What is a Registered Dietitian Nutritionist?

The Institute of Medicine identifies registered dietitians as qualified professionals for nutrition therapy. According to IOM, “the registered dietitian is currently the single identifiable group of health-care professionals with standardized education, clinical training, continuing education and national credentialing requirements necessary to be directly reimbursed as a provider of nutrition therapy.”

A Registered Dietitian Nutritionist (RD or RDN – these credentials can be used interchangeably) is a food and nutrition expert who has at least a Bachelor Degree in Nutrition and has completed a rigorous training with supervised practice in a variety of clinical settings.  The majority of Registered Dietitians work in the treatment and prevention of disease (administering medical nutrition therapy, often part of a multi-disciplinary team), in private practice, hospitals, other health-care facilities, as well as research, business and sports nutrition. All Registered Dietitians are nutritionists, however not all nutritionists are Registered Dietitians.

The following criteria have to be met to earn the RD or RDN credential:

  • Completion of a ACED (American Council for Education in Nutrition and Dietetics)-accredited supervised pre-professional experience program including practicing at a variety of settings such as healthcare facilities, community agencies, and foodservice institutions.
  • Passing an extensive national Registration Examination for Dietitians administered by the Commission on Dietetic Registration (CDR).
  • Completion of continuing professional educational requirements to maintain registration.

Additionally, nearly all states have their own licensure requirements which further helps regulate standards within which the dietitians must practice.

How does a Registered Dietitian differ from a Health Coach, Health Counselor, Nutrition Coach or Holistic Wellness Provider?

As people have become more interested in nutrition and overall health, there has been a rise in programs and services disseminating nutrition information.  Additionally, online nutrition schools are emerging, many of which have no prerequisite to enter.  They usually do not require or produce a Bachelor’s degree and can be finished in less than a year online.  There is typically not a licensure governing the practices of Health Coaching or Nutrition Coaching, and they are not reimbursable by insurance plans.  Registered Dietitians have a minimum Baccalaureate degree granted by a U.S. regionally accredited college or university, or foreign equivalent.  There are a variety of specialty certifications available within the field, including sports nutrition, eating disorders, pediatrics and diabetes to name a few.  Many RDs practicing in outpatient or private practice settings employ a therapeutic approach as a Nutrition Therapist, guiding their clients toward balanced and normalized eating patterns.

Christie Caggiani, RD, LDN, CEDRD is Co-Founder of Therapeutic Oasis of the Palm Beaches in Delray Beach, Florida. Christie is a Registered Dietitian within the State of Florida and is certified as an Eating Disorder Registered Dietitian from the International Association of Eating Disorders Professionals (IAEDP).

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