RD vs. Nutritionist

Original Image by USDA via Flickr
Original Image by USDA via Flickr

By: Nikki Nies

Respect in one’s field comes with time.  The health and wellness field is no different.  Having the Registered Dietitian (RD) credential at the end of one’s name is a coveted credential in the nutrition world.  Every day Americans may not know what the RD credential stands for, but those that have the RD credential can tell you how much hard work it takes to gain that credential.  With the optional add-on of the “nutritionist” label for Registered Dietitians, it brings front and center the use of the credential.  Every RD now has the option to change their credential from Registered Dietitian to RDN–Registered Dietitian Nutritionist.  Make sense?

It makes sense why the word nutritionist can be added to the RD credential.  Many Americans don’t know what a RD does, however, once the word nutritionist is thrown in, everyone knows what profession that is.  RD’s have come a long way gaining respect in hospitals and communities alike, however there is still a lot more room for growth.

Anyone can call themselves a nutritionist as there is no required education or training to call oneself that title.  Deciphering the word nutritionist, the suffix “ist” means specialist.  So, a nutritionist would be a specialist in nutrition.  I can understand why the word RD and nutritionist could be seen as interchangeable, but they aren’t.  All RDs are nutritionists however not all nutritionists are RDs.  You may wondering why it matters?  When asking for nutrition advice, conversing with a RD, one can feel confident that the information is valid and since RDs need to complete at least 1200 supervised practice hours to earn that credential, they have put the time in.

Original Image by Take Back Your Health Conference via Flickr
Original Image by Take Back Your Health Conference via Flickr

My point isn’t to knock nutritionists, there are some great nutritionists that aren’t RDs, but I want everyone to be aware of the discrepancies in education that nutritionists may lack compared to RDs.  Through the required internship RDs have to complete, it is assured they have been exposed to various populations, environments and situations.

So what exactly do RDs have to offer?

  • Passed a national exam verifying expertise in everything nutrition
  • Have ability to “teach” information
  • Clinically (hospital) trained experts 
  • Completed undergraduate course requirements including biochemistry, organic chemistry, microbiology and anatomy and physiology
  • Have experience in research methods and deciphering information
  • Have ability to make nutrition assessments using medical nutrition therapy
  • A credentialed background
  • May have specialized field of nutrition–i.e. heart disease, pediatrics, renal, diabetes, cancer, foodservice, eating disorders

When scoping out nutrition information, if you come across someone without the RD credential do your own research and find out about their education and nutrition background.  RDs are  always a safe source to go to for food and nutrition related information.  Look for a local RD in your area!

Source: http://www.superkidsnutrition.com/experts/dietitian/



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