Earlier this week, I participated in a career fair at my kids elementary school- yes, you read that right – elementary school. The one piece of infromation that students and teachers alike seemd to be confused about was the difference between a dietitian and a nutritionist. So, I would like to take a moment to clarify.In the simplest terms: All dietitians are nutritionists, but not all nutritionists are dietitians. As a matter of fact, the term “nutritionist” is not a legal term. That means anybody can call themselves a nutritionist. The kids got a chuckle out of that and all proclaimed themselves Nutritionists!
It does make me a little crazy that The American Dietetics Association does little in the way of educating consumers about the difference between a registered dietitian and someone who has their “certificate” from an online program. Unfortunately, most consumers don’t know there is a difference and probably don’t even care. A registered dietitian (to become registered) must complete a degree in nutrition, complete 1,000 hours of supervised interning and pass the national registration exam. I believe there are other paths to become an RD, but all paths are equally as rigerous. Once registered, RD’s must complete 75 credits of continuing education every 5 years.
Now, don’t get me wrong, I am not saying that every nutritionist out there isn’t qualified to promote or educate consumers on nutrition, but the fact that it is so easy to call yourself a nutritionist makes good nutritionists look bad as well. I have seen enough people out there promoting nutrition that are far from nutrition experts, to realize that it is cetainly a feeding frenzy when it comes to nutrition.
If you are looking for a nutritionist, how can you, the consumer, make sure you find a qualified person? The easiest way is to look for the letters RD after their name. If you don’t see RD, you definitely want to question the person on their qualifications and then make your decision depending on their answers. Also keep in mind, is this person selling or promoting a product or supplement? If so, are you comfortable receiving nutrition advice from someone who is in the business of selling products?
If the person has the letters RD after their name, you can be certain they are qualified to give nutrition advice and are in fact, a food and nutrition expert! Without the RD, it may take a little more detective work on the part of the consumer to determine the level of expertise!
If you would like to find a RD in your area, visit the www.eatright.org site and click on the “find a registered dietitian” button on the top right side.