Registered dietitian vs nutritionist: what's the difference and what can a registered dietitian do for you?

Feel pain in a tooth? Your first thought might be, “I need to go to the dentist”. Need help with your taxes or finances? You’d probably go see an accountant or financial planner. Car need a tune-up? Take it to the mechanic! All of these are no-brainers when you’re in need of some help. Yet, when you’re in need of some nutritional guidance, seeing a registered dietitian (RD) may not be your first thought. Many people typically go to their friends, family members or a google search to determine what steps they need to take to get their eating on track. Read on to learn the difference between a registered dietitian vs nutritionist and how a registered dietitian can benefit you!

Registered Dietitian vs. Nutritionist

What is the difference between a registered dietitian vs nutritionist? While the term nutritionist may seem more natural, there is unfortunately no regulation around the term. This means anyone can call themselves a nutritionist. In other words, seeing a nutritionist means you could be working with someone who actually does not have any knowledge in counseling someone about their diet or food intake. On the other hand, registered dietitian is a highly regulated term. To be a RD it is required to have a minimum of a bachelor’s degree in a health related field, as well as complete specific coursework approved by the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics.

RDs also have to complete an accredited, supervised practice program at a health care facility, community agency or foodservice corporation and pass a national exam. Lastly, RDs have continuing professional educational requirements to maintain registration on an ongoing basis. Some RDs may call themselves a nutritionist, but do so by choice because the public is more accustomed to it. When choosing to see someone for nutritional guidance, it’s okay to be choosy! You can ask them about their educational background, their approach to nutrition counseling, and what their specialties are. This can help you feel more comfortable with putting your trust in him or her.

Looking for Answers in Other Places

Earlier I mentioned going to friends, family members or Google for answers. Unfortunately, these methods may lead to a confusing and misinformed outcome. For instance, your friend’s diet may not work with your body or lifestyle. You might try it out, but not see the same results as they do. This can leave you feeling discouraged. In addition, you might try a google search for information about dietary changes to help with diabetes, digestive issues or clearer skin. What may happen is you’ll end up with conflicting information from different sources which can also leave you feeling discouraged or frustrated. Stop wasting your time with this and start finding the answers to your many nutrition and health related questions! Registered dietitians are the food and nutrition experts and here’s why.

Related: no time for an appointment? Here’s the next best thing – check out this list of the top 10 registered dietitian-approved books and documentaries.

What Can an RD Do for You?

There is a lot that a registered dietitian can do for you! Seeing a dietitian on a one-on-one basis or in a group setting can help you develop the knowledge about how to fuel your body the best. What’s great about working with a dietitian on a one-on-one basis is you’ll get personalized advice for your specific needs, challenges and goals. Together, the client and the RD can create an individualized approach to help you navigate nutrition, eating and your overall wellness. RDs can help you with managing various health conditions such as:

  • diabetes
  • high cholesterol
  • blood pressure
  • kidney disease
  • cancer
  • gout and other conditions

RDs can also help if you are experiencing digestive issues such as irritable bowel syndrome (bloating, constipation, diarrhea, and gas), Celiac disease, inflammatory bowel disease, lactose intolerance and other food sensitivities.

Food Allergies

RDs also help people manage food allergies. If you’re interested in changing your weight or relationship to food, a registered dietitian is a great resource because RDs are trained in a patient-centered approach. The RD will work with you to help you reach YOUR goals in a way that you can feel good about.

Sticking to a Plan

Maybe you feel that you already know what or how to eat, but just aren’t following through with your plan. RDs can help with that too. Sometimes it’s not the education or knowledge that influences changes in behavior; rather, a change in our attitude, beliefs and values is needed. With a RD you’ll start to learn how you can make sustainable, realistic changes that can have a big impact on your long term health and wellbeing.

Diet Experimentation & Training Programs

Interested in trying out a vegetarian or vegan diet? Want to know more about how to fuel your exercise routine or sporting event like a marathon or triathlon? Just want to find out more about what to look out for when grocery shopping? RDs can helps with that too! Seeing a registered dietitian for a group event is a great way to learn more about a specific topic and be with like-minded people who have similar questions as you.

Meet with a FFC registered dietitian today and discover what you’ve been missing!

Post written by FFC West Loop registered dietitian Emily Marshall.

About Emily

Emily Marshall is a registered dietitian at FFC West Loop. She loves building relationships and working one-on-one to help people with nutrition, how it fits into their lives and overall health. Want to set up a complimentary consultation with Emily? Email her at emarshall@ffc.com!

 

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