• Livia Ly, MS, RD, LDN

5 Steps on How to Choose Your RDN

Updated: Nov 4, 2021

Since there is no legal definition of the profession, anyone can set up as a nutritionist.

Registered Dietitian Nutritionists (RDNs) are food and nutrition experts who have met the following criteria to earn the RDN credential:

  1. Completed a minimum of a bachelor’s degree at a U.S. accredited university which includes an accredited nutrition curriculum.

  2. Completed an accredited extensive supervised program of practice in the U.S.

  3. Passed a rigorous registration federal exam.

  4. Completed continuing professional educational requirements.

  5. Acquired licensure in Illinois to provide Medical Nutrition Therapy.

In this food-conscious era, nutrition consultations have become a profitable business. Not only the questionable safety and adequacy of the diet but also the understandable distrust in the nutritional knowledge of physicians, has triggered many people to search for dietary advice from providers they assume to be experts. Unfortunately, this advice many people are receiving is often useless, sometimes dangerous, and nearly always non-personalized -- those cookie-cutter diet plans.  Typically, it can be based on inappropriate tests of nutritional needs and unreasonable promises, as well as characterized by irrational dietary restrictions and generous doses of costly supplements, often sold by the provider of the advice.

Check out These 5 Steps on How to Choose Your RDN

Step 1: what's your goal? If you need basic/general nutritional information, an initial help for a weight loss journey, or if you were recently diagnosed with diabetes or renal disease, you can seek an RDN at your hospital/clinic.  Ask your doctor for a referral.  If you already have nutrition knowledge and/or have a different nutrition-related condition or goal, you may need to search for someone who provides a more advanced, detailed, and personalized approach.  Depending on your health care needs, you can look for an RDN that specializes in weight loss, sports, diabetes, pregnancy, pediatrics, cancer, etc. 

Step 2: choose a health professional with adequate credentials.  Check the RDN's credentials.  Consult a qualified licensed RDN in Illinois before you start any nutrition program.  In Illinois, only a licensed dietitian nutritionist can provide therapeutic nutrition care.  The goal of licensure is to ensure that licensees have a minimal degree of competency necessary to ensure that the public's health, safety, and welfare are reasonably well protected.  You may also opt for an RDN with a graduate degree (MS).  The Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics website has a Find a Nutrition Expert section.  

Livia Ly's federal credentials: #86007226    Livia Ly's Illinois license: #164006474

Step 3. check the RDN's reputation.  Make sure you choose a professional who consistently receives good reviews for the quality and care of their service.  While this is less common in credentialed, RDNs, it does still occur.  Make sure the RDN isn’t pushing some inadequate diet brand or suspicious supplement.  You want someone who will guide you for your individual needs regardless of their brand/ product affiliations.

Step 4. coaching style and/or counseling skills.  Search for someone who provides the personalized instruction, resources, and tools you’re looking for and/or is willing to help you navigate the emotional journey.  Not every RDN is right for every client.  Make sure the RDN is upfront with areas he/she specializes in.  Contact the RDN before buying any service to ask questions related to his/her approach to determine if he/she will be right for you.  Check the RDN on social media or read his/her posts and articles to see if he/she promotes a healthful image that is in line with your goals.  

Step 5. make sure the RDN practices what he/she preaches. Find them on social media or contact them directly to make sure the RDN is honest and believes in what he/she is selling.  According to the "Life…supplemented" Healthcare Professionals Impact Studies conducted from 2007-2009, RDNs come out on top among eight healthcare professional populations when it comes to eating a balanced diet, taking supplements, exercising regularly, and engaging in other wellness behaviors.  Although this is true, you want to confirm that the RDN is included in this healthy healthcare professional group.

When you are ready to create a nutrition plan with the help of a professional, it’s important to consider all of these options to decide what works best for you! If you’re looking for a professional with the right education, training, experience, and certification to assist you with your journey, a registered dietitian nutritionist may meet your needs the most.

It's the law:

"Any person who practices, offers to practice, attempts to practice, or holds oneself out as being able to provide dietetics and nutrition services without being licensed under this Act shall, in addition to any other penalty provided by law, pay a civil penalty to the Department for each offense as determined by the Department."

To report misuse of the RD or RDN credential, please contact the Commission on Dietetic Registration’s Executive Director, Christine Reidy, RD (creidy@eatright.org, 1/800-877-1600, ext. 4857).

You may also report misuse of the dietitian/nutritionist credential directly at the government agency that regulates the licenses in the state that the person works: https://www.cdrnet.org/state-licensure-agency-list

February 18. 2019

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