What is the Difference Between a Registered Dietitian and a Nutritionist?
It seems as though so many people are talking about nutrition these days, everyone from your best friend who just tried the latest and greatest diet plan, to personal trainers who urge you to count your macros. With so much information (both the good and the bad) online and so many people giving advice, how can anyone figure out who or what to believe?
Is there a difference between a Registered Dietitian and a nutritionist?
Nutritionists are not a protected title so essentially anyone can call themselves a nutritionist. Dietitians, sometimes misspelled as “dietiticians”, on the other hand require formal education, medical training, and licensure. Because of the confusing terms, Some RDs (Registered Dietitians) choose to all themselves Nutritionists even though that is less qualified and less specific.
Which credentials are required to be a Registered Dietitian?
In the United States, there are many people practicing nutrition, but only a small subset of these people are actually credentialed by organizations recognized by state law and national certifying bodies. Registered Dietitian Nutritionists who simply go by “Registered Dietitian”, “Dietitian”, “RDN” or “RD” are credentialed by the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics and then further registered (by certification or licensure) by state. This credential means that the individual has been through rigorous science-based coursework with a bachelor’s or advanced level degree in nutrition, and has worked a lengthy 900+ hour supervised nutrition internship before passing their final Registered Dietitian Nutritionist exam. They are required to do internships that are similar to residencies in hospitals and are medically trained (that’s why we can bill health insurance!). Dietitians are qualified to work individually in private practice, in hospitals, clinics, and research laboratories. They are considered experts in the field of nutrition, and are the go-to source for solid, science-based nutrition information and personalized recommendations. Dietitians are also required to do continuing education throughout their careers to maintain in good standing.
Another credential that is less common but also nationally recognized is Certified Nutrition Specialist or “CNS”. This is one of the highest credentials offered in the field, and is available to dietitians, medical doctors, and others with advanced medical degrees after practicing for many years in nutrition. They then pass a certification examination to earn their CNS. They are also eligible to practice in a variety of healthcare and research settings.
What conditions do Registered Dietitians treat?
Registered Dietitian Nutritionists are trained on all physiology and anatomy and are also trained in all areas of nutrition therapy. Many of the RDs on our team have specialized their services to refine with skills.
In general, dietitians practice medical nutrition therapy for a variety of almost all diseases including heart disease, eating disorders, chronic kidney disease, diabetes, IBS, food allergies, autoimmune diseases, binge eating, cognitive and mental issues… RDs also work with people who want to optimize nutrition to feel the best in their bodies for health, athletic performance, and to prevent chronic disease.
What is the difference between dieting and nutrition therapy with a Registered Dietitian?
Fad diets keep people on the rollercoaster of yo-yo dieting for years. The newest latest diet will always pop up .
Why is it important to seek out someone with a recognized credential when you’re debating on whether or not to try the latest diet fad or supplement? There is a plethora of information available to anyone willing to do a simple Google search. But the question is, what information is supported by science, and of that information, which of it will be relevant to you, taking into account any health conditions, personal health history, as well as your individual health goals?
This is where a registered dietitian is an invaluable resource. At No Diet Dietitian, each of our credentialed team members is handpicked as an expert in their field, according to specialty. Gut health, eating disorders and chronic dieting behaviors, women’s health, sports nutrition, family nutrition, among others are what we do best. Each of our providers has a wealth of education and experience to back up their RD credential. In many states, anyone with an interest in nutrition can call themselves a nutritionist, whether they have the knowledge or experience or not. This is problematic for a variety of reasons, especially when it comes to working with people with chronic health conditions. Many people without adequate nutrition training work in the diet and fitness industry, dispensing nutrition information that can not only be misleading, but also potentially dangerous.
Although the laws vary by state as to who is allowed to practice under the general title “Nutritionist”, anyone who is a Registered Dietitian or Certified Nutrition Specialist will happily provide and explain their credentials to you. If you are interested in working with a member of our RD team, please reach out to us today!
Written by Christine Weiss RD, CD