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What is a Registered Dietitian Nutritionist?

Also known as: Dietitian, Dietician, Registered Dietitian, RD, Registered Dietician Nutritionist, RDN.

A registered dietitian nutritionist (RDN) is someone who is a food and nutrition expert. They work in a variety of community settings, such as nursing homes, health clinics, hospitals, schools, and fitness centres. Registered dietitian nutritionists advocate health and nutrition and use their expertise to help individuals make positive changes in their lives.

Note: The RDN credential is offered as an option to the registered dietitian (RD) who wants to emphasize the nutrition aspect of their credential. The RD and RDN credential have identical meanings and legal trademark definitions.

What does a Registered Dietitian Nutritionist do?

A registered dietitian nutritionist is a highly qualified professional who addresses today’s complex issues surrounding food and nutrition. As experts advising on diet, food and nutrition, registered dietitians have an important role in mental health promotion and disease prevention. He or she can fill a variety of roles, depending on their place of employment.

As Educators
- they instruct aspiring dietitians to become professionals and prepare them for practice. Nutrition professors on a tenure track will need a doctorate level degree, and those working directly in departments of food, nutrition and dietetics will need to have earned status as a Registered Dietitian. Day-to-day duties will include student mentoring, academic advising, teaching lectures or lab sessions to undergraduate and graduate students, and evaluating their performance.

As Policy Makers
- they are involved with all levels of government, advising and working on strategies to improve health and nutrition awareness in schools and in advertising. They work with state and federal legislators and agencies on public policy issues, such as obesity, child nutrition, food safety, dietary guidelines, medicare coverage for medical nutrition therapy, and licensure of registered dietitians (just to name a few).

As Leaders
- they are involved in all aspects of food systems, such as food production, food marketing, food service management, and food safety. They are strong advocates for science-based decision-making particularly as it relates to the continual strengthening and integrity of the food regulatory system. They work with like-minded individuals and organizations including government, health organizations, culinary experts, product developers, teacher associations, educators, marketing professionals, and researchers to help achieve healthy eating and lifestyle goals.

As Researchers
- they are involved in discovering new and better ways to improve patient care, prevent nutrition-related illnesses, promote health, and are interested in both supporting and producing high quality research evidence that supports the practice of dietitians. Research assistant positions exist for those with master’s degrees and bachelor’s degrees, however lead nutrition researchers need a doctorate degree. Nutrition research can be conducted in food science labs, university-based medical centres, and sports testing labs. Typically, these jobs are often grant-funded, which means that outside funding from the government or other sources pays for the position as needed to complete a specific research project. Research jobs may or may not have teaching assignments.

As Nutrition Specialists
- they support and counsel clients on how to make changes to their eating habits and way of life, thereby helping them prevent chronic illnesses such as diabetes, heart disease, osteoporosis, kidney disease, high blood pressure, and cancer. They take complex medical and nutrition research, break it down so it's easy to understand, and help their clients make daily food choices and plan healthy meals. They can help clients manage a medical condition with a special diet, manage weight loss or weight gain, alleviate food allergies and digestive problems, advise on sports nutrition, advise on baby or toddler nutrition, or simply help with interpreting nutrition facts on food labels.

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What is the workplace of a Registered Dietitian Nutritionist like?

Registered dietitian nutritionists work in many settings, such as hospitals, nursing homes, the pharmaceutical industry, universities, community health centres, public health units, food manufacturing businesses, government, sports and recreation facilities, and many other places.

In private practice, registered dietitians work under contract with health-care or food companies, or in their own business. They may provide services to restaurant managers, food vendors, distributors, athletes, nursing home residents, or company employees.

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Further Reading

  • Distinguishing Between Dietitian vs Nutritionist www.nutritioned.org

    Many people mistakenly use the terms “dietitian” and “nutritionist” interchangeably. Although these two professions are undoubtedly related, they maintain distinctive qualities. The biggest difference between dietitians and nutritionists lies in the legal restrictions that each title carries.

  • The Makings Of A Registered Dietitian www.katheats.com

    Two years after graduating from college with a liberal arts degree and losing 30 pounds, I decided to go back to school and become a Registered Dietitian. Here is my story!

  • How to Become a Registered Dietitian www.fannetasticfood.com

    Here’s everything you need to know about going back to school to become an RD, right on one easy page. I wish I’d had this on hand when I started my own journey!

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