Rhonda O'Brien, MS, RD, LD, CDE, CEDRD -
    Finding a Qualified Nutrition Professional
There are many titles in use by so-called nutrition  professionals, and  it  can  be confusing to know who to turn to for nutrition advice.
Registered Dietitians are the health care professionals uniquely qualified to communicate accurate, up to date nutrition information to individuals and the public.
*Note that the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics has recently approved the title "Registered Dietitian Nutritionist" (RDN) as an alternative to the traditional "RD".  Both titles require exactly the same education and training and use of either is based on personal preference.
What is a Registered Dietitian?
In order to use the credential Registered Dietitian (RD), the following minimum requirements must be completed:
  • A 4-year bachelors level degree in dietetics (the science of food and nutrition).
  • A 9-12 month dietetic internship program.
  • Pass a comprehensive national examination.
Once registered, RD's must complete a minimum of 75 hours of continuing education every 5 years to maintain RD status.  Registration is governed by the Commission on Dietetic Registration
The state of Idaho, as well as many other states, requires practicing RD's to be licensed.  In Idaho, RD's are licensed with the Idaho Board of Medicine.  Therefore, all RD's legally practicing in Idaho are also LD's.
What is a "Nutritionist"?
I am frequently asked this question.  "Nutritionist" is an unregulated title sometimes used by individuals who lack recognized credentials and are unqualified to provide nutrition advice.  While some RD's may also refer to themselves as nutritionists, a nutritionist who is not a registered dietitian cannot use the initials "RD".  Other questionable titles include "nutrition consultant", "certified nutritional consultant", "nutrition counselor", and "certified nutritionist" to name a few.  Unfortunately, there are on-line and mail-order degrees and "diploma mills" who will award an official-sounding title or "certification" to anyone who pays the required fee and takes an on-line test.  It's become trendy for gyms to offer nutrition counseling provided by staff who have taken a brief nutrition course and earned a certificate. To ensure quality and competence, always look for the RD credential.
Many dietitians specialize in certain areas, for example, diabetes, prenatal nutrition, or eating disorders. It is important to make sure the dietitian you work with has expertise with the condition you are seeking help for.
To find a dietitian in your local area, log onto the website of the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics: www.eatright.org and click on “find a nutrition professional”.  On this website, you can also find information on pursuing a career in dietetics, as well as nutrition tips and advice.
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