It’s National Nutrition Month #NNM, and today, March 11, is National Registered Dietitian Nutritionist Day! So in honor of the day, I thought it might be helpful to answer the question that is often posed to me and other RDNs – What’s the difference between a Nutritionist, a Registered Dietitian (RD) and a Registered Dietitian Nutritionist (RDN)?
Let’s start with the difference between a Registered Dietitian (RD) and a Registered Dietitian Nutritionist (RDN). It is important to understand that the title Registered Dietitian (RD) and Registered Dietitian Nutritionist (RDN) means the same thing. Several years ago, the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics (AND) and the Commission on Dietetics Registration (CDR) approved the optional use of the RDN credential by RDs, and it is up to the individual RD (or RDN) to decide which credential they would like to use. I decided to use the RDN credential since it includes the word nutrition, which is a more accurate description of the services I provide.
Now, on to the other question of the difference between RD/RDNs and Nutritionists. While RD/RDNs and nutritionists often have similar goals – to help people eat a healthier diet and maintain a healthier lifestyle –there’s often a large difference in the level of education and clinical training. RDNs must meet very specific requirements set forth by the Commission on Dietetic Registration (CDR) and the Accreditation Council for Education in Nutrition and Dietetics (ACEND) which at this time includes a BS or MS degree in nutrition, dietetics or nutrition sciences from an accredited program; completion of a supervised practice/dietetic internship (hands-on training in hospitals, nursing homes, outpatient clinics, etc.) and successful completion of a national registration exam administered by CDR with continuing education requirements.
Nutritionists, on the other hand, have many different levels of education and training and the requirements for using the title Nutritionist vary from state to state. For example, Nutritionists may or may not have science-based training in how to provide nutrition counseling and education for people with medical conditions such as diabetes, cardiovascular disease, or celiac disease etc.
In the words of the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics “all registered dietitians are nutritionists but not all nutritionists are registered dietitians.”
Happy Registered Dietitian Nutritionist Day!!