Wednesday, March 13, is Registered Dietitian Day, celebrating the contributions and expertise of RDs as the nation’s food and nutrition experts. 

All registered dietitians are nutritionists – but not all nutritionists are registered dietitians. It’s an important distinction that can matter a great deal to your health. 

To mark Registered Dietitian Day 2013 and to strengthen the link between the science of dietetics and the overall wellness aspects of nutrition, the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics and the Commission on Dietetic Registration have approved the optional use of the credential “registered dietitian nutritionist” by all registered dietitians. 

“Registered Dietitian Day takes place each March – during National Nutrition Month – to recognize the unequalled contributions of RDs in improving the public’s health through food and nutrition,” says registered dietitian nutritionist and Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics President Ethan Bergman. 

The opportunity to use the RDN credential is offered to RDs who want to directly convey the nutrition aspects of their training and expertise. “This option reflects who registered dietitians are and what we do,” Bergman says. 

“Just as our organization included ‘nutrition’ in our new name in 2012, the option of using ‘nutritionist’ in an individual RD’s credential can communicate the broad concept of wellness, including prevention of health conditions, as well as the treatment of conditions that are part of virtually every RD’s practice,” Bergman says. 

“The message for the public is: Look for the RD – and now, the RDN – credential when determining who is the best source of safe and accurate nutrition information,” Bergman says. “All registered dietitians are nutritionists, but not all nutritionists are registered dietitians. So when you’re looking for qualified food and nutrition experts, look for the RD or RDN credential.” 

Registered dietitians and registered dietitian nutritionists must meet stringent academic and professional requirements, including earning at least a bachelor’s degree, completing a supervised practice program and passing a registration examination. RDs and RDNs must also complete continuing professional educational requirements to maintain registration. More than half of all RD and RDNs have also earned master’s degrees or higher. 

“RDs and RDNs translate nutrition science into practical and applicable ways for people to bring nutritious foods into their daily lives. It is our role to discern between fact and fiction and give people the tools to make realistic eating behavior changes,” Bergman says. 

The majority of registered dietitians work in the treatment and prevention of disease, often in hospitals, HMOs, private practice or other health care facilities. In addition, RDs and RDNs work in community and public health settings and academia and research. RDs and RDNs work with food and nutrition industry and business, journalism, sports nutrition, corporate wellness programs and other work settings. 

“Registered dietitians’ expertise in nutrition and health is more extensive than any other health profession and has been recognized as such by Congress as well as federal health agencies like the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services,” Bergman says. 

“Numerous scientific studies over many years, including studies mandated by Congress, have shown that medical nutrition therapy provided by a registered dietitian can lower health costs, decrease hospital stays and improve people’s health,” Bergman says. “Besides being the designated providers under federal law of medical nutrition therapy for Medicare beneficiaries, registered dietitians are the preferred providers of nutrition care and services in many private-sector insurance plans.” 

Learn more about what RDs and RDNs can do for you and find a registered dietitian or registered dietitian nutritionist in your area at www.eatright.org/RD. For more information about the RDN credential, visit www.eatright.org/RDN

The Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics (formerly the American Dietetic Association) is the world’s largest organization of food and nutrition professionals. The Academy is committed to improving the nation’s health and advancing the profession of dietetics through research, education and advocacy. Visit the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics at www.eatright.org

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