Registered Dietitian vs Nutritionist
This is a topic that is near and dear to me. I still find people who do not know the difference between a Registered Dietitian and a Nutritionist. The confusion is that a Registered Dietitian is also a Nutritionist. In fact, the Academy has updated our credentials so that we can be credentialed “Registered Dietitian Nutritionist” to try to avoid confusion, but I think it just makes it more confusing! Not all Nutritionists are Registered Dietitians. Make sense yet?
What only a Registered Dietitian can legally do and is trained to do:
- Medical nutrition therapy: if you have a medical condition, a Dietitian can give a meal plan/diet to help improve that condition
- We have at the very least a 4 year degree to learn about these conditions and therapies (plus a 9-12 month internship for practical experience). We even have to work through organic chemistry, molecular biology, biochemistry, 1 year of anatomy, and more to make sure we understand the intricacies of the body.
- Use evidence-based practices: we understand how to correctly read research and decipher fact vs fiction and implement that into practice for what we teach patients
- We have patients not clients
- Dietitians follow HIPAA laws and protect your health privacy and all private matters that are discussed
- Can compute and give calorie and macronutrient guidelines specific to you
- May recommend supplementation that contains certified and tested ingredients
- Can review bloodwork, and make some recommendations based on the results
- We belong to the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics which also requires us to stay up to date on ethical standards
What Registered Dietitians do not do:
- Psychology (although we do work on mindful eating techniques and use clinical methods for counseling our patients).
- Fad diets
- Other non-diet therapies
That being said, Nutritionists who are not Dietitians can do some of the above things that a RD can not do. I have learned some wonderful things from those who are Nutritionists and not Dietitians. But, you never know what you are going to get when you hire a Nutritionist-only. Some may not have good schooling, and may have only taken a quick online course, but others may have a PhD in a skilled area and just not be a Registered Dietitian. You have to research what you are getting when you hire a “Nutritionist”.
Bottom Line: If you want a professional to work with you to come up with an eating strategy for a specific medical concern, speak with a Registered Dietitian!