Healthy eating patterns are associated with improved aging and a reduced risk of cardiovascular disease, type 2 diabetes, certain types of cancers, and obesity .

But what exactly does healthy eating look like?

Woman leaning on shopping cart with question marks above head. Photo by Phuong Tran on Unsplash, illustration by the author.

Figuring out the right food for you to support your best possible health can be complicated. Fortunately, this is what Registered Dietitians specialize in.

What Is A Registered Dietitian?

Registered Dietitians or Registered Dietitian Nutritionists (abbreviated as RD or RDN) are qualified food and nutrition experts.

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RDs must be registered in order to provide professional services in their field, this means that the profession is regulated by the government.

Registration requires three main steps:

  1. Successful completion of an approved bachelor's or master's degree program

  2. Completion of an approved dietetic internship or practicum

  3. Passing the registration examination

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An Important Distinction To Note

The terms nutritionist and dietitian are often confused, though these two professions vary greatly regarding education requirements, qualifications, and certifications.

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Nutritionists aren't held to the same standards as a dietitian (RD) because they aren't governed by a regulatory body.

Anyone can call themselves a nutritionist and provide nutrition related services.

Quiz

Government regulation of the profession ensures that RDs meet high practice standards to be:

Ethical

Competent

Safe

All of these

What Do Registered Dietitians Do?

There are several - sometimes overlapping - work fields for an RD. The roles and responsibilities of an RD will vary depending upon the environment in which they work.

Clinical Dietitians:

  • Work in settings such as hospitals, public health facilities, and long-term care facilities.

  • Assess a person's nutritional status.

  • Provide counseling on nutrition strategies to treat illness and promote health.

Community Dietitians:

  • Work in government agencies, non-profit organizations, and public health clinics.

  • Educate the public on food and nutrition.

Management Dietitians:

  • Work in food service settings, hospitals, and cafeterias.

  • Plan and manage dietary and meal programs.

  • Develop and analyze food and food products.

Research Dietitians:

  • Work in research facilities, laboratories, and other public health facilities.

  • Conduct research in the science, techniques, and practice of dietetics.

Quiz

What skill should an RD have in order to be successful in their profession?

Communication skills

Analytical skills

Critical thinking skills

All of these

Why Should You See A Registered Dietitian?

RDs can help and provide nutritional counseling for individuals who are experiencing certain medical conditions or who would like to achieve specific goals.

For example:

  • Maintaining weight loss or weight gain

  • Needing practical advice for meal planning

  • Digestive concerns

  • Improving athletic performance

  • Recovering from an eating disorder or an injury

  • Disease prevention and management

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RD counseling typically requires two visits:

  1. Nutrition assessment. A visit to assess your health status and your specific goals. The RD will review your current habits, measure your resting metabolic rate, your body composition, and possibly do blood work.

  2. Follow-up session. A second visit to discuss a personalized plan and nutritional recommendations. This is based on a complete analysis of the initial nutrition assessment.

Quiz

What is an action that an RD would not take?

Help you identify foods to avoid

Follow trends and prescribe a fad diet

Assess your lifestyle and eating habits

Design a personal weight loss plan

Summary

Could an RD help you reach your health goals?

Or maybe you think you'd make a great RD yourself?

Consider reaching out to an RD in your area for an initial consultation!

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This Byte has been authored by

CS

Carol Starratt

Learning Experience Designer