A confused look followed by “what is that?” is often the response that I get when I tell others that my major is dietetics. Simply put, dietetics is the profession of nutrition. Dietitians have essential roles in many areas; however, many are unaware that the profession even exists. Dietetics is one example of a “found” major, meaning that many discover the major after entering college and many even discover the profession after graduating and come back for another bachelor’s degree! Dietetics is a unique and rewarding major for anyone interested in helping others to thrive and live better and healthier lives starting from their diet!
Dietetics and Dietitians Defined
As previously stated, dietetics is the profession of human nutrition. Dietetics translates and applies the science of food and nutrition to the health and well-being of individuals and groups. Professionals who actively practice dietetics are known as Registered Dietitians (RD), also known as a Registered Dietitian Nutritionist (RDN).
Myth Buster: Registered Dietitian = Nutritionist
Not at all! Registered Dietitians (RD) should not be confused with nutritionists (or health coaches). A nutritionist does not have accreditation, rather it is a self-proclaimed title, hence they have no legal protection or acceptance as an expert in the field. Often nutritionists will take a certificate course and claim to be an expert which may be detrimental to potential clients with diseases and illnesses who need proper medical nutrition therapy (MNT) that a registered dietitian is qualified and trained to provide.
RD’s are employed in a variety of settings such as hospitals, health care facilities, government agencies, companies, schools, and universities, and the list continues. The main practice areas that dietitians are often categorized into are clinical, food service, and community.
Types of Dietitians and Their Scope of Practice
Clinical dietitians work alongside doctors, nurses, and other clinicians in health care settings serving as the nutrition expert on the team. Clinical dietitians screen and treat malnutrition in patients, order tube feedings (enteral nutrition) for patients unable to eat by mouth. They also specialize in nutrition management of a variety of chronic diseases such as kidney disease, heart disease, and intestinal diseases.