What Differentiates Registered Dietitians From Nutritionists?
What’s the one thing more important than a degree or clinical experience that differentiates Registered Dietitians from nutritionists? It’s called evidence based practice.
I get this question ALL THE TIME — from friends, from strangers, and even from doctors — what’s the difference between a Registered Dietitian and a nutritionist?
With the rise of many different types of nutrition certification programs, there is a lot of confusion surrounding the term “nutritionist.”
Many RD’s have done a great job explaining the criteria that differentiate a Registered Dietitian, aka “Registered Dietitian Nutritionist,” from other people using the title “nutritionist.” I’ll recap those basic facts below. But more importantly, I’ve found that one thing above all really draws the line between those that call themselves RDs and others in the wellness space.
It’s called “evidence-based practice.”
Evidence-based practice is an approach to nutrition therapy where dietitians use the best evidence possible to make decisions about client care. It involves the critical analysis of information and incorporates the most recent and rigorous research, clinical expertise, and individual client needs and preferences.
Want to know what evidence-based practice is not?
Watch this quick video! >>
The Difference Between Registered Dietitians and Nutritionists
To recap the legal difference between RDs and nutritionists, the two main takeaways are:
- All Registered Dietitians are nutritionists but not all nutritionists are Registered Dietitians.
- All Registered Dietitians must complete specific coursework, exams, and hands-on training, and become registered with the Commission for Dietetic Registration to legally call themselves an RD. There are no legal standards in many states, including California, for the use of the term “nutritionist.”
Requirements to Become a Registered Dietitian
The specific requirements to become a Registered Dietitian nutritionist include:
- Earning a bachelor’s degree or master’s degree in Nutrition
- Completing 1200 hours of supervised practice
- Passing a national board exam for registration
- Completing 75 hours of continuing education every 5 years to maintain credentials
There are no specific requirements in most states to use the title “nutritionist.”
The reason I decided to write this post is that I believe it’s critical for clients/patients to understand the caliber of service they’re getting when they go to see a nutrition professional. If practitioners are not implementing evidence-based practice, then you’re not getting the safest, most effective treatment possible.
You may fall victim to practices that are not only expensive and ineffective but sometimes harmful.
If you want to know if your nutrition practitioner is abiding by these guidelines, simply ask them to share the research supporting any nutrition therapy claims they may be advocating. If they can’t provide you with robust evidence (case studies and single small trials don’t count), then they’re not practicing evidence-based therapy, and you’re not getting the best care possible.
I hope you found this article and video informative!
If you have any questions about becoming an RD or how to find a reputable nutrition practitioner in your area, please don’t hesitate to leave comments and questions below.
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Looking for evidence-based answers to your common nutrition and fitness questions? Here are a few other articles you may want to check out! >>
Weigh In: Are you a registered dietitian nutritionist, or thinking of joining the nutrition profession? Is evidence-based practice important to you?