One of the most common things people ask when I tell them that I am a nutrition major is… “Oh, so you want to be a Nutritionist?”. Well, not exactly; I want to be a Registered Dietitian (RD). There is a difference and it is important to understand this difference to know where to get reliable nutrition information.
Anyone can call themselves a Nutritionist. There is no education, class, test, or experience you need to be a Nutritionist, so theoretically we are all Nutritionists.
In order to become a Registered Dietitian, it gets a little more complicated. Registered Dietitians are food and nutrition experts that are certified by the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics. To be an RD, one must complete a bachelor’s degree, Dietetic Internship, and pass a national exam.
A Dietetic Internship is 1200 hour supervised practice program that is accredited by the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics. To be eligible to apply for this program, one must complete the DPD (Didactic Program in Dietetics) classes. These include Nutrition classes along with Microbiology, Organic Chemistry, Statistics, English, plus many others. The DPD program is usually completed at the same time as a bachelor’s degree, which is the point in the process that I am at now.
Once accepted to a Dietetic Internship, one completes different rotations in three areas: Clinical Nutrition, Food Service, and Public Health/Community Nutrition. Depending on the internship, different amounts of time are spent in each of these three areas. Once one completes the Internship, he/she is eligible to sit for the national exam to become a Registered Dietitian.
Besides boring you to death with my education plans for the next few years, the point of this is so you understand where nutrition information is coming from and how accurate it is. Books and articles that have authors who put “Nutritionist” in front of their name may not contain the most reliable information. Those who have RD (Registered Dietitian) or RDN* (Registered Dietitian Nutritionist) after their name have gone through extensive coursework and are probably sharing more accurate and trustworthy information. For now, I am just a Nutritionist but give me a few years and hopefully I will be Dana Goldberg, RDN!
*RDN is a new title that is being given out in place of RD. They are exactly the same thing just different words.