“Lose some weight,” “Don’t eat fat,” “Reduce sodium,” “Stay away from sugar,” “Eat smaller portions.” Sound familiar? Good advice, certainly, but it’s so vague. Carefully planning your meals and changing eating behavior are the most difficult aspects of improving your health. And if you have diabetes, it’s a whole lot more than just avoiding sugar. For that reason your doctor may suggest that you visit a registered dietitian nutritionist (RDN) for help managing your diet.
As an expert in nutrition, an RDN can translate scientific information—or vague advice, into clear, understandable information you can use.
March is National Nutrition Month, when the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics reminds everyone to return to the basics of healthful eating. It is also when the Academy celebrates Registered Dietitian Nutritionist Day (March 9), honoring the contributions of RDNs as the food and nutrition experts.
“Because virtually anyone can call him or herself a ‘nutritionist,’ it is vital for consumers to know where they should turn when they are seeking timely, accurate and science-based nutrition advice from an educated, trained and trusted professional,” said registered dietitian nutritionist and Academy Spokesperson Vandana Sheth. “Consumers should turn to a registered dietitian nutritionist.”
Here are a few of the many benefits of working with an RDN.
The highest level of nutrition counseling: Registered dietitian nutritionists meet stringent academic and professional requirements, including earning at least a bachelor’s degree, completing a supervised practice program and passing a registration examination. RDNs must also complete continuing professional educational requirements to maintain registration. More than half of all RDNs have also earned master’s degrees or higher.
“Congress and federal health agencies like the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services have recognized that registered dietitians’ expertise in nutrition and health is more extensive than any other health profession,” Sheth said.
All registered dietitians are nutritionists—but not all nutritionists are registered dietitians. The Academy’s Board of Directors and Commission on Dietetic Registration have determined that those who hold the credential registered dietitian (RD) may optionally use registered dietitian nutritionist (RDN) instead. The two credentials have identical meanings. Many states—including New York, have licensure laws for dietitians. As a member of the New York State Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics, I hold New York State Certification as a Dietitian/Nutritionist (CDN). You’ll notice my credentials include both RD and CDN.