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What is a Registered Dietitian?

As of this month, there are 90,000 Registered Dietitians, about a 25% increase since 2013, per the Commission on Dietetic Registration (CDR). The field is growing, and more individuals are seeking the credentials more than ever, but what makes it so attractive? Who are Registered Dietitians? What makes us different from a self-proclaimed nutritionist? Let’s talk about it!

First and foremost according to the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics (AND) the title “Registered Dietitian” (RD) or “Registered Dietitian Nutritionist” (RDN), interchangeable designations, is defined by the CDR as a food and nutrition expert who does the following four things:

  • Received a Bachelor’s degree (soon to be a Master’s degree in 2024) that involves accredited science and nutrition/didactic based coursework.
  • Completes 1200 hours of supervised practice in a variety of settings.
  • Successfully passes the CDR national exam.
  • Routinely completes continuing education requirements.  

The usage of the titles are protected by law and can ONLY be used once the criteria listed above have been met. This means anyone who may be a “nutrition coach,” or has a “nutrition certification” that does NOT have the RD or RDN designation, is NOT, I repeat, is NOT a dietitian.

Why the exclusivity? Two words, CONSUMER SAFETY. Licensing helps determine who is qualified and who is not. This keeps unqualified individuals from sharing unsafe or incorrect information to consumers, potentially risking their health. This also sets a benchmark for employers when they are looking to hire. Dietitians are trusted by government-run programs [i.e., National School Lunch Program, Women, Infants, and Children (WIC), and Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP)], hospitals, professional and collegiate sports teams, corporations, insurance companies (some of us accept it) and many more!

Now that you know who we are let’s talk about what we do! Many of you think that a dietitian does meal plans, and you are 100% correct, but that is just scratching the surface. Depending on the setting the dietitian is in, their services may vary and be extensive! Here is a short list of SOME of the services that may be offered, particularly in the private practice setting:

  • Diet and Nutrient Analysis
  • Meal plans, menu development
  • General nutrition counseling and disease management education
  • Body composition testing and analysis
  • Nutrigenomic analysis and prescriptions
  • Supplement analysis and recommendations
  • Recipe development and analysis, flavor profile development
  • Nutrient-drug/drug-nutrient interaction education
  • Tube-feed calculations and recommendations
  • Nutrition research
  • Coordinate and execute wellness programs
  • Host cooking classes
  • Nutrition-focused presentations, media appearances, and blog/article writing
  • Product development and analysis

This being said, there are more reasons than one as to why a dietitian is the nutrition expert that can help you, your company, your family, or your team reach the nutrition goals. Regardless of your stage of life or lifestyle! There is a dietitian for YOU!

Feel free to reach out to me (here) if you are looking for a little virtual help or you can find a local dietitian here!

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