Registered Dietitian vs. Nutritionist, Holistic Health Coach…
If you’re the average American, you’ve probably heard hundreds of ways about how to eat. In fact, almost every corner we turn, there is some “new” way of eating. In southern California- even as much as I love my home, we are especially guilty, there is always something. It seems on every corner, there is a new advertisement for a nutritionist, a holistic health coach or a powerful program for a full body detox. (We’ll talk about “detoxes” later…as in our Kidneys! Not so much as in green juice…)
Who is the real expert when it comes to food and nutrition? Who can you trust to guide you to a state of better nourishment and ultimate health? While I believe the authentic answer is that you are the ultimate authority of your body and you should decide what and how much food is right for you, a Registered Dietitian can help you weed through what seems like a never ending amount of nutrition advice. No more typing in questions to “Professor Google” and self diagnosing yourself! It’s also important to note that health and wellness shouldn’t be just limited to nutrition- but encompasses many other aspects to achieve health and wellness.
Why is that?
A Registered Dietitian is the only food and nutrition expert who has met the minimum academic and professional requirements to qualify for the credential “RD.” You wouldn’t trust your car to someone who isn’t a mechanic, so why would you trust your health to anything else but a professional?
Why should I trust a Registered Dietitian?
You can rest assured that a Registered Dietitian has your best interest in hand and has proven that they are capable of providing you with safe, effective, research based guidelines about nutrition.
To become a Registered Dietitian, a candidate must obtain a minimum of a Bachelors degree that contains course work approved by our accrediting agency, the Accreditation Council for Nutrition and Dietetics. Course work includes instruction in foodservice systems managements, business, economics, biochemistry, microbiology and chemistry. During my course work I’ve had the opportunity to create recipes, design a complete food service system, compose meal plans and of course, separate fruit cocktail (other nutrition folks will understand the last one).
After completion of a Bachelors degree, dietetic candidates must apply for an accredited, supervised, experimental practice program at a health care facility, community agency or foodservice corporation. Internships are competitive, and currently only about 50% of individuals who apply for dietetic internships are accepted to a program. This is related to the fact that there are more students wishing to become an RD than internships available to supervise and train future RD’s. For this reason, dietetic students are often involved in a variety of community nutrition programs as volunteers or work in the nutrition field to help them gain a competitive edge when applying to internships. Wish me luck as I’ll be applying to internships next year!
After successful completion of a supervised practice program, candidates must pass a national examination from the Commission on Dietetic Registration- upon passing the exam, they are then licensed as a Registered Dietitian! Additionally, RD’s must continue to complete continuing professional education requirements to ensure they are current in delivering the most scientifically based research in the nutrition field. This ensures that RD’s are abreast of the latest happenings in the field and that they can adjust their practice accordingly.
It’s not uncommon for Registered Dietitians to hold additional certification in specialized areas of practice, for example many hold expertise in areas of diabetes, pediatric nutrition or eating disorders. Additionally, many RD’s are cross-trained in related fields and hold expertise in related fields such as fitness, lactation, and public health. According to the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics, 50% of RD’s hold advanced degrees ranging from public health to business management (1). For example, my interest in women’s health led me to pursue my Personal Training certification (CPT) and complete a certificate to provide lactation education (CLE).
With such rigorous academic and professional training, you can be sure that a Registered Dietitian can work with you towards your specific health needs.
Why chose and RD over a Nutritionist?
Aside from the fact that the Registered Dietitian credential is the culmination of one’s example of their professional and academic achievements, the credential is legally protected by the accrediting agency, the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics. Essentially, anyone can call themselves a “nutritionist” “health coach” or “holistic nutritionist” without any education or training. Many nutritionists or health coaches I have seen do engage in some type of training, however this training is often quite limited to a few months in comparison to the specific requirements, practice and registration needed to become a Registered Dietitian.
If you have a specific health concern, or believe you may benefit from consulting with a Registered Dietitian, the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics provides a great tool to help you locate a professional in your area.
In Goodness, Health & Wholeness,
Find a Registered Dietitian Nutritionist:
“ What is a Registered Dietitian?” The Academy Of Nutrition and Dietetics. RSS. Web. June 6 2014. http://www.eatright.org/Public/content.aspx?id=6713.
While I am a dietetic student, I am a not yet a Registered Dietitian. The comments and writing on this blog are not meant to replace consulting with a medical professional such as your doctor or a Registered Dietitian. The content here is meant specifically for educational and wellness purposes only.