March is National Nutrition Month® (NNM)! Over the next couple of weeks, we’ll delve into the highlights of NNM this year and learn how to make small changes to build a healthy diet that works for us. But today, I wanted to touch on a topic that is near and dear to me. Today is Registered Dietitian Nutritionist Day! Registered Dietitians (RDs) are found in all types of job fields related to food, health and wellness. Our responsibilities can range anywhere from helping patients and clients learn to make better food choices for their health, to teaching food service workers about food safety and allergen awareness, even to helping big brand name companies figure out what information they have to provide on their food labels and websites to keep consumers knowledgeable about their products.
One question us RDs get a lot is what is an RD and how is that different than a nutritionist or health coach? I love getting this question because it gives me a chance to advocate for my profession and help educate people about why they should bring their nutrition-related questions to an RD. A Registered Dietitian is someone who has gone to school and earned a degree in dietetics, nutrition, food science, or other nutrition-related programs. All of us have at least a bachelors degree, but that requirement will soon be changing to a masters. Once we complete our degree, we go through a rigorous 1200-hour internship where we put what we learned in the classroom into practice. These internships usually cover a few different sectors like clinical nutrition (working in a hospital or medical setting), food service management, long-term care (nursing and rehab), community nutrition, pediatric nutrition, and various others. After the 1200 hours are logged, we have to take an exam to earn the national credential of being “Registered”. Many RDs go on to become licensed health professionals with the state department, which can require paying a licensing fee and even taking another exam (depending on your state laws and requirements). We also have to participate in continuing education every year to ensure we keep up with the latest research. These are all the steps we have to take to earn the right to call ourselves Registered Dietitians (or Registered Dietitian Nutritionists – RDNs). Compare this to someone who calls themselves a nutritionist, nutrition expert, or a health coach with a certificate in nutrition. These titles can be taken up by anyone and are not regulated at the state or federal level. Many nutritionists don’t go through a 4-year degree, any type of internship, or national accreditation process. This is why it is so important to bring your nutrition questions to an RD because we have gone through extensive amounts of training to become experts in our field. We use our expertise to help people make personalized, positive lifestyle changes that are backed by research!
If you know a Registered Dietitian (there are a few of us on campus!) and would like to wish them a Happy Registered Dietitian day, send them a message to let them know you appreciate them! To learn more about Registered Dietitian Nutritionist Day, please visit the EatRight website here.
Stay safe, stay healthy!