Happy March! As dietitians this is one of our favorite months because it is finally National Nutrition Month! We are thrilled to have an entire month devoted to nutrition, food, and healthy eating. As an added bonus, we also have RDN Day which is on March 13!
In light of National Nutrition Month and RDN Day coming up, we want to talk about what it is that dietitians do, what the difference between a dietitian and nutritionist is, and why dietitians truly are the nutrition experts.
When working in the community or with clients, we have found that there is so much confusion on what a dietitian actually does or who is a dietitian.
So what is a registered dietitian or registered dietitian nutritionist (or RD/RDN for short)?
A registered dietitian must complete a bachelor’s degree in nutrition and dietetics. A bachelor’s degree focuses on areas of food service, food service management, food science, chemistry, biochemistry, medical nutrition therapy, anatomy, and physiology.
Once the undergraduate is completed, students must complete a dietetic internship. Dietetic internships might be found within a university, healthcare facility, or food service management company. The internship is a comprehensive program, requiring 1200 hours of supervised practice in community, clinical, and food service areas.
After the dietetic internship has been completed, students must then sit for the national exam though the Commission on Dietetic Registration. After passing the exam, the professional is then deemed a dietitian and must hold a license in their practicing state. A dietitian is then required to complete continuing education appropriate to their professional areas.
Where do registered dietitian nutritionists work?
A registered dietitian nutritionist can work in many different areas. You might find an RDN in:
What’s the difference between a registered dietitian or registered dietitian nutritionist and a nutritionist?
This is one of the most commonly asked questions. It can be a confusing concept, but to simplify it: all dietitians are nutritionists, but not all nutritionists are dietitians.
Why is that?
A nutritionist is not a legally protected title. This means that there is no consistency in education or background in order to become a nutritionist. In some cases, nutritionists may not have any nutrition background at all.
Whereas, registered dietitian is a legally protected title. Therefore, in order to practice as a registered dietitian or registered dietitian nutritionist, a professional must complete rigorous school work, dietetic internship, pass a registration exam, and hold an active license in the practicing state. Dietitians are the only people who can practice medical nutrition therapy.
Why does it matter?
Dietitians are the experts in nutrition and dietetics because they have a thorough background in the physiology of nutrition and the chemical interactions foods have in the body. This background allows them to weed out fact from fiction and help you to navigate your health considering a wide array of considerations. They are trained to consider your food preferences, health conditions, budgets, schedule, culture, lifestyle, and many other things to help you make the best nutrition choices for your life.
This graphic above is an excellent representation of all the components dietitians are trained to think about when evaluating nutrition and health habits!
How do I find a dietitian?
To find a registered dietitian near you, you can go to this website to locate an RDN in your area. You can also ask your doctor if they have a dietitian that they can refer you to as well. If you just have questions for a dietitian, Let’s Move! STL is a team of five registered dietitians ready to answer your nutrition related questions. To ask a question, click here!
This month, find an RDN and wish them a happy National Nutrition Month! Sign up for our monthly newsletter here to stay up to date with our NNM events and other blogs and recipes we share on the site!