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What is the difference between a Registered Dietitian and a Nutritionist?

Updated: Oct 25, 2022

By: Rachel Dodson R.D. LDN.

What is a Registered Dietitian?

A Registered Dietitian (RD) and a Registered Dietitian Nutritionist (RDN) can be used interchangeably. RD/RDNs must have a bachelor’s degree or higher. They must complete 1200 hours of supervised practice (through the completion of a dietetic internship), pass a national exam, and follow a code of ethics that includes completing continuing education courses in order to maintain their license.

Woman working on becoing a registered dietician. Working with a registered dietician in New Jersey as part of your recovery process can help you better understand your relationship with food and create new healthy eating habits.

Educational Requirements

According to the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics, “a Registered Dietitian Nutritionist is a food and nutrition expert who has met academic and professional requirements including:

  • Completed a bachelor's degree with coursework recognized by the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics' Accreditation Council for Education in Nutrition and Dietetics (ACEND). Courses required usually include food and nutrition sciences, food service, Dietetics systems management, business, economics, computer science, sociology, biochemistry, physiology, microbiology and chemistry

  • Completed an accredited, supervised practice program at a health care facility, community agency or foodservice corporation

  • Passed a national examination administered by the Commission on Dietetic Registration (CDR)

  • Continues to complete professional educational requirements to maintain registration.”

Many RD/RDNs already have advanced degrees, however, starting in 2024, all incoming RD/RDNs, will be required to have a master’s degree. RD/RDNs can also obtain additional certifications in areas of specific practice, such as eating disorders. Being a Registered Dietitian allows someone to work in specific settings like a hospital or at a school that a nutritionist may not have the qualifications for.

Pink roses. If you  are struggling in your relationship with food during your recovery journey, working with a Registered Dietician in New Jersey can help you discover variety and flexibility with food. Learn more here.

Health Coaches and Nutritionists, There is a Difference

Health coaches or nutritionists do not have the same credentials as Registered Dietitians nor have they met the same requirements. Essentially, anyone can call themselves a “nutritionist” if they have a nutrition degree or some type of certification. Nutritionists are not legally regulated in the same way that Registered Dietitians are.

Credentials and requirements vary greatly with the title of nutritionist or nutritional specialist. A Licensed Dietitian (LD) or a Licensed Dietitian Nutritionist (LDN) is when someone is legally licensed to practice in their state. The regulations may vary state to state, but usually include supervised practice and passing a licensing exam, different from the exam administered by the Commission on Dietetic Registration (CDR).

Why it’s important to work with an RD in ED recovery

According to Marci Evans, RD, the job of a Registered Dietitian in eating disorder recovery is, “to support the physical, psychological, and emotional well-being of our clients.” In eating disorder recovery, a Registered Dietitian must support the nutritional needs of the client, help the client discover variety and flexibility with food, educate the client on why our bodies require the nutrients we can only obtain through food, and help clients move away from viewing food morally because food is neither good nor bad.

Ultimately, my job as an eating disorder RD/RDN is to meet my client where they are in recovery. Every client is their own unique person with different lived experiences that will impact their recovery journey. Recovery doesn’t look the same for everyone - so food must be individualized in order to meet the needs of the client. The ultimate goal is food freedom, but there is certainly more than one road to get there! Food is nourishment, but it’s also comfort, joy, family, and memories. I want to help clients see how food fits into their life as a whole.

Eating Disorder Treatment Team

In an outpatient setting, the treatment team for eating disorder recovery usually includes an RD, an eating disorder therapist, the client’s support system (family, friends, etc), a primary care provider (medical doctor, nurse practitioner, etc.), a psychiatrist if needed for management of medicine, and any other additional needed support that could be beneficial for the client.

For example, this could include art therapy or a pet support animal. It is essential that your Registered Dietitian works collaboratively with your treatment team. The best part of being an RD at Recovered and Restored is being able to so seamlessly collaborate with my client’s therapists. Every member of the treatment team plays from valuable role in recovery and it is essential for the team to be working together to best serve the client.

How to Find a Registered Dietician for Your Eating Disorder Therapy Team

Building your treatment team and finding the right fit may take time. When you are looking for an RD, a referral from your therapist is a great place to start! It is so important to find an RD who works specifically with the eating disorder population. A great website to search when building your treatment team to ensure your providers specialize in eating disorders:

Cupcakes with pink frosting and sprinkles. Your recovery is not a journey you must face alone. You can restore your relationship with food with the help of a Registered Dietician in New Jersey.

At Recovered and Restored, we are all Health at Every Size (HAEs) providers, meaning we focus on health, rather than what a person weighs. HAES promotes improved health behaviors for everyone no matter your body size because weight is not a behavior. Research shows a HAES approach to health is associated with statistically and clinically relevant improvements in health.

One way HAES was explained, “health at every size encourages people to accept and respect their natural body size, eat flexibly while valuing pleasure and honoring internal cues, and move joyfully. It does not mean ‘everyone at every body size is healthy,’ that is scientifically untrue. HAES is not an invitation to forsake nutrition, but a pursuit in finding balance.”

Weight is not always a direct marker of health

A balance of the nutrients your body requires doesn't have to be mentally calculated or exact because all foods fit. Weight is not always a direct marker of health* Other health markers such as someone’s background, stress levels, access to food and dietary habits, and any underlying health concerns or conditions all matter.

A Registered Dietitian is with you for the long game in your recovery. Recovery is a process but is possible! As you move forward in recovery, the thoughts may come, but having your team walking alongside you can help you resist acting on those thoughts. Diana Marlin, RD, LDN always says, “it’s impossible to do the mental work of recovery with a malnourished brain.”

If you are struggling with where to start in the recovery process, don’t hesitate to reach out for help!

Start Eating Disorder Treatment in Pennsylvania at Recovered and Restored Eating Disorder Therapy Center

Working with a Registered Dietitian as part of your treatment team at Recovered and Restored is essential in eating disorder recovery. Healing your relationship with food is essential to recovery. Understanding what role food plays in your life - physical, mental, and emotional - from a trained nutrition expert, will only spur you on in your recovery journey!

You can have recovery too!! You are worthy of healing and inner peace connect with us today!

  1. Fill out our quick and easy contact form online and someone will get back to you within 24 hours.

  2. Now that you’ve reached out, take a minute to get to know our team here. We encourage you to get to know us, our specializations, and our credentials.

  3. Begin your journey to health and wholeness! You CAN do this!

Other Mental Health Services Offered in PA, NJ, DE, and FL

We offer a wide variety of services related to eating disorder recovery including trauma therapy! We offer Weekly Support Groups, Nutrition Services, and Family and Parent Therapy as well as Coaching, all tailored to meet the specific needs of the individual. We offer our services for anorexia, bulimia, orthorexia, and binge eating online in Pennsylvania, New Jersey, Delaware, and Florida! We are here to offer our support and understanding in a safe and non-judgmental environment.

*You may be working with a treatment team and weight restoration is part of your treatment. Weight matters in regard to medical stability so please continue to listen to what your treatment team advises for your own personal recovery journey.*

We have immediate openings right now for eating disorder therapy in:

Delaware, New Jersey, Florida, and Pennsylvania.

And recovery coaching worldwide.

Click here to get started with therapy today! :

Recovered and Restored is an eating disorder therapy center founded by Gabrielle Morreale. We specialize in helping teens and young women heal from eating disorders such as anorexia, bulimia, orthorexia, and binge eating disorder and treat disordered eating, anxiety, depression, and PTSD. We provide eating disorder therapy in the towns of Horsham, Upper Gwynedd, Lower Gwynedd, North Wales, Lansdale, Hatfield, Blue Bell, Doylestown, and nearby towns with eating disorder therapy. Also providing virtual eating disorder therapy in New Jersey, Delaware, and Florida. Some towns served virtually but are not limited to Pittsburg, Lancaster, Harrisburg, Center City, Cherry Hill, Haddonfield, Mount Laurel, Cape May, Avalon, Brick, Dover, New Castle, Bethany Beach, Marydel, and Oceanview.


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