If you are like most people you’ve noticed how sometimes nutrition advice comes from a nutritionist and sometimes it comes from a dietitian or a registered dietitian (RD). And if you are like most people you’ve wondered – What is the difference?
The difference is that the term dietitian, and more significantly the RD, has a clear definition that includes an education based on the science of food and how the body uses that food. The Commission on Accreditation of Dietetic Education clearly outlines the coursework required for someone to call themselves a dietitian. In addition, the Commission of Dietetic Registration outlines the experience needed to take the credentialing exam and the continuing education needed to maintain the RD credential.
On the flip side, the term nutritionist does not have a nationally defined definition so the background of a nutritionist in California could be very different from one in Florida. Some state licensure boards have regulated the use of the title but regulations vary from state to state. All Registered Dietitians are nutritionists but not all nutritionists are Registered Dietitians.
If you want to find a nutrition professional who will provide information based on the science of food and nutrition turn to the RD. When you contact the RD make sure you discuss your personal goals for healthier eating because just as physicians have areas of specialty so to do RD’s. You want to make sure you work with someone who can assess your needs and help you develop an eating plan that is enjoyable, maintainable and based on the science of food and nutrition. You can locate an RD in your area by visiting www.eatright.org and clicking on “Find a Nutrition Professional”