The Registered Dietitian Advantage

What is the difference between a nutritionist and a registered dietitian? 

The definition and requirements for the term “nutritionist” vary. Some states have licensure laws that define the range of practice for someone using the designation “nutritionist,” while in other states, virtually anyone can call him- or herself a “nutritionist” regardless of education or training. That’s right, your trainer, hair dresser, chef, blogger friend, or ANYONE that wants to can call themselves a nutritionist. Seriously, you (YOU!) can call yourself a nutritionist and no one could tell you that you were wrong.

Yes, nutritionists can give advice, write about, or coach you on wellness and weight loss, but when it comes to medical nutrition therapyin other wordspersonal dietary prescriptions”, only registered dietitians can play that game.

While some registered dietitians may call themselves nutritionists (for ease of explanation, usually), not all nutritionists are registered dietitians.

What is the RD Advantage?

The “RD” credential is a legally protected title that can only be used by practitioners who are authorized by the Commission on Dietetic Registration of the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics.

Individuals with the RD credential have fulfilled specific requirements, including having earned at least a bachelor’s degree, completed a supervised practice program and passed a registration examination — in addition to maintaining continuing education requirements for recertification.

According to the Academy of Nutrition and Dietitians, a registered dietitian nutritionist is a food and nutrition expert who has met academic and professional requirements including:

  • Earned a bachelor’s degree with course work approved by the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics’ Accreditation Council for Education in Nutrition and Dietetics (ACEND). Coursework typically includes food and nutrition sciences, foodservice systems management, business, economics, computer science, sociology, biochemistry, physiology, microbiology and chemistry.
  • Completed an accredited, supervised practice program at a health-care facility, community agency or foodservice corporation.
  • Passed a national examination administered by the Commission on Dietetic Registration.
  • Completes continuing professional educational requirements to maintain registration.

Approximately 50 percent of RDNs hold advanced degrees. Some RDNs also hold additional certifications in specialized areas of practice, such as pediatric or renal nutrition, nutrition support and diabetes education.

So when choosing who to have guide you on your journey to better health, choose registered dietitians, ALWAYS. 


Written By: Jenny Westerkamp