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Tuesday, July 9, 2013

What are the main differences in Nutritionist and Registered Dietitian?

I often am asked "are you a nutritionalist, a nutritionist, or whichever it is?"  Well, I must break this down slowly.  Let's take the term nutritionalist out of this question, as the correct term is nutritionist.  There are differences in Nutritionist and Registered Dietitian (RD) however.  

A Nutritionist is someone who has studied nutrition extensively and is an expert in the area of human nutrition.  In the United States, there is state by state regulation as to who can proclaim themselves a Nutritionist and practice within this area of science.   The use of dietitian and nutritionist is often used in a similar manner, however the terms are not interchangeable.  

The Registered Dietitian is a national credential,  legally denoting individuals who have a minimum of a Bachelor's degree in nutrition and/or dietetics and have successfully completed the 1200 supervised practice hours and completed the board examination set forth by the Commission on Dietetic Registration (CDR) and the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics (AND).  Almost half RDs practicing have advanced degrees, and specialize in very specific areas of nutrition.  An RD is the only professional title who can legally provide Medical Nutrition Therapy (MNT) in the United States.  

The bottom line: all Registered Dietitians are nutritionists but not all nutritionists are RDs.  Be careful about who is providing you with your nutrition information!  While there are many people practicing wellness who have been formally educated in the area of nutrition, not all nutritionists have received enough to be the experts in their area.  In fact, many so-called "nutritionists"have little formal education or training in evidenced based nutrition practice.  

Whether you are seeking nutrition services in the Miami area or elsewhere, ask yourself "what specific education and experience does this individual hold that makes them qualified to provide nutrition recommendations to me?"  Also, you may want to take a look at how they practice.  For instance, do they push their use of nutrition products, such as supplements before providing information on food?  Do they recommend specific promises on weight loss or looks that seem unrealistic given the time-frame?  This will give you a good indicator about where they place their personal and business values.  Someone should be working to provide you services to improve your overall feeling of happiness and well-being.   

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