“Are you a Nutritionist?”
“Yes, I am a Registered Dietitian.”
“What’s the difference?”
“Thank you for asking! All Registered Dietitians are Nutritionists, but not all Nutritionists are Registered Dietitians.”
There are many types of personalities within dietitians, just like there are in any profession, and there are many ways dietitians work to help inspire people to make better choices, both proactively and reactively when it comes to health and food choices.
I’ve always been a fan of proactive, which is why I started my career in hospital based health and fitness centers. Loved being a dietitian in a gym that had exercise physiologists, doctors and athletic trainers in addition to other medical professionals. We had classes, individual programs and all kinds of ways to interact with the public. I even started the open gym volleyball league as one center’s dietitian, but that’s a story for another day.
Yes, I did work in a hospital too, doing outpatient education, community education classes, and even a cable cooking show with a fellow dietitian. I also educated patients while they were still in the hospital with a new diagnosis of diabetes or heart disease. I’ve worked in grocery stores, for farmers, and as a consultant. That’s the beauty of this profession. It’s food and nutrition science. It’s talking with people. So really, it’s everywhere you and your food want to be.
Why am I telling you all of this? Because I wrote this on Registered Dietitian Day, now known as Registered Dietitian Nutritionist Day. As I was on the treadmill, I got to thinking about how lucky I am to be a dietitian, but realizing that we are misunderstood. So my goal here is to help you understand why you should have a deeper conversation or understanding about the person you trust to give you nutrition and food advice. Forget the infomercial person. Forget the person who looks really good but has goofy or worse, scary ideas on what a person should eat because they have no training.
My job as a Registered Dietitian (Registered Dietitian Nutritionist) is to listen to you, understand your food preferences, medical history, budget, interest in cooking, health needs, etc., and take the food and nutrition science/knowledge I have, and marry the two and make recommendations that make sense for you and honor who you are and what your food and nutrition needs are. Food is personal. Food and nutrition is fun to chat about, but food and nutrition as a profession can literally change your life and help you improve your health. Know that I am here for you when you need me and that when you talk to a dietitian like me, it’s about you – not me.
Over the years, I’ve had countless conversations to explain that Registered Dietitian is a profession that has standards in education, an internship program, a national exam, a professional portfolio to help ensure we stay current in our knowledge, and most states also have licensure. So I realized it’s my duty (my pleasure) to make sure you know this. And that it’s ok to ask your nutrition expert what makes them a credible resource. Please read the links provided above, and please note if you see RD or RDN, it means the same thing – the N just helps you know that this nutritionist has RD in front of it and education standing behind it.