The Difference Between Dietitians, Nutritionists

Cassie Vanderwall, dietitian with Rush University Medical Center in Chicago, IllinoisBy Cassie Vanderwall

Registered dietitians across America are celebrating because March 9 was Registered Dietitian Day and March is National Nutrition Month. This month is special to us because we get to celebrate being a registered dietitian. I wanted to celebrate by sharing the differences between a registered dietitian and a nutritionist.

Dietitians and nutritionists are not created equal. Dietitians hold the legally protected “RD” credential that is reserved for clinicians who have been approved by the Commission on Dietetic Registration of the American Dietetic Association. Some RDs call themselves “nutritionists” because this term is more familiar to the American public than dietitian, but it is important to note that not all nutritionists are RDs.

RDs have met specific education requirements including:

  • Bachelor’s degree
  • Completed a dietetic internship with at least 1,200 hours of supervised practice
  • Passed a registered examination
  • Completed 75 hours of professional education every five years to maintain their certification

A registered dietitian (RD) has specific expertise and resources to carry out the entire medical nutrition therapy process, including nutrition diagnosis, intervention, monitoring and evaluation. Persons without this credential can provide general, but not individualized nutrition education. MNT is reserved for RDs. It is important to note that Medicare and most insurance plans only reimburse MNT for diabetes and kidney disease when it is provided by a RD.

For more information on the dietetics profession, you can check RD Facts, or visit the American Dietetic Association’s Web page, EatRight.org.  If you are interested in meeting with a registered dietitian at Rush University Medical Center, call (312) 942-5926

Cassie Vanderwall, MS RD LDN CPT, is an outpatient dietitian and certified personal trainer who works in the Nutrition and Wellness Center at Rush University Medical Center.

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