What is a Registered Dietitian (RD)?
A RD is considered the expert in food and nutrition by applying evidence-based science to designing individual nutrition programs. To have this qualification, individuals must meet the education, practice, and exam requirements set by the Accreditation Council for Education in Nutrition and Dietetics and the Commission on Dietetic Registration.
How is a RD different from a Nutritionist?
The terms “dietitian” and “nutritionist” may not seem all that different but in reality, the requirements for each are very different. This phrase is a good summary: “All registered dietitians are nutritionists, but not all nutritionists are registered dietitians.”
To get the RD credential, an individual must complete a master’s degree in nutrition with standard classwork and supervised practice through an accredited internship or program. Once each of these steps is completed, individuals must pass a national credentialing exam before they can use the title of RD.
Requirements to be a nutritionist are not as specific in terms of education or supervised practice. An individual who has a bachelor’s degree in nutrition may call themself a nutritionist as well as someone who has completed a basic nutrition certificate program online. Without these standards, nutritionists are not credentialed, which can legally limit the extent of nutrition care that can be provided.
What can I expect from meeting with an RD?
The first meeting with an RD may be intimidating, especially if you have struggled with healthy eating. Expect the first appointment to last about 60 minutes and serve as an opportunity for the RD to get to know you better.
Prior to your appointment at MCH, the RD will review your medical records. During the appointment, you will be asked questions on eating habits, sleep quality, stress level, body weight history, etc. This may include a discussion on what you hope to accomplish by meeting with the RD. A nutrition-focused physical exam will likely be conducted, this is a head-to-toe examination of your physical appearance and function to uncover any signs of malnutrition, nutrient deficiencies, or nutrient toxicities. Impressions and findings of the exam will be shared. Before you leave you will be provided with counseling and goal setting specific to your needs and you will be given time to ask questions or clarify your treatment plan. Supportive handouts may be given for you take home.
There are a variety of reasons to meet with an RD, and this expert support is valuable because of the numerous ways in which nutrition can support your overall well-being. Depending on your needs, expect at least one to two shorter follow-up visits with the RD. These sessions, often 30 minutes or less, are helpful to keep you on track with your nutrition goals and allow you to ask questions as you put into place this new lifestyle.
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