nutritionist’ is not currently protected by the Health Professionals Council and so its use is less precise than ‘dietitian’. Indeed, currently, anyone regardless of qualifications, experience and skills can call herself or himself a ‘nutritionist’. Some nutritionists are also registered dietitians. Nutritionists work in a diversity of settings including health promotion (both clinical and non-clinical settings), research, university lecturing, the food industry and the media. Unless they have undertaken training in dietetics, they will not have been specifically trained to provide individualised dietary advice to people who are ill.

Properly qualified nutritionists provide evidence-based information and guidance about the impacts of food and nutrition on the health and wellbeing of humans (at an individual or population level) or animals.  Nutritionists have a good understanding of the scientific basis of nutrition and work in a range of settings, including research, education and in policy development. 

Association for Nutrition (AfN) is the professional body for qualified nutritionists. The AfN maintains the UK Voluntary Register of Nutritionists (UKVRN), a competency-based register of individuals who are qualified and competent in nutritional science and practice.  A Registered Nutritionist will have specialist competencies in nutrition or public health nutrition, will usually have graduated from an AfN accredited degree course and have at least three years assessed postgraduate experience.  Registered Nutritionists follow the Code of Ethics and Statement of Professional Conduct and keep up to date through Continuing Professional Development.  The UKVRN is fully searchable and can be found at

Nutritionists are classed as either Associates or Full Registrants, and may refer to themselves as “Registered with the UKVRN” as outlined below:

Post nominal letters    
Who it applies to
Associate Nutritionist ANutr Individuals who have recently graduated from a BSc (Hons) or MSc in a nutritional science, usually within the last 2 years.

Associate Public Health Nutritionist APHNutr
Registered Nutritionist RNutr Full Registrants will usually have a BSc (Hons) or MSc in a nutritional science plus approximately 3 years professional experience (gained within the last 5 years).
Registered Public Health Nutritionist   RPHNutr


The  Nutrition Society is the major scientific and professional organisation for nutritionists in the UK. The Society provides scientific conferences, nutrition training and a series of academic journals.


Last reviewed June 2011. Next review due June 2014