With almost 3,000 dietitians in Australia, we can understand how difficult it might be to differentiate one from the other and figure out which is the right dietitian for you. Let us help you simplify your search for the right one with this guide on the types of dietitians.
Read More: What is a dietitian?
Diverse fields, united pursuit
Before we dive into the 10 types of dietitians, we need to make this clear: dietitians may have diverse specialisations, but they are united in their goal of improving the health and nutrition of all their clients.
From newborns to the elderly, superstar athletes to diabetics, dietitians help us all to make the right dietary choices. They assist us in making changes to our diet so we can be healthier. They guide us by offering expert advice on which foods we should eat and avoid so we can better manage our health conditions. They recommend the proper ways for us to lose, gain or maintain weight.
In Australia, Accredited Practising Dietitians (APDs) are a class of dietitians who have fulfilled the strict requirements of the Accredited Practising Dietitian (APD) program managed by the Dietitians Association of Australia (DAA). Dietitians who achieve the APD status are eligible to work in various fields and are sought after for their expertise in their chosen discipline. The APD credential is the only credential recognised by the Australian government, the Department of Veterans Affairs, Medicare and majority of private health insurance companies. It is also the standard of excellence in dietetics and nutrition here in Australia.
Read more: What is an Accredited Practising Dietitian?
10 types of dietitians
These are the 10 types of dietitians that can help you achieve your health and nutrition goals. Keep in mind that there are APDs with more than one specialisation, such as a neonatal dietitian who also performs the duties of a research dietitian. Listed in alphabetical order, these dietitians are:
1. Business dietitians
Business dietitians perform the role of resource persons in the business, communications and marketing industries. You may see them offering their expert opinion or knowledge about food or a particular diet on television or radio shows. They may serve as a columnist of a magazine or newspaper’s health section, a resource speaker in nutrition-related events, or a resource person during the recipe creation and assessment process of food chains and restaurants. They can write books and corporate publications about food, health, nutrition and wellness. They can also serve as salespeople of food manufacturing companies that offer supplements and tube feeding equipment to the public.
2. Clinical dietitians
Clinical dietitians are the dietitians we see in health care settings including clinics, hospitals, nursing facilities and the like. APDs who serve as clinical dietitians are qualified to provide medical nutrition therapy (MNT), which is a personalised, nutrition-based therapy for patients diagnosed with specific health conditions such as diabetes. They also offer consultations to their clients and their caregivers.
Clinical dietitians work closely with other medical professionals like doctors, nurses, therapists, psychologists, dietetic technicians, pharmacists, social workers, and other nutrition professionals so they can perform their duties—such as formulating meal plans and evaluating their client’s medical history—more effectively. They are also capable of developing and implementing health and nutrition programs.
There are also clinical dietitians with specialties in various types of feeding such as intravenous feedings (parenteral nutrition) and its types including peripheral parenteral nutrition (PPN) and total parental nutrition (TPN), as well as tube feedings (enteral nutrition).
3. Community dietitians
Community dietitians work in public health organisations such as community health centres and home care agencies. They create and implement nutrition and wellness programs for the benefit of the residents of the community, with a focus on children’s, women’s, and the elderly’s nutritional needs. Other community dietitians focus on members of the community without access to healthy foods, persons with disabilities and those with special needs. Either way, the overall aim of these programs is to educate the targeted groups and their caregivers about healthy foods, proper eating habits, and good nutrition. Some community dietitians also do home visits for the members of the community who are very ill or weak to go to the community health centre.
4. Consultant dietitians
Consultant dietitians are dietitians who render their services on a contractual basis with health institutions and companies. This is a common work set-up for dietitians in Australia, Canada and the United States of America. They may also work in private practice. They can enter contracts independently just like any professional who works as a consultant and offer health and nutrition-related services and programs to their individual clients and the clients of the companies that contracted them. These companies may include gyms, fitness studios, and sports teams.
5. Food service dietitians
Food service dietitians work in company cafes, school canteens, restaurants, prisons, and organisations engaged in large-scale meal planning and feeding. They are in charge of the whole food service process, from planning the meals, coordinating with the kitchen staff for proper cooking, and evaluating the quality of the foods. They develop new menus, launch health programs to ensure the dietary requirements of the clients they serve are being met, and perform regular audits to maintain food safety standards and uphold quality control measures. They can also train and manage the food service personnel including kitchen staff, dietary aides or technicians, and food delivery workers.
6. Gerontological dietitians
Gerontological dietitians are the experts in the dietary needs and nutrition of the elderly. You’re bound to find one in hospitals, nursing homes, community health centres, and government and private agencies catering to the aging population. Their primary duty is to plan and develop healthy menus for their elderly clients, including those who may have aging-related illnesses such as Alzheimer’s disease and type 2 diabetes, find it difficult to swallow foods, and are recovering from surgery. They also educate their clients and their caregivers about healthy eating habits to ensure their clients’ nutritional needs are being met.
7. Neonatal dietitians
Neonatal dietitians deliver medical nutrition therapy for newborns—infants less than four weeks old—who are born prematurely or with critical illness. Together with other members of the Neonatal Intensive Care Unit team, neonatal dietitians provide clinical assessments of their patients, advocate for breastfeeding, develop breastfeeding guidelines, draw up systematic plans for tube feedings and intravenous feedings, create health protocols and supervise the delivery, handling and storage of neonatal nutritional products. You can find neonatal dietitians in hospitals, children’s clinics and other healthcare facilities with NICUs.
8. Paediatric dietitians
Aside from educating children, their parents and caregivers about the importance of proper nutrition during childhood, paediatric dietitians also design treatment plans and nutritional programs for children ranging from one month old to 18 years old. They are the dietitians you should consult if your child has a food allergy or intolerance, eating disorder or other medical conditions linked to their diet, like childhood obesity and type 1 diabetes. They work closely with paediatricians and other specialists including occupational therapists and speech therapists, in the case of children with feeding difficulties or special needs. Paediatric dietitians can be found in schools, hospitals, clinics, health-related organisations and government agencies that focus on children’s health and nutrition.
9. Research dietitians
Research dietitians conduct research studies with a focus on food, health services, nutrition, and social sciences. Owing to their immersion in the academic research field, some research dietitians also end up working as university professors of dietetics. Their research studies may revolve around how the nutrients from foods interact with the human body and help prevent disease, or how a certain health policy or law affected the targeted population. They may also conduct surveys about food service processes for the purpose of quality control management, or examine the effectiveness of a particular nutrition program or treatment plan. You can find research dietitians in the academe, research organisations and public and private health agencies.
10. Sports dietitians
Sports dietitians are the dietitians of athletes and competitive sports professionals. Their specialisation is in sports nutrition, which is concerned with how diet and nutrition contributes to an athlete’s performance. You can find sports dietitians in gyms, fitness centres, and sporting clubs. They may also work for a sporting team to provide diet and nutrition services for the team members exclusively.
The primary goal of sports dietitians is to help athletes reach their optimal performance with the proper diet. To achieve this goal, sports dietitians may give a lecture about pre- and post-training eating habits, prescribe supplements to boost the athletes’ immunity and performance, and plan meals for their clients’ upcoming sports competitions. They may also offer advice regarding weight management and hydration strategies.
Here in Australia, an Accredited Sports Dietitian is an APD who has completed advanced education and additional training under the Sports Dietitians Australia (SDA).
Pick the right dietitian for you
Choosing the right dietitian becomes easier after you have set a clear health and nutrition goal. This clarity will narrow down your choices and eliminate your confusion about which dietitian you should consult. Your doctor may even be able to recommend a suitable APD for you, so don’t hesitate to ask him/her for advice. Otherwise, feel free to browse the services we offer such as weight loss, gut and bowel heath, food intolerances, general health, corporate services plus diet and nutrition.