A registered dietitian (RD) is an expert in food and nutrition. Dietitians help promote good health through proper eating. The term "nutritionist" is also widely used; however, the term nutritionist is not regulated as the term dietitian is. People may call themselves nutritionists without the educational and professional requirements of registered dietitians.
At a minimum all registered dietitians have a bachelor's degree. The majority of Palo Alto Medical Foundation (PAMF) dietitians have a master's degree. In addition to advanced education, 900 hours of supervised practice and a national exam are required. Continuing education is also required to maintain a registered dietitian certification.
Nutrition and diet play an important role in helping people with certain diseases manage their health. For example, for people with illnesses such as diabetes or renal diseases, proper diet and nutrition can help prevent and reduce complications from their conditions. Your physician can refer you to a registered dietitian for medical nutrition therapy (MNT) that involves managing nutrition using prescription-based formulas and developing a personalized treatment plan to help you effectively treat and manage your disease. MNT is usually covered by health insurance plans. Check with your insurance provider to find out about reimbursement.