What is a Registered Dietitian?

What is a Registered Dietitian?

Publish Date February 24, 2023 5 Minute Read

Looking to live a healthier lifestyle? Whether it be a new year, new you, or you’re just looking for a few new foods to try, a registered dietitian is a dedicated healthcare professional who’s here to help. Keep reading to learn more about these healthcare professionals looking out for you.

How to Become a Registered Dietitian

Registered dietitians are board-certified food and nutrition experts who have met the Commission on Dietetic Registration’s (CDR) criteria to earn the RD or RDN credential. Criteria includes successful completion of a bachelor’s degree in science, where dietetic students complete courses in biology, microbiology, organic and inorganic chemistry, anatomy, physiology and nutrition-related courses. Starting January 1, 2024, all dietetic students must also obtain a master’s degree to qualify for the RD board examination.

Following formal education, all dietetic students must apply for, and be matched with, a competitive internship program accredited by the Accreditation Council for Education in Nutrition and Dietetics (ACEND). Once matched or accepted, they must complete at least 1,200 hours of supervised practice. This supervised practice gives “RDs-to-be” the chance to train directly with registered dietitians in real-life environments. Dietetic students are then validated by the CDR and given the green light to take the registration examination for dietitians.

After passing the RD board examination, the dietetic student can apply to become a registered dietitian. Before joining the work force, the newly credentialed registered dietitian must also obtain a license in the state, or states, they wish to practice in. To maintain one’s credentials, the registered dietitian must complete 75 continuing education credits every 5 years. Continuing education can also help dietitians stay ahead of changes within the growing field.

Are Registered Dietitians and Nutritionists the Same Thing?

A registered dietitian can be referred to as a registered dietitian (RD) or a registered dietitian nutritionist (RDN). The inclusion of the word “nutritionist” in the credential communicates a broader concept of wellness, including prevention of health conditions beyond medical nutrition therapy, as well as treatment of conditions. However, both RD and RDN can be used by a credentialed dietitian interchangeably. Just know that you’re in good hands, whether you’re consulting with an RD or RDN. However, one should be wary about getting nutrition recommendations from someone referring to themselves as a nutritionist. Anyone can call themselves a nutritionist, since there are no mandated requirements or accreditations. Nutritionists don’t necessarily receive formal education, complete supervised practice or sit for an examination.

Where Can You Find a Registered Dietitian?

You can find registered dietitians in a variety of settings including healthcare, business and industry, community/public health, education, research, government agencies, private practices and even grocery stores.

The environment in which you’re interacting with a registered dietitian will determine what kind of information they’ll be providing for you. For example, if you’re in a hospital or long-term care facility, they may oversee your or a loved one’s meal plan. If you’re attending a presentation for work, they could be educating you on your company’s health and wellness policy or offered programs. You could also run into a registered dietitian at your local grocery store or even on their website.

Dietitians who work in the grocery store are also referred to as “retail dietitians.” These dietitians are on the rise, since they can help educate and inspire customers and offer convenient, personalized solutions where individuals can make most of their food choices — in-person or virtually. Regardless of the setting, registered dietitians are going to be able to offer credible, evidenced-based advise on nutrition and healthy eating habits to help you improve your health and well-being.

What Can a Registered Dietitian Do for You?

If you’re looking for some meal planning inspiration while also trying to prevent or manage a chronic disease, a retail registered dietitian is one you should seek out. Retail registered dietitians are well-versed in medical nutrition therapy and can provide practical recommendations that fit your lifestyle. For example, if your physician told you to limit your fat intake because your cholesterol levels are slightly elevated, then a retail registered dietitian could highlight current high-fat foods in your diet and show you lower-fat alternatives. Or if your child has been diagnosed with a food allergy, or you’ve been battling Crohn’s symptoms, a retail registered dietitian could educate you on what specific foods or products you should avoid and which ones can help. Grocery shopping in general can feel overwhelming with so many products on the shelves, so why not let one of these experts guide you?

Schedule an Appointment Today

You and your loved ones’ health and well-being are important. You can trust a registered dietitian to educate and provide you with the necessary tools and resources to be successful. Whether it be prevention or management of a chronic disease, or even simplifying the grocery shopping experience, our diverse team of registered dietitians is committed to helping you achieve your personal goals through individualized nutritional counseling. We offer one-on-one virtual care through Telenutrition, where you can meet with a registered dietitian from the comfort of your home, or anywhere else there’s an internet connection – no waiting room, no hassle. Prioritize your health by scheduling an appointment today.