To put it simply…All registered dietitians are nutritionists – but not all nutritionists are registered dietitians.
From the very first time I told someone I was RD, I was grouped into the category of nutritionists and have had to describe my background and education and how it differed from many of those individuals who called themselves nutritionists. Now, I can’t really blame people, before researching majors at college, I had no idea what an RD was, and once discovering it, I didn’t know it was different from a nutritionist. Now let me tell you, there are BIG differences.
A Registered Dietitian (RD) is a nutrition and food expert with minimum educational requirements including a bachelors degree from a US accredited university and coursework approved by the Accreditation Council for Education in Nutrition and Dietetics (ACEND) of the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics. Every RD also completes 1200 hours of supervised practice through an accredited dietetic internship. Finally, each RD is required to pass a national examination given by the Commission on Dietetic Registration (CDR) and complete continuing professional educational requirements to keep the RD credential.
A nutritionist, on the other hand, can be John Doe on the street with no education or credentials but claims to know everything about nutrition and may try to sell you the greatest weight loss pill ever created. While that may be exaggerating a bit, beware: there are many questionable “experts” and products having no supporting, scientific research. Ultimately, it’s exhausting discussing the multiplicity of ways in which the nutrition world is exploited.
To help maintain dietitians’ credibility, The Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics, the largest organization of food and nutrition experts, has gone as far as approving a new title for registered dietitians. We have the option of now using the title “registered dietitian nutritionist (RDN)” to help diminish confusion between an RD and nutritionist. So please pay attention to the title and credentials of the individual with whom you are obtaining nutrition advice.