What is a Registered Dietitian (RD)?
What is an RD?
As seen in the picture above, the role of the Registered Dietitian is significantly different from what one might expect. I’ve had to clarify several times already that I am not the “food police” or a lunch lady, and I did not go to culinary school (although I would love to one day!).
Like many of you, I had no idea what a balanced diet looked like or what an RD did each day prior to my college days. I always wished someone could just look and me and give me a meal plan to follow. I wanted to know exactly what to eat, when to eat, and how much to eat each day in order to manage my weight. If only it were that easy…
Years later, I learned that individuals’ nutrition needs are complex. Each person is unique, and one “diet” does not fit all. Unfortunately for most of us, nutrition was not an in-depth class taught in our schools. Many are searching for truth about nutrition, but media and celebrity promotions of various fad diets unfortunately confuse people even more. Without significant research or education and/or help from a professional, discovering how to truly “live healthfully ever after” can be a challenge.
Introducing the Registered Dietitian…
Registered Dietitians (also known as RDs) guide individuals to healthier lifestyles by customizing goals based on their lifestyles, medical history, likes and dislikes, etc. Registered Dietitians are the nutrition experts. “Whether you want to slim down, lower your cholesterol or simply eat better, a registered dietitian can help you weed through the murky waters of nutrition misinformation and provide sound, easy-to-follow nutrition advice,” says Jennifer McDaniel, MS, RD, spokesperson for the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics.
Please Know: You may hear people call themselves “Nutritionists.” Although sometimes Registered Dietitians call themselves nutritionists, please remember that Nutritionists do not always equal Registered Dietitians!
A Registered Dietitian completes the following steps in order to become qualified to counsel others regarding nutrition:
(1) Obtains a bachelor’s degree in Dietetics and Nutrition or a similar field (very heavy in science, specifically Chemistry).
(2) Graduates with a master’s degree (Although this step is not required, I graduated with my Masters in Food and Nutrition Services).
(3) Completes an accredited supervised practice by rotating to various sites (related to Community Nutrition, Clinical Nutrition, and Food Service).
(4) Passes the Registration Exam.
(5) Becomes licensed in his or her state.
In addition to tailoring nutrition-related plans and goals for patients or clients, Registered Dietitians can play a huge role in the prevention of chronic disease. They also possess extensive knowledge of food allergies/sensitivities/intolerances, and they know how to work around these restrictions in order to help their clients enjoy a balanced diet. Registered Dietitians are also equipped to help individuals create a plan for weight loss, weight gain, or weight management.
There are many different areas in which a Registered Dietitian can practice, and the field of Dietetics and Nutrition is growing! Opportunities for dietitians include but are not limited to the following:
• Public health clinics
• Nursing homes
• Fitness centers
• Food management
• Food industry
• Private practice
“So those are the options, but what do you do?” Well…
Currently, I am a Clinical Dietitian in a large Memphis-area hospital. I work daily with an interdisciplinary team of doctors, nurses, physical therapists, occupational therapists, speech therapists, social workers, pharmacists, and others to create a comprehensive plan of care for each patient.
My responsibilities include:
-Assessing nutritional requirements for the specific person based on a variety of factors.
-Establishing a nutrition care plan (for oral nutrition, tube feedings, or other routes of nutrition support)
-Providing patient education and training for use at home once a patient is discharged from the hospital
-Designing a nutrition prescription
-Interpreting laboratory data
-Evaluating drug/nutrient interactions and other complications related to nutrition delivery
Yes. This post has been a mouth-full, but I think it is an important way to begin my blog. It is my goal as a Registered Dietitian and blogger to show you what a balanced and healthy lifestyle can look like, so I figured you should know a little bit of background information about what a real RD does before I really start talking…so thanks for reading!