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What is a Registered Dietitian?

Welcome to my first blog post! Let me start off by sharing what a Registered Dietitian (RD) is & what one can do for you.

A Registered Dietitian is a credentialed nutrition expert. Unlike a “nutritionist” or “health coach” a Registered Dietitian must obtain a 4-year undergraduate degree from a university or college that has a Didactic Program in Dietetics (these programs are surveyed periodically to ensure they fulfill certain requirements, coursework, etc.) - this usually ends up being a B.S. in Nutrition. Some RDs have an undergraduate degree in a different area & then get a Master of Science degree in nutrition. Starting in 2020, a Master’s degree will be required to become an RD.

Next, RDs-to-be must complete 1200 supervised practice hours through an accredited Dietetic Internship, during which they must meet certain competencies of nutrition practice. These programs are also surveyed periodically to ensure they’re up to established standards. Obtaining an internship is no small feat - last I checked, the match rate is ~50%. After successfully completing the internship, it’s time to sit down for the RD exam. Then voila! RD status. RDs must complete continuing education credits to maintain RD status & licensure. This is especially important in a field like nutrition because it’s a relatively young science. We are constantly learning more about nutrition, its role in achieving optimal health and its ability to attenuate disease.

What’s the difference between a Registered Dietitian (RD) and a Registered Dietitian Nutritionist (RDN)?

Nothing. A few years ago, the Academy for Nutrition & Dietetics (the national professional association for RDs) attempted to tackle the confusion between dietitian vs nutritionist by adding Nutritionist to the RD title. We (as RDs) can choose to use RD or RDN. I have used both. Bottom line: if you see a nutritionist, make sure their official title is preceded by RD.

Why does it matter who you get nutrition advice from?

Registered Dietitians are bound by science. There are so many confusing takes on nutrition. The media both helps & hurts this when they report on the latest nutrition stories with a summarizing 3 sentences. You have to understand research to realize the big problem with this. You can get a study to tell you anything by manipulating the research design and methods. That’s where RDs come in -- after we read the whole study (yep), we can interpret it in context with all the other literature we’ve read since we’re already up on the latest research

So, while the media always seems to present in a suggestive way, an RD will never say anything definitively based on a single study, or even two or three. Basically, if you want the truth (as far as science knows), see an RD. What really worries me, though, is what they don’t know can hurt you. Many people like to dip into the world of dishing out nutrition advice - naturopaths, chiropractors, health coaches, acupuncturists, massage therapists, and well-meaning friends & family. I worry about what they don’t know to ask.

Let’s use the seemingly sound nutrition advice of increasing fruit & vegetable consumption - good idea for everybody, right? It might not be for someone with stage 4 kidney disease who intermittently has high potassium levels. If this individual were to follow this advice, and eat a lot more avocados, tomatoes and star fruit, it could lead to a fatal cardiac arrest. Yikes! Even nutrition students or new dietetic interns come in and make these mistakes - that’s why supervised practice is so key. It’s one thing to read it in a book -- it’s a whole different thing to apply it in real life.

What can an RD do for me?

A lot of things! An RD takes an individualized approach, incorporating medical history, culture, and personal preference to help you achieve your nutrition goals & ultimately optimal health. Whether your goals relate to weight management, gastrointestinal troubles, or wanting to eat in a more ethical, environmentally-conscious way, an RD has the knowledge and skills necessary to provide effective nutrition education & counseling, healthy cooking tips, and answer all of your diet questions. Find out more about what an RD can do for you here. Ready to work with me? Let’s get started!

#RegisteredDietitian #RD #RDN #Nutritionist

Lindsay Keeney is a Registered Dietitian Nutritionist specializing in irritable bowel syndrome, digestive disorders and integrative / functional nutrition. 

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