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30 Oct

What is the difference between a Registered Dietitian and a Nutritionist?

All registered dietitians are nutritionists, but not all nutritionists are registered dietitians.

What does that mean exactly?

There are no guidelines or requirements to become a “nutritionist”. This is not to say they are not qualified, many are, but the title “nutritionist” leads to a gray area. The process to become a registered dietitian is comprehensive and accredited by the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics.

What is the first step to become a Registered Dietitian?

The first step is to complete an accredited bachelor’s or master’s degree involving nutrition coursework that matches the pre-requisites for earning a verification statement that qualifies you to apply for a Dietetic Internship, also known as a Didactic Program in Dietetics. There is another route called a Coordinated Program in Dietetics, meaning you complete your course work and hands-on training all in one program. The highlights of dietetic nutrition coursework include chemistry, anatomy, physiology, microbiology, food sciences, and counseling courses. Dietetics is more than just teaching people how to eat healthy. It is also the understanding of how it affects others from a socioeconomic standpoint and the specific dietsneeded for various health conditions.

What is the application process for a Dietetic Internship?

The Dietetic Internship application and assignment process is similar to the doctor residency process or, in less healthcare related terms, sorority recruitment.
It is a matching process that involves ranking.
You select the programs you want to apply for, rank them,and hope those programs selected and ranked you.

All dietetic internship programs must have a minimum of 1200 supervised practice hours in order to be an accredited program that can offer you the eligibility to become a registered dietitian.Most programs are unpaid, but there are some that do give you a stipend or have free tuition. Dietetic internships are rotational programs that require an incredible amount of research and provide you with various experiences in different settings.

What does the work entail in a Dietetic Internship?

Patient interviewing and conducting health education classes
Nutrition assessments involving the review of medications, analysis of lab work, and understanding the medical history

Rule of thumb: if you do not understand something, look it up!

What is next?

After completing a Dietetic Internship program, you are eligible for the RD exam. After studying for a significant period of time and passing the RD exam, which you find out immediately after completing the exam, you qualify to work in hospitals, long-term care facilities, government funded programs, and anywhere that prefers or requires a registered dietitian.

Bottom line:

Nutritionists are not required the type of training that dietitians are required to have. Essentially anyone can call themselves a nutritionist. The range can be from someone who decides they like nutrition to someone who had completed a master’s degreein nutrition. As dietitians, our competition stems from nutritionists and the internet itself. There are constantly new articles coming out with what gives you the most “nutritional benefit”. It is important to find your nutrition expert, a registered dietitian, who can present to you with evidence-basedinformation and their expertise.

written by Sara Langnas Registered Dietitian at Dr Refresh

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