More often than not, people ask me “What does RDN behind your name stand for?” I am always happy to explain my passion for nutrition and how I reached my goal of becoming and RDN.
First, What is a RDN?
A Registered Dietitian (RD) or Registered Dietitian Nutritionist (RDN) is a food and nutrition expert. Many people wonder if a dietitian is the same thing as a nutritionist. You could say that all dietitians are nutritionists, however not all nutritionists are dietitians.
Recently the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics (the professional body for Registered Dietitians) announced that dietitians now have the option to use RD or RDN to represent the dietitian credential. The RDN credential stands for Registered Dietitian Nutritionist and further emphasizes the nutrition aspect of a dietitian’s training and expertise.
When you are looking for nutrition information (whether in Dothan, Alabama or beyond) be sure to look for the RD or RDN credential to know that you are working with a nutrition expert who has received extensive training in health and nutrition.
So what is the different between a dietitian and a nutritionist then?
A dietitian separates facts from fads and translates nutrition science and research into everyday information that you can use. To be a dietitian there are specific requirements you must fulfill:
- Graduate from an accredited college or university with a minimum of a bachelor’s degree with course work approved by the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics’ Commission on Accreditation for Dietetics Education. Yes, it includes lots of nutrition, but also biochemistry, physiology, and psychology.
- Complete an accredited, supervised internship.
- Pass a nationally accredited exam for registration administered by the Commission on Dietetic Registration.
- Maintain active registration and licensing by completing continuing education.
- Additionally, in the state of Alabama you must also be licensed.
A nutritionist is a non-accredited title that may apply to somebody who has done a short course in nutrition or who has given themselves this title. The term Nutritionist is not protected by law in almost all countries, so people with different levels of knowledge can call themselves a “Nutritionist”. Since the title ‘nutritionist’ has been used by many unqualified persons to describe their involvement in food and nutrition related practice, you should be careful when choosing a qualified nutritional professional.
What’s my story?
I attended Auburn University in Auburn, Alabama (War Eagle, Hey!) where I received my bachelor’s degree in nutrition with dietetics. My passion came from fixing meals and balancing calories for the 7x National Championship Auburn University Swim and Dive Team. This showed me that meals really do make a difference in performance. I then decided to experiment on my own and apply the principles for running marathons (3 was enough for me).
Following the Auburn days, I completed my dietetic internship in Jackson, Mississippi doing different rotations in clinic work, sports nutrition, community involvement, and food service management systems. I then completed my masters in Nutrition and Food Systems at the University of Southern Miss in Hattiesburg, Mississippi. While finishing my masters I worked diligently on projects involving food and sustainability.
In August 2012, I passed the nationally accredited exam for the RD. It was one of the most proud moments of my life. All those long hours of study and countless pages of research had paid off.
Currently, I am a licensed member of the Alabama State Board of Examiners for Dietetics/Nutritionists. As a RDN in Alabama, I must maintain my education by completing 75 hours of CEUs (Continuing education unit) for the Academy and 20 hours every 2 years for the state of Alabama.
Hopefully that answers all of your questions about RDNs and Nutritionists. If I’ve missed something and you have a general question or even a more specific question, please use the comment section below. I’d love to answer!