RD vs. Nutritionist – What’s the difference?

First of all, Happy Registered Dietitian Day! Yes, March 10th is RD Day. How cool is that?

Second, I love my career. Nutrition, Fitness, and Wellness is my passion and has been so for over 20 years. The science of Nutrition is unique in that it is so dynamic. We learn so much everyday. Research is constantly demonstrating the effect that diet, exercise, and healthy living has on our health, disease prevention, and longevity.

One of the biggest questions I get from people is, “What’s the difference between a Registered Dietitian and a Nutritionist?” Aren’t they the same thing?

Yes, and No.

The “RD” credential is a legally protected title that can only be used by practitioners who are authorized by the Commission on Dietetic Registration of the American Dietetic Association.

Some RDs may call themselves “nutritionists,” but not all nutritionists are registered dietitians. The definition and requirements for the term “nutritionist” vary. Some states have licensure laws that define the scope of practice for someone using the designation “nutritionist,” but in other states, virtually anyone can call him- or herself a “nutritionist” regardless of education or training.

Individuals with the RD credential have fulfilled specific requirements, including having earned at least a bachelor’s degree (about half of RDs hold advanced degrees), completed a supervised practice program and passed a registration examination—in addition to maintaining continuing education requirements for recertification.

As I tell many people, anyone, including my kids, can call themselves a nutritionist. Lots of people read a few diet books and feel that they know enough to share their knowledge and counsel other people. Others, who have lost a significant amount of weight, want to share their success and proclaim themselves weight loss experts. Take caution with people who have no credentials.

Nutrition and health and weight loss is much more complex than just what you eat. The body is not just that straight-forward.  There are complicated biochemical pathways that need to be considered, lab reports to analyze, family health history to consider, as well as many other psychological and social issues.

Don’t trust your health to just anyone.


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