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It's Registered Dietitian Day!
Written by March 9, 2011

Ruth Ann Carpenter, MS, RD

Lead Integrator
Health Integration, LLC

It’s Registered Dietitian Day!

Yes, I'm a registered dietitian. And no, I'm not writing this blog to toot my own horn! I'm writing this blog to inform the highly misinformed public (health professionals included) about who registered dietitians (RDs) are and why they are the most valuable and credible source of timely, scientifically-based food and nutrition information.

Let's start with some facts:

  • RDs have degrees (undergraduate and often graduate) in nutrition, dietetics, public health or a related field from well-respected, accredited colleges and universities; completed an internship; and passed a national examination.
  • RDs are the food and nutrition experts who can translate the science of nutrition into practical solutions for healthy living.
  • RDs use their nutrition expertise to help individuals make unique, positive lifestyle changes.
  • RDs work throughout the community in hospitals, schools, public health clinics, nursing homes, fitness centers, food management, food industry, universities, research, and private practice.
  • RDs are advocates for advancing the nutritional status of Americans and people around the world.

It's important to distinguish the "RD" title from the "nutritionist" title, as anyone, regardless of their education and scientific knowledge, can call them self a "nutritionist." It's also important to understand legal scope of practice when providing guidance on dietary matters. ACSM's Health and Fitness Journal published a great article on this topic, providing examples of what types of topics should be limited to registered, licensed dietitians and topics that all health professionals can (and should!) address. In our online Providing Dietary Guidance course we provide this chart:

Within Scope of Practice (for a health professional who is not an RD)
  • Providing general information about basic nutrition and nutrients
  • Informing clients of the principles of the Dietary Guidelines for Americans
  • Providing information about public health tools such as MyPyramid
  • Guiding or “coaching” people to use cognitive and behavioral strategies for the adoption of healthy eating patterns
  • Working with generally healthy people
  • Referring clients to dietetics and medical professionals as needed
Not Within Scope of Practice (for a health professional who is not an RD)
  • Working on diet changes with people who have medical conditions or are under the care of a registered dietitian or physician for a diet-related medical condition
  • Diagnosing a nutrition-related condition or problem
  • Giving a special diet or giving a specific meal plan
  • Giving diet counseling – giving specific recommendations for nutrient intakes
  • Recommending dietary supplements
  • Using the title, “Dietitian,” “Certified Nutrition Counselor,” “Nutritionist” or similar term

So, if you're looking for specific dietary advice or working with a client who needs specific dietary advice, seek the help of an RD! To find one in your area, go to the American Dietetic Association's web site and click on "Find a Registered Dietitian" at the top, right corner of the page. You might also be interested in working or partnering with an RD with a specialty board certification. The following can be obtained with a minimum amount of practice hours/years and an additional board certification exam:

-Board Certified Specialist in Pediatric Nutrition
-Board Certified Specialist in Renal Nutrition
-Board Certified Specialist in Sports Dietetics
-Board Certified Specialist in Gerontological Nutrition
-Board Certified Specialist in Oncology Nutrition

If you're looking for general healthy eating advice or working with a client who needs general healthy eating advice, you can probably do this yourself! There are many great resources on the Internet including: http://www.mypyramid.gov/, www.fruitsandveggiesmatter.gov, and www.nutrition.gov. As I mentioned in my previous blog, while the science of nutrition is very complex, the are of eating (healthfully) is very simple!

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