What is a Registered Dietitian Nutritionist?
A Registered Dietitian Nutritionist is someone who has studied nutrition extensively with a minimum of a bachelors degree (through an accredited program/university), has completed an approved internship, and has taken and passed a national test. Additionally, Registered Dietitian Nutritionists (or RDNs) need to keep up with professional continuing education in order to maintain their licenses. RDNs are also regulated by state licensing boards and have to apply for licenses in the states where they practice. Unless, of course that particular state does not have specific licensure requirements.
What About a Nutritionist?
This can get a little confusing because the term “nutritionist” can vary from state to state. In some states, you cannot call yourself a nutritionist unless you are an RDN. In other states, basically anyone can call themselves a nutritionist. Even if you are in a state where the term is regulated, there are always people that may not be aware of the regulation. They may have taken a course and think they are able to give appropriate advice. While some courses can give a basic understanding of nutrition, if you don’t understand how the body works or are unfamiliar with certain medical diagnoses, you can actually give someone harmful advice. For example, if you have mild to moderate kidney disease and are told to increase your protein intake, this can cause your kidneys further damage. So always make sure you are getting nutrition advice from a Registered Dietitian Nutritionist, especially if you have a chronic condition.
What Does an RDN Do?
Lots of things! There are clinical dietitians in hospitals and outpatient clinics, and RDNs in the community working on public health initiatives. They also work in the media, food corporations, the service industry, and private practice. The main goal of a dietitian is to improve the health and help ensure the nutritional needs are being met for our patients, clients, or communities.
When working one on one with a registered dietitian nutritionist, you can expect to discuss multiple things. Discussion around your eating patterns, any medical diagnoses you have, gastrointestinal issues, sleeping and exercise habits, stress, blood work, and vital signs are all important. Notice I used the word discussion, because a dietitian does not simply tell you what to eat. Eating patterns are personal choices and a dietitian’s role is to help you find the best way to eat for you. Recommendations for dietary changes should be individualized based on your discussion and needs. What may be a healthy diet for one person, may not be healthy or work for another.
Should I See a Registered Dietitian Nutritionist?
A Registered Dietitian Nutritionist may be able to help if you:
- Have a chronic disease you are trying to manage (such as hypertension, diabetes, IBS)
- Want to take steps to improve your general health
- Have a food allergy or intolerance
- Have a lack of energy
- Are experiencing gastrointestinal symptoms such as bloating or gas
- Have tried countless “diets” and want to improve your relationship with food
If you think you may benefit from working with a Registered Dietitian Nutritionist, check out our services page here. Then, schedule a free 15 minute phone call to discuss your health needs and what we can do to help.
Need more info? Check out The Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics, the largest organization of food and nutrition professionals in the world.