What Is a Registered Dietitian Nutritionist?

One of the questions we get asked about frequently is what exactly is a Registered Dietitian and what do we actually do?

If you have been following us for some time, then you know that we are both Registered Dietitians. While we have a post on how to become a Registered Dietitian Nutritionist (RD/RDN) that touches briefly on what we do, we thought it would be a good idea to break it down even further. So, let’s get started.

“So… what is a Registered Dietitian?”

Registered Dietitians (RDs), also known as Registered Dietitian Nutritionists (try saying that 3 times fast), are skilled health care professionals who are experts in food and nutrition. They help people develop practical solutions to make positive lifestyle changes to improve their diet and health.

“My sister’s best friend is a “Nutritionist.” That’s what you are right?”

Wrong. Think about it like this: dietitians can call themselves nutritionists, but nutritionists can’t call themselves dietitians. RDs have to undergo extensive training that includes taking courses in food and nutrition, completing 1200 hours of supervised practice, and passing the national RD exam. Practicing RDs must also complete a minimum of 75 hours of continuing education with at least 1 hour of Ethics training every 5 years in order to maintain the credential. The RD/RDN credential is the only accepted dietetic credential for those wanting to practice in clinical settings (think hospitals, clinics, and doctor offices) and is the most widely accepted dietetic credential. Approximately half of all RDs hold graduate degrees and many also have certifications in specialized fields which include nutrition support, sports nutrition, pediatrics, renal nutrition, oncology, or gerontology.

Professionals can call themselves “nutritionists” without being required to have any formal education or certification. They may have studied nutrition in college or have an advanced degree (M.S, MPH, or Ph.D.) in nutrition, taken an online certification course in nutrition, or have no formal education in nutrition at all. The term “nutritionist” is not regulated or protected by law which allows practically anyone to consider themselves one.

“Does an RD just work in hospitals creating meal plans?”

While it seems that many people have no idea what we do, a lot of people think that all RDs do is generate meal plans or work in a kitchen. However, being an RD is so much more than that! This profession is super…

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