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Registered Dietitian vs Nutritionist. What's the difference?

A Registered Dietitian (RD) or Registered Dietitian Nutritionist (RDN) is a food and nutrition expert in the field of dietetics who has met academic and professional requirements including:

  • Earned a bachelor’s or master’s degree with course work approved by the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics Accreditation Council for Education in Nutrition and Dietetics (ACEND). Earned an undergraduate science degree that required courses in biology, microbiology, organic and inorganic chemistry, biochemistry, anatomy and physiology, as well as more specialized nutrition coursework.

  • Completed 1,200 supervised hours of accredited internships at health care facilities, community agencies, and/or food service corporations.

  • Passed a national boards examination administered by the Commission on Dietetic Registration.

  • Completes continuing professional educational requirements to maintain registration on an ongoing basis.

RDNs often work in or as part of a medical team in hospitals, long-term care facilities, outpatient clinics, businesses, community/public health, research institutions, government agencies, and private practice. Only registered dietitians can be involved with diagnosing and treating medical conditions, known as medical nutrition therapy, versus a “nutritionist” that cannot do so. RDNs are nutritionists, however nutritionists are not dietitians.

Some states grant RDNs state licensure that limits the ability of unlicensed individuals to provide services within the defined scope of practice for dietitians in order to protect the public.

[Alabama, Arkansas, Delaware, District of Columbia, Florida, Georgia, Illinois, Iowa, Kansas, Kentucky, Louisiana, Maine, Maryland, Minnesota, Mississippi, Missouri, Montana, Nebraska, Nevada, New Mexico, North Carolina, North Dakota, Ohio, Rhode Island, South Carolina, South Dakota, Tennessee]

In states that do not regulate the use of “Registered Dietitian Nutritionist” (such as New York), anyone with an interest of food or nutrition may call themselves a “nutritionist”. These individuals do not have the qualifications of a registered or licensed dietitian, therefore following their advice can be considered harmful.

Always work with a credentialed RDN when it comes to your health and your family’s health.

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