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Looking for a Registered Dietitian (RD) or a Nutritionist? You make the call!
by Amy Carlson, MS, RD, LD

Are you a dietitian or a nutritionist? I don’t like calling you a dietitian cause it makes me think of a hairnet and serving up food"! This is a very common question that registered dietitians get from patients, clients, other health professionals and even family members. So what is the difference between these two seemingly interchangeable professions? What is a Registered Dietitian?
Let’s start with the Registered Dietitian. The registered dietitian is a health care professional that provides medical nutrition therapy in many different settings. Registered dietitians are professionals, who provide reliable, objective nutrition information, separate facts from fads and translate the latest scientific findings into easy-to-understand nutrition information.

The American Dietetic Association gives a good description of "what a registered dietitian is"...The letters "RD" after a person's name signify that he/she has completed academic and experience requirements established by the Commission on Dietetic Registration, the credentialing agency for ADA, including a minimum of a bachelor's degree granted by a U.S. regionally accredited college/university, or equivalent, and an accredited pre-professional experience program. RDs demonstrate their knowledge of food and nutrition by successfully passing a national credentialing exam and by completing ongoing continuing professional development." Dietitians must apply for an internship in the same way a physician applies for his/her residency. If they are placed in a program, they complete over 900 hours of training and follow this by taking a National exam. Registered Dietitians practice in a wide variety of settings including clinical based inpatient care in hospitals or long term care facilities assessing nutrition needs of patients, research, managers in food service arenas, corporate wellness, and outpatient counseling both in hospitals and in private practice. Most individuals who are "seeking a dietitian" are typically seeking them for individual counseling for weight loss, eating disorder or a diet instruction for a medical condition. These dietitians typically provide their services in private practice or in a hospital-based program. Depending on the needs/diagnosis of the person seeking treatment insurance may cover some or all of the consult. Registered dietitians often pair with licensed therapists to provide counseling for eating disorder patients. They usually work closely with other health care professionals including the individual’s physician to provide appropriate care. Registered dietitians practicing offer varying services depending on their specialty and can provide a diet analysis, individual consult and individual meal plan according to your needs along with other services. Their fees vary depending upon geographic location, length of visit and services provided. Some registered dietitians refer to themselves as "nutritionists" for convenience and because their patients are more familiar with this terminology.

What is a nutritionist?
There are many different definitions and requirements for being a "nutritionist". The most basic thing to recognize is that anyone with "basic nutrition knowledge" can call themselves a "Nutritionist". Many people take general nutrition courses and after taking these courses call themselves "Nutritionists" and set up shop counseling patients on anything from supplement use to meal plans. Other people calling themselves "Nutritionists" are very qualified often having a B.S. in Nutrition followed sometimes by a Ph.D. in Nutrition Science. Individuals with these advanced degrees are often not doing nutrition counseling in the community but are often in research or academics. Some individuals receive a B.S. in nutrition but do not choose to do an internship and some may receive an extra certification so they can use the title "Certified Clinical Nutritionist". These individuals are likely qualified to help guide someone in weight loss or even answer questions about supplement use and other various basic information but they do not necessarily have the same medical training that a dietitian receives. Some people may receive an Associates Degree in Nutrition, which would require two years of study from an accredited program. Unfortunately, there are some organizations offering a "Certification" in Nutrition if you pay a large sum of money for less than two full days worth of courses. None of these individuals can bill insurance companies for their services.

What is the take home message?
It is very important to investigate the credentials of the "nutritionist" that you are planning on seeing for your individual needs. If the individual has RD after their name they must meet the requirements mentioned above but it's still worth talking to them before you make an appointment so that you feel comfortable with their expertise. If they call themselves a "Nutritionist"...investigate! You are worth the very best and deserve the most qualified professional. Nutrition is a dynamic field with a continual onslaught of new scientific information that needs some deciphering. Seek someone that can help you meet your individual nutrition needs and goals. Before making an appointment, speak with the person you are planning on seeing and see what services they provide, if they have similar philosophies that you do and that their fee structures are up front. Invest in your health!

Amy B. Carlson, MS, RD, LD is a registered dietitian and consults clients in the greater Houston area. To contact Amy for an appointment call 713.978.1713 or e-mail her at abcdietitian@houston.rr.com.

View Amy's Bio
View our frequently asked nutrition questions & answers




Weight Training
Lat Pulldowns
Pulldowns are a great exercise for the back muscles but avoid pulling the bar behind the head. Pull the bar down in front of the body toward the collar bone and with the bar just below your chin. Pulling the bar behind the head puts undue stress on the shoulders and rotator cuff.
Running
Avoiding Shin Splints
Do you have lower leg pain or shin splints from running? Running on hard surfaces, worn out running shoes and weak calf muscles could be the culprit. Try running on soft trails, buying a new pair of running shoes or adding calf exercises to your weight training routine.
Walking
The Talk Test
A great way to make sure you are staying in your aerobic fat-burning range is the talk test. If you cannot comfortably carry on a conversation with your walking partner you probably need to bring down the intensity to assure yourself that you are burning fat.
Fat Burning
Your Anaerobic Threshold
A great way to make sure you are burning fat during cardio sessions is knowing your anaerobic threshold or where your heart rate zone needs to be to burn fat stores. Find a gym or fitness center that offers anaerobic/VO2 testing. Merlino Fitness offers anaerobic threshold testing every month. Check out the link below for more details.
Merlino Fitness Metabolic Testing
Nutrition
Keys to Weight Loss
If you are trying to drop weight make sure you incorporate the following to get you on your way. Drink lots of water, don't skip meals (especially breakfast), do not eat late night meals or snacks after 7 or 8 pm and build as much activity into your everyday life as you can. Michael also recommends joining weight watchers to anyone trying to lose weight and keep it off long term.
Nutritional Supplements
Stay Away From Ephedra!
The weight loss/energy supplement is in the news again. Supplement companies that market this controversial supplement claim it is safe although many have died from this dangerous supplement. Make sure you check the labels of your nutritional supplements as many are laced with ephedra, also known as ephedrine or ma huang (the actual herbal).
Quick Tip Archives
Our archived collection of fitness and nutrition tips to help you stay focused and fit.
Tip Archives

Soy Dream
Ice Cream Sandwiches
Take the edge off those sweet cravings with this healthy soy alternative to an ice cream sandwich without the unwanted calories and guilt.
Product Website
Eggology Egg Whites
Take the edge off those sweet cravings with this healthy soy alternative to an ice cream sandwich without the unwanted calories and guilt.
Product Website
Grocery Store Archives
Our latest collection of on-line articles to help you stay focuses and fit.
Grocery Archives
 
Fitness
Pamela from Chihuahua, MexicoI work out 5 days a week and can't loose weight. I do spinning, tae bo and many types of cardio. Where am I going wrong?
Answer
Nutrition
Ross from Sidney, AustraliaI am currently trying to eat six small meals per day. Apart from breakfast and dinner, I always seem to forget or skip my meals during the day. I also need some simple, easy meals (snacks) that do not require refrigeration or preparation, apart from the obvious fruits.
Answer
Running
Amanda from Manitoba, CanadaWhat should I eat the morning of my track meet?
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