What is a Dietitian?


Have you ever wondered the difference between a registered dietitian (RD) and a nutritionist? ?Dietitians can call themselves ?nutritionists, but nutritionists cannot call themselves dietitians. Nutritionist is not a regulated term, so anyone is able to call themselves a nutritionist. Dietitians hold at least a 4-year baccalaureate degree,? have met specific requirements known as the didactic program in dietetics,? have completed a 1-year supervised dietetic internship and have passed a registration exam.

Registered Dietitians translate the science of nutrition to help people recognize the connection between food and health, and to help them use food to prevent and treat disease. Dietitians work in many different settings. Some of the things they do include:

  1. RDs in the hospital setting assess a patient?s nutrition needs by reviewing weight, lab values, medications, and medical history. After making this assessment, they will determine a nutrition diagnosis and a dietary intervention for the diagnosis. Examples of conditions treated with medical nutrition therapy include diabetes, heart disease, hypertension, obesity, osteoporosis, kidney disease, wound healing and gastrointestinal disorders.
  2. Community RDs educate the public on various nutrition topics. Examples of how this is done include designing nutrition programs, public speaking and nutrition counseling. Community RDs often work in clinics, school programs, athletic facilities or for nonprofit organizations.
  3. RDs in the corporate wellness setting promote nutrition education in corporate environments. Many corporate wellness RDS are available to a corporation?s staff for nutrition counseling.? Other duties may include reviewing a company?s cafeteria menu, cooking demonstrations/recipe sampling in the cafeteria, and lunch and learns and lectures on various nutrition topics.
  4. Private Practice RDs provide nutrition counseling and education to help treat or prevent many different diseases and conditions. These dietitians may specialize in specialty areas or they might see clients for a broad range of conditions. For example they could specialize in sports nutrition, weight management or diabetes. ?These RDs may offer additional services to clients including grocery store tours or menu planning.
  5. RDs also work in the PR, marketing and advertising industries. ?These dietitians can either work for, or as consultants to specific food companies, brands, supermarkets and restaurants to promote products and brands. This is often done by recipe development, development of educational handouts and promotional materials as well as creating and providing presentations.

Linzy Unger, MS, RD, CDN is a clinical nutritionist at Hospital for Special Surgery. She received a MS in nutrition from Lehman College and a BS in Retail Management and Consumer Studies from Syracuse University. Linzy has counseled and given lectures to patients of all ages on various nutrition topics. Some of her nutrition interests include diabetes, sports nutrition, special diets, and weight management. She is an active member of the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics; Sports, Cardiovascular and Wellness Dietetic Practice Group; and serves on the public relations committee of the Greater New York Dietetic Association.?


Topics: Featured, Nutrition
The information provided in this blog by HSS and our affiliated physicians is for general informational and educational purposes, and should not be considered medical advice for any individual problem you may have. This information is not a substitute for the professional judgment of a qualified health care provider who is familiar with the unique facts about your condition and medical history. You should always consult your health care provider prior to starting any new treatment, or terminating or changing any ongoing treatment. Every post on this blog is the opinion of the author and may not reflect the official position of HSS. Please contact us if we can be helpful in answering any questions or to arrange for a visit or consult.

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