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What is a Registered Dietitian Nutritionist?

Registered Dietitian Nutritionists (RDNs) are healthcare professionals who specialize in food and nutrition and provide education, counseling, and therapy to support and help individuals reach their nutrition, health and overall well-being goals in order to live life to the fullest. How an RDN works with each client varies based on the RDN’s specific training, education and knowledge as well as the needs of a particular client and may include the following:

1) cultivate a more peaceful relationship with food &/or body

2) increase knowledge regarding how the foods we eat affect how we feel physically and emotionally as well as our energy and mood

3) increase knowledge regarding mindful and intuitive eating

4) help athletes reach their full athletic potential

5) reduce/eliminate gastrointestinal issues including gas, bloating, acid reflux

6) support individuals who have food intolerances/allergies

7) provide meal/snack ideas, and 8) provide education, resources and support for those who choose a plant-based eating style.


In order to become an RDN, individuals must obtain a graduate degree from an accredited dietetics program and complete at least 1,200 hours of supervised practice then pass a national exam. RDNs are required to complete a certain number of hours of professional development throughout their careers.


There are also specialty credentials in areas of gerontological nutrition (CSG), sports dietetics (CSSD), pediatric nutrition (CSP), renal nutrition (CSR) and oncology nutrition (CSO). Board-certified specialists are credentialed by the Commission on Dietetic Registration, the credentialing agency for the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics. Board Certification is granted in recognition of an applicant's documented practice experience and successful completion of an examination in the specialty area. RDNs are required to re-take the exam every 5 years in order to maintain their Board Certification.


In addition to RDN credentialing, many states have regulatory laws for dietitians.


RDNs work in a variety of settings:

· Hospitals, HMOs or other health care facilities, educating patients about nutrition and administering medical nutrition therapy as part of the health care team. RDNs may manage the foodservice operations in these settings, as well as in schools, day-care centers and correctional facilities, overseeing everything from food purchasing and preparation to managing staff.

· Private practice, working under contract with health care or food companies, or in their own business. RDNs may provide services to food service or restaurant managers, food vendors and distributors, or athletes, nursing home residents or company employees.

· Community and public health settings teaching, monitoring and advising the public, and helping to improve their quality of life through healthy eating habits.

· Sports nutrition and corporate wellness programs, educating clients about the connection between food, fitness and health.

· Food and nutrition-related businesses and industries, working in communications, consumer affairs, public relations, marketing or product development.

· Universities and medical centers, teaching physicians, nurses, dietetics students and others the sophisticated science of foods and nutrition.

· Research areas in food and pharmaceutical companies, universities and hospitals, directing or conducting experiments to answer critical nutrition questions and find alternative foods or nutrition recommendations for the public.

RDNs, NDTRs, Dietitians and Nutritionists: What's the difference?


Registered dietitian nutritionists (RDNs) and nutrition and dietetics technicians, registered (NDTRs) are credentialed practitioners.


A credential is a professional qualification — similar to MD for doctors or physicians — that lets the public know that the practitioner is a trained expert. In nutrition and dietetics, the credentials for trained experts is RDN and NDTR. Usually when someone says "dietitian," they mean an RDN.


"Registered dietitian nutritionist" and "nutrition and dietetics technicians, registered" are legally protected titles. Only practitioners who have completed specific educational requirements, passed a national exam and continue learning through ongoing education can use these titles and credentials.


However, there is no specific, standardized meaning for "nutritionist." Anyone can call themselves a nutritionist, and unfortunately, unqualified health care recommendations can cause people harm. Therefore, whether someone calls themselves "dietitian" or "nutritionist," check for credentials to ensure they are qualified nutrition experts.


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