What nutritionists do?

In general, 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. It is important that nutritionists have a good understanding of the scientific basis of nutrition.

Registered Associate Nutritionists (ANutrs) are individuals with a minimum of honours-degree level knowledge and understanding of nutrition science. They are qualified and competent to provide evidence-based information.

Registered Nutritionists (RNutrs) additionally have a number of years professional practice experience and have demonstrated they are both qualified and competent in the application of nutrition science within their specialist area.

Our careers guide, In the Know (PDF), and our careers profiles page contain more information on the type of work nutritionists do.

What is the difference between a nutritionist/nutritional therapist/dietitian?

Although there are similarities, there are also quite significant differences between these similar sounding occupations.

To read a summary of the roles, qualifications, Regulators and Membership Organisations for each of these professions please click here.

Nutritionists, dietitians and nutritional therapists are different roles with different sets of professional standards expected of those who practice in each field. There are fundamental differences between the work, and the registration requirements, of nutritionists, dietitians and nutritional therapists.

The Association for Nutrition is committed to the promotion of strong evidence-based nutrition and every one of our registrants must meet science based competencies in nutrition and agree to abide by our rigorous Code of Ethics. (Read more about the UK Voluntary Register of Nutritionists.)

Registered Nutritionists

Registered Nutritionists provide evidence-based nutrition information and guidance to people at an individual, group or population level or to animals and their carers. They work within sectors including charities, academia, industry, policy and healthcare or in a freelance capacity.

Registered Nutritionists can work with individuals who have pre-existing medical conditions, providing the services they are providing are not in respect to the nutritional management or treatment of their medical condition (unless in collaboration with the healthcare professional who is managing the individual’s condition) and the support/advice provided is not in contraindication with any dietary management of their medical condition. Registered Nutritionists can also work with acutely-ill patients in the support of their nutritional management or treatment if they are practicing within a multi-disciplinary team and the management/treatment is under the close supervision of a regulated health professional such as a medical doctor or dietitian.


If you want to work with unsupervised with patients on the management or treatment of their medical condition and/or specialise in the provision of the therapeutic diets required within a hospital environment, you must train as a dietitian. If you wish to be a dietitian, you will need to obtain a qualification in Dietetics that is recognised by the Health & Care Professions Council (HCPC), which can be studied as an undergraduate or post-graduate qualification.

The regulator for dietitians is the Health & Care Professions Council, where information is available on the approved training options. The British Dietetic Association is the professional body and trade union for dietitians and is also a good source of information on the role of dietitians.

Nutritional Therapists

Nutritional Therapists are recognised as complementary therapists and work within the field of complementary and alternative therapies. There are three regulatory bodies for nutritional therapists. You can look through the information on the websites of the three regulators available for nutritional therapists (Federation of Nutritional Therapy Practitioners (FNTP), General Regulatory Council of Complementary Therapists (GRCCT) and the Complementary and Natural Healthcare Council (CNHC)) or that of the membership body for nutritional therapists (British Association for Nutrition & Lifestyle Medicine (BANT)), to find out more about the practice of nutritional therapists.

Sports and Exercise Nutrition

Sports and Exercise Nutritionists develop, implement and evaluate nutritional strategies to optimise performance in sport and exercise. They determine the energy, fluid and nutrient demands of sport and exercise and provide tailored dietary advice to individuals and groups, ranging from recreational athletes, enthusiastic amateurs to elite professional athletes. They may also work for and in the sports nutrition industry eg producing products for athletes of all ability levels, or may work in education, be academics or researchers.

Public Health Nutrition

Public Health Nutritionists develop, implement and evaluate nutrition policies and programmes, generating the evidence base and applying scientific knowledge to ensure understanding of the impact of food and diet on health and well being of people and communities, and improving the diet, nutrition and health of people and communities. Roles can include health improvement, addressing inequalities in nutrition and health, nutrition advocacy, developing/commissioning and implementing policies and programmes, monitoring, evaluation and assessment of diet in groups/communities, education and generating research evidence linking food/nutrients and health.

Nutrition Science

A Nutrition Scientist investigates the metabolic and physiological responses of the body to foods and nutrients. The nutrition scientist may use expertise from the fields of molecular biology, biochemistry, physiology and genetics or other underpinning scientific knowledge. They aim to understand the factors that determine requirements for energy and specific nutrients, the sequence of steps through which ingested substances are digested and change from one form to another in the body, how food related chemicals can cause or prevent disease or may affect risk factors. Their work may contribute to understanding of pathological or healthy processes in humans and other animals. Nutrition Scientists will typically work in a research role in academia/food industry/research institutes etc.

Food Nutrition

Food nutritionists usually look at the science, ingredients, policy, legislation and regulations involved in the consumption or marketing of a food item. Their roles will vary between nutrition training or education, customer service, health promotion and assessing, setting, implementing and communicating nutritional standards and information for foods in commercial and food service settings, marketing, product development, regulatory support and research/science. Their role may also include community development/health improvement as well as commissioning of services. Food Nutritionists will typically work in nutrition/food education/academia as a nutrition/food researcher, for the food manufacturing industry (producing anything from baby foods to food supplements), the foodservice industry (from wholesalers to catering companies), food retailers (major supermarkets or pharmacy chains), public relations companies or trade/ industry organisations.

Animal Nutrition

An Animal Nutritionist is a scientist who applies his or her basic knowledge of the anatomy, physiology, metabolism and nutrition of vertebrates to a species or genus, understands the specific characteristics of the nominated species and applies this knowledge to their welfare, dietary needs and nutritional disorders, advising others about the subject or constructing experiments to increase understanding of nutritional science of the species. Animal nutritionists may run their own consultancy, work in industry, education, academia or research.