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Registered Dietitian v. Nutritionist



It seems like every day we hear a new trend in health & wellness; a new diet, a new super-food, a new cure-all. Knowing who to listen to, and how to differentiate between fact + fiction, can be challenging. From "Doctor Google" to endless bloggers and websites, misinformation is everywhere. To ensure the information you receive is accurate, you also need to know who that information is coming from.

When you are looking for nutrition advice, Registered Dietitians are the food and nutrition experts who address today's issues relating to food and health (Eatright.org)

Often, "Dietitian" and "Nutritionist" are used interchangeably, when in fact the two terms can carry very different meanings. While a Dietitian is a Nutritionist, a nutritionist is not always a Dietitian. The main differences: education, experience, training, and basis of advice (aka: evidence-based information).

The term "nutritionist" is not regulated by law, and therefore anyone who provides nutrition advice (regardless of the foundation behind such advice) can adopt the title "nutritionist". Anyone interested in the topic, whether he or she has received formal training, can use the title, which may lead to confusion, potential misinformation and sometimes even harm to individuals depending on the person's background and the advice given.

On the other hand, a Registered Dietitian undergoes significant training to receive the nationally-recognized credential. Training includes:

Requirements for becoming a Registered Dietitian:

  • A minimum of Bachelor's of Science (Starting in 2024, a Master's Degree will be an additional minimum requirement)

  • 1200 hours of supervised practice in Clinical Nutrition, Food Service Management, and Community Nutrition

  • Passing a national exam administered by the Commission on Dietetic Registration

  • 75 hours per 5 years continuing education, plus individual state requirements, to maintain registration

  • Some states require additional licensure

  • Many dietitians specialize in specific areas of interest, and receive additional certifications or credentialing in those areas.

Once designated as a Registered Dietitian, this person is qualified to provide general nutrition education /wellness advice regarding dietary intake, as well as Medical Nutrition Therapy.

In my opinion, however, there's one extra-important detail to remember. Dietitians are specially trained to provide:

Evidence-Based Advice

Through schooling, Dietitians are taught to analyze scientific research and translate technical studies into easy-to-understand information for clients and the public. Dietitians are required, through the ethical code of conduct, to practice with honesty, integrity and fairness, and to promote high standards of professional practice (incorporating the most recent literature) for the benefit of clients, the public and the profession (EatRight.org).

This means, by working with a Registered Dietitian, you will be more likely to receive the most accurate and current health information from someone best qualified to provide it.

So the next time you are looking to/are receiving nutrition advice, ask yourself a few questions:

  • What credentials does this person have? Look for initials after their last name (RDN or RD and potentially additional credentials).

  • If you are seeking advice from a Nutritionist, ask that person about his/her background and specific training (Masters or PhD in nutrition? Certificate of training in nutrition?)

  • Before heeding any advice, be sure you feel confident in his/her training

For more information on becoming a Registered Dietitian Nutritionist, visit the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics website.

Check out my "Dietitian V. Nutritionist" infographic here!

Weigh In: Thinking of becoming an RD? What are your thoughts on evidence-based practice?

Add a comment!

And remember - whatever you do,

do it Well, and by design


#dietitian #nutritionist #dietitianvnutritionist

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