March is National Nutrition Month, so the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics reminds everyone to return to the basics of healthy eating.
It is also when the Academy celebrates Registered Dietitian Nutritionist Day, honoring the contributions and expertise of RDNs as the food and nutrition experts. This year, Registered Dietitian Nutritionist Day will take place March 11.
"It's no secret that the nutritional health of our nation is of peak concern," said registered dietitian nutritionist and Academy Spokesperson Tamara Melton. "That's why it's important to take a moment to remind consumers where they can go to seek expert clarification in the muddy sea of nutrition advice - the registered dietitian nutritionist."
Since 2007, the second Wednesday in March has marked Registered Dietitian Nutritionist Day, when the Academy acknowledges the significant work RDNs do as advocates for advancing the nutritional status of Americans and people around the world.
"Virtually anyone can call him or herself a 'nutritionist,'" Melton said. "In these cases, consumers don't know if the individual has five minutes or five years of experience - or any training at all. But when you consult a registered dietitian nutritionist, you can know you are receiving advice from an educated, trained and trusted expert."
Registered dietitian nutritionists meet stringent academic and professional requirements, including earning at least a bachelor's degree, completing a supervised practice program and passing a registration examination. RDNs must also complete continuing professional educational requirements to maintain registration. More than half of all RDNs have also earned master's degrees or higher.
"Congress and federal health agencies like Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services have recognized that registered dietitian nutritionists' expertise in nutrition and health is more extensive than any other health profession," Melton said.
The majority of RDNs work in the treatment and prevention of disease (administering medical nutrition therapy, as part of medical teams), often in hospitals, HMOs, public health clinics, nursing homes or other health care facilities. Additionally, RDNs work throughout the community in schools, fitness centers, food management, food industry, universities, research and private practice.
"Consumers and health professionals alike can seek the expert guidance of an RDN virtually anywhere and anytime food plays a role," Melton said. "From football fields to crop fields, school cafeterias to home kitchens, grocery store aisles to the halls of Congress, RDNs are working to help all Americans improve their health, prevent and manage disease and achieve and maintain a healthy weight, all through the power of food and nutrition."
All registered dietitians are nutritionists - but not all nutritionists are registered dietitians. The Academy's Board of Directors and Commission on Dietetic Registration have determined that those who hold the credential registered dietitian may optionally use registered dietitian nutritionist instead. The two credentials have identical meanings.