What is a Registered Dietitian?
Updated: Feb 16, 2021
Welcome to Playing With Food! Before we continue on our journey of discussing various topics, and as my very first post, I'd like to start with first things first by discussing a topic close to my heart. What is a Registered Dietitian? On my podcast Playing With Food- Eat. Play. Balance., I describe it for the kids as someone who loves food and learning about food, which is true, but there's a little more to it than that. I want to explain this because if you were perhaps looking for someone to meet with and just googled nutritionist, you might not always find some of the most credible options and you might run into some sketch situations if you aren't careful.
Along with all the nutrition information out there, there are many people who might use the title nutritionist, or nutrition counselor, or something similar, but these titles may not actually mean they are a Registered Dietitian (RD) or a Registered Dietitian Nutritionist (RDN), which either RD/RDN can be used if the qualifications to receive the credential are met. I personally use RD, for no other reason than I like it and it goes well with my initials RZ (RZ the RD, haha). To put it in perspective, let me quote the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics website in saying "...all registered dietitians are nutritionists but not all nutritionists are registered dietitians. " You can click on this phrase to go to the FAQ section on the site and read more. Let me be very clear though and also state that there are some people that may have studied nutrition and received various degrees in the field of nutrition and/or science, or they have a lot of knowledge and experience in certain areas, as the RD/RDN credentials bear no weight on the intelligence of the person, but sometimes a person using the nutritionist title is someone who took a two-week online course about a certain product and can now say they are a nutritionist. Based on the amount of grueling work and studying I had to do for my credentials, I find the second option somewhat insulting to the field, which I think most RD/RDNs would agree with me on that. Either way, it is important that you do your homework before meeting with someone so you know what you are getting into and understand who you are working with in terms of their experience and background.
Checking on experience is still true of even of weight loss clinics run by other medical professionals as well. As no insult to MDs or RNs, as I fully respect their work (truly, they are heros), if they are running a weight loss clinic, it might still be a good idea to check what their actual background in nutrition might be as their specialty may not actually be in the nutrition field, but that is purely my opinion and comfort level with weight loss clinics. Let me put it this way, you see a heart doctor for your heart, a lung doctor for your lungs, an OB/GYN for having babies and the like, therefore, you should probably see an MD or RN that studies and specializes in the field of nutrition if that is why you are seeing them. Some clinics don't even have any medical professionals on their teams at all, be very careful with those as they have the potential to be more along the lines of the two-week (or less, yikes!) online course nutritionist.
So now that we have cleared that up, let's just discuss what to look for if the person is using the Registered Dietitian (RD) or Registered Dietitian Nutritionist (RDN) credentials. This person must have a advanced degree (currently a bachelor's degree, but soon a graduate degree will be required in the most recent changes to the credentialing process, PhD is not required), have completed an accredited supervised practice program, passed the RD exam (which cannot be taken until the first two are completed) and maintains their credentials through continuing education. Then of course, if they are practicing, they must be licensed to practice, which cannot be done without passing the exam. Being a member of the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics is NOT a requirement for credentials, though some employers may be allowed to require it or more likely "highly suggest it". You can even check if the person is licensed on your states licensing website because having a license almost implies all other criteria are met as it is the last step in practicing as an RD/RDN.
So, thank you dear reader for coming to my blog. I am so excited to share so much more on many more topics in the future, but if you are too excited to wait till the next post, check out our podcast Playing With Food- Eat. Play. Balance. for more nutrition fun for the whole family! We'll talk again soon!
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P.S. If you are looking for a Registered Dietitian, I suggest trying the Find An Expert search engine on the Academy Website at https://www.eatright.org/find-an-expert. It may not be the most inclusive as things can sometimes change faster than it is updated and, from what I understand, it is a choice by the RD to be included in this search (please correct me if I'm wrong on that), but it's a place to start. You may have better luck searching your states licensing site as that is a required listing.