Should You Get a Registered Dietitian-Nutritionist?

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A registered dietitian isn’t just someone who tells you what to eat or puts you on a meal plan. Their skill goes well beyond that. These experts are professionals who have specialized training in food, diet, and nutrition and can help clients with a range of needs, including weight loss, medical nutrition therapy, family eating, and more.

In order for someone to call themselves a registered dietitian (RD) or a registered dietitian-nutritionist (RDN) (two credentials that mean the same thing), they have to meet certain criteria. That includes completing a minimum of a bachelor’s degree and an accredited supervised practice program, passing a national exam, and taking continuing professional educational requirements, according to the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics. In addition, states may also require licensing, and you may see this reflected with the letters LDN (licensed dietitian-nutritionist) or CDN (certified dietitian-nutritionist), the Academy explains.

Be wary of the general term “nutritionist,” says Lauri Wright, PhD, RDN, chair of the department of nutrition and dietetics and spokesperson for the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics. “‘Nutritionist’ isn’t a protected term. Anyone can call themselves this — and they do. It’s important to know the credentials of the person you’re considering speaking with. If they call themselves a nutritionist, you want to be hesitant to start working with them,” she says.

Therefore, one of the more important points to remember before hiring a dietitian is to make sure that they are an accredited RD or RDN first. In doing that, you can be confident that they have the expertise necessary to guide you safely and appropriately, no matter your concern.

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