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RD: The Real Deal behind Registered Dietitians

Between what you see on TV, read in the newspaper, or hear from the nutritionist, eating right can feel challenging and become overwhelming.

by Madison Mashek, RD at Lake Region Healthcare

Between what you see on TV, read in the newspaper, or hear from the nutritionist, eating right can feel challenging and become overwhelming. But it doesn’t need to be. A registered dietitian or registered dietitian nutritionist (RD or RDN) can help. Here are some tips to know what to look for and what to expect in a nutrition coach.

Legit Credentials

Did you know that anyone can call themselves a “nutritionist?” In fact, with just a few simple clicks and a small fee, you can print off a certificate to become an official “nutritionist.” Seems legit, right? In reality, there is only one trusted and nationally regulated nutrition professional – the registered dietitian or registered dietitian nutritionist.

In order to obtain the credentials of RD or RDN, one has to hold a bachelor’s degree, complete an accredited and approved nutrition and science based curriculum along with 1200 supervised practice hours in clinical, foodservice and community specific areas, and then pass a registration exam.  After passing the exam, all RD’s and RDN’s are required to stay up to date with the newest research as monitored by the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics.  On a side note, effective January 1, 2024, the bachelor’s degree will not be sufficient as all new RD’s will require a master’s degree as well.

Tailored Advice

Most health professionals are likely to give you basic nutrition advice and information – watch your portions, eat more fruits and vegetables, exercise more, etc.  However, an RD or RDN can give you recommendations tailored to you based on your health history, favorite foods, and eating and exercise habits. They’re trained to help you prioritize and set realistic, achievable goals along with follow-up visits focused on monitoring and maintaining progress. Along with providing individual tailored nutrition recommendations, an RD or RDN can help manage chronic diseases like diabetes, heart disease, kidney disease, and cancer to name a few.  Often times they will review your lab results with you and explain what they mean along with providing education about food and nutrients to help manage your condition. If you suffer from conditions like celiac disease or food allergies, an RD or RDN can show you how to read food labels in order to avoid certain ingredients along with help you find substitutions to maintain a balanced, tasteful diet.

Meeting You Where You Are

Registered dietitians and registered dietitian nutritionists can work in a variety of settings from hospitals and clinics to wellness centers, schools, sports teams, and government agencies. Look for one you can relate to and who is available to work with your schedule and goals. 

To learn more about how you can benefit from consulting with an RD or RDN, please visit www.eatright.org or call Lake Region Healthcare and ask for our Nutrition Services department. 

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