Have you ever thought about working with a registered dietitian? Even if you’re generally a healthy eater, working with a professional can help you better recognize the connection between food and health, as well as to use food to prevent and treat diseases or issues like diabetes, obesity and high blood pressure.
A registered dietitian, or RD, is different from a nutritionist, says HSS clinical nutritionist Danna Raphael, RD, CDN. “‘Nutritionist’ is not a regulated term, so this label is used more freely,” she says. This means that registered dietitians can call themselves nutritionists, but nutritionists cannot call themselves dietitians.
Registered dietitians hold at least a four-year bachelor’s degree in clinical nutrition and have met specific requirements known as the didactic program in dietetics. (This includes an internship and a registration exam.) To be sure you’re working with the right kind of professional, look for RD or RDN after their name, says Raphael.
Among dietitians, as with most healthcare professionals, there are different areas of specialty. The type of dietitian you are most likely to see if you are looking to meet with someone on your own works in private practice. “This means they provide nutrition counseling to one-on-one clients or in a group setting,” says Raphael. They can help their clients treat or prevent many different diseases and conditions. “These dietitians may specialize in specific areas, like sports nutrition, weight management or diabetes, or they might see clients for a broad range of conditions,” she adds. These RDs may offer additional services including grocery store tours or menu planning.
You may also encounter a dietitian who works in one of these areas:
While its important to see a dietitian to help manage chronic diseases such as the conditions listed above, there are many reasons to meet with one, says Raphael. Here are just some of the many other ways a dietitian can help you.
Danna Raphael, RD, CDN, is a clinical nutritionist at Hospital for Special Surgery.