Registered Dietitian, Nutritionist, Health Coach….Which is best?

With the billion dollar weight loss industry coming up with new fad diets, untrained professionals giving inaccurate advice and the media frequently botching nutrition information it can be easy to get wrapped up in the confusing web of nutrition myths. How do you determine myth from fact? Find an educated and well-trained nutrition professional!

A Registered Dietitian (RD) is a uniquely qualified, nutrition expert. Every individual with this credential has completed a four-year degree that includes science-based curriculum approved by the Commission on Accreditation for Dietetics Education (CADE). One must also complete a demanding dietetic internship. While dietetic internships range in duration and format, the CADE accredits each program. Dietetic interns must complete a minimum of 900 (many require 1200 hours or more) supervised internship hours in the field of dietetics before qualifying to sit for a national exam. Only after completing these requirements can an individual be credentialed as an RD by the Commission on Dietetic Registration. To maintain the RD credential, one must complete 75 approved continuing education units every five years. These units reflect individual career goals that are submitted in a professional portfolio to the Commission on Dietetic Registration.

Registered Dietitians are nutrition experts that you can trust to give you individualized, evidence-based nutrition advice in a variety of avenues, including:

  • Public Speaking
  • Writing – Books, Articles, Blogs, Textbooks
  • Scientific Research
  • Nutrition Counseling-Medical Nutrition Therapy Nutrition Consulting
  • Eating Disorder Treatment and Recovery
  • Weight Loss Programs
  • K-12 School-Based Menu Improvement and Nutrient Analysis
  • K-12 School-Based Nutrition Education
  • Community College and University Level Education
  • Multi-level Curriculum Development
  • Public Policy – Advocates and Public Officials
  • Hospital – Inpatient and Outpatient
  • Long-term Care Facilities
  • Restaurant Menu Analysis and Improvement
  • Foodservice Management
  • Public Health Departments and Organizations
  • Government Programs – WIC, Team Nutrition, Project Lean
  • Nonprofit Organizations

Any nutrition professional titles other than “Registered Dietitian,” such as “Nutritionist” or “Health Coach,” (unless the RD credential is also obtained) do not guarantee that the individual has extensive training and education in the science of nutrition or is required to follow any standards of conduct. Before seeing any healthcare professional about your diet it is important to do your research and find someone that fits your needs and personality. The bottom line is with the other titles you can’t always be certain about an individual’s educational background and training. With an RD you can.

Article by Lindsay Ek Via


7 thoughts on “Registered Dietitian, Nutritionist, Health Coach….Which is best?”

  1. This is a nice shout out to dietitians, but just a few points of clarification about the RD degree to help readers better understand the world of nutrition professionals. It can be a good place to start but an RD does not require graduate school; this can be problematic, though it depends on the training and the individual, of course, and many RDs have an area of clinical expertise (e.g., kidney disease, celiac disease) that can be helpful if you have a specific health issue. An MS, RD, usually has a 1-2 year graduate level training that includes a strong basic science training (master of science degree) along with the dietitian / clinical training and credential, so I’d recommend looking for that alongside an RD, if you can find someone. (There are also people like myself who have master’s and doctoral-level training in nutrition, public health, and food behavior who conduct research, teach, and do all kinds of other activities but don’t have an RD certification, as it’s not superfluous for what they do.) The point being that while an RD is better than no RD compared to a weekend training ;), there are many other reputable nutrition professionals out there, depending on your needs. And, of course, finding someone you get along with well if you’re seeing an individual counselor is key, too. Cheers, PK

  2. A college degree (or even a medical degree) does not guarantee a good result. A lot of people go to RDs, MDs and Nutrtitionists with Master’s Degrees and they are still over-weight, diabetic and suffereing. Go to the person you click with and who helps you obtain your goals. That person may be a health coach. There are many different types of wellness professionals who do good work. There is room for everyone. Find the one who works for you.

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