Dietitian vs. Nutritionist

A friend asked me about this topic the other day. Let me say, this a very touchy subject with dietitians. We are known to be a passionate profession seeking to dispel rumors and dietary myths. Often, we have to be defensive rather offensive because we spend so much time disproving new ideas, methods, and product claims. I want people to know the truth. There is so much said/written in articles and on the news about health. For some reason, people tend to believe everything they hear. Let’s get one thing straight. There IS a difference between a registered dietitian and nutritionist/specialist in nutrition/nutrition advocate/nutrition educator (and any other name you can think of…).  continue…

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How Is an RD Different Than a Nutritionist?

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.  (1)

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In addition, did you know that people practicing dietetics without this credential can get into legal trouble? Yes, non-dietitians are legally “not allowed to give individualized meal plans for any specific person, condition or  disease state.” (2)

Dietitians are obligated to “ promote or endorse products only in a manner that is true and not misleading.” (2) Does this remind you of anything you’ve heard or been told? Many “health professionals” will suggest and endorse products/supplements that do not have conclusive scientific evidence behind them. This is not the kind of advice you want to take. Dietitians must tell you the truth and only suggest products when they are evidenced to work for your specific condition. Don’t be fooled.

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I could go on about this topic for hours, days, and years. This is what makes me better at my job. I want my clients and the public to know the truth about nutrition and how it affects their/your health. Look for “RD, LD” and then seek the answers to your questions. 🙂

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(1) http://www.eatright.org/HealthProfessionals/content.aspx?id=6859

(2) http://codes.ohio.gov/oac/4759-6

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