Food & Diseases,  GAPS Diet & Nutrition

Registered Dietician vs. Certified Nutritionist?

What are we being told is healthy? Does this look healthy to you??

I just got off the phone with a registered dietician, whom I have talked to off and on for the last several years regarding Farm Boy 1’s weight. After his endocrinology appointment about a month ago, I requested an appointment with her again, just to make sure we’re doing whatever we can to help him grow.

This dietician is reasonable and promotes real food. I like her. 🙂 She looked up the GAPS Diet and went over high calorie foods that are *on the diet* with me and had no problems with that. She looked at his daily intake and said he’s doing pretty good (Yay GAPS Diet & good, healthy foods!). 🙂 We came up with a GAPS legal “milkshake” idea for Farm Boy 1 together to boost him up by 200-300 calories per day to make sure he gains a little quicker (I will post about it after I make it!). I told her that we are thinking about trying some properly prepared GF grains again, slowly. She said quinoa has the highest calories for grains (the first one Dr. Campbell McBride recommends, anyways!), and told me to make sure to add “lots of butter” on it for him. I asked about potatoes (another “coming off of the diet” first food), and she hesitated and said “only if they have lots of butter.” I asked about sweet potatoes or yams, and she said that they are much better (nutritionally) than regular white potatoes, so that’s what she recommends. See what I mean? I like her!

Not all dieticians are so great, though. Before we met this one, we saw a few of the “bad” ones. You know, the ones who recommend Cheetos, Lorna Doone cookies and deli macaroni & cheese for underweight, unhealthy kids. As if that is going to make them healthier. We took plenty of that bad advice, and fed our son terrible, terrible foods. We were desperate parents & just wanted our child to grow. We really had no clue about real food and what fake food does to a person.

I am thankful for the freedom we have in this country to study nutrition for ourselves, to seek alternative practitioners, and to make the decisions we need to make for our own family. I am glad that nobody dictates what we should eat or feed our children, and that we have free will to choose these things. Had we stayed with those dieticians in the beginning, I don’t think Farm Boy 1 would be even half as healthy (or as big) as he is today. This dietician mentioned that he is eating SO MUCH MORE these days than he used to. She said that when she would go over his calorie logs before (pre-GAPS), she would think “wow, we have to get WAY more calories in this kid” (even with high calorie formulas in his feeding tube!). We tried–we added calories to everything. We were doing way more math than is really necessary. 😉 Yet, Farm Boy 1 would barely eat. It would take him FOREVER to eat one chicken nugget. He looked nauseous. Now, his calorie count is NORMAL for a kid his age (woot, woot!!!). It’s just, if we want him to gain MORE weight than the average kid his age (we do!), we need to bump him up by 200-300 calories per day. That’s it. Not bad! Not like the days when he was several hundred calories behind all of the other kids his age, no matter how hard we tried. GAPS cleared up his system and made him actually *WANT* food. Praise God for the healing that we’ve seen in our son! Praise God that even a registered dietician saw that! 🙂

So, let’s say you’re interested in food and nutrition, and you want to help kids gain weight (like this dietician does for my son). What do you study?

Currently, there are two different career paths. Becoming a:

Registered Dietician

or a

Certified Nutritionist

If you want to become a Registered Dietician (like the woman I talked to today), you will be trained in counting calories (which is easiest with packaged, processed foods, of course). You will be expected to tell underweight kids to eat Cheetos. You will be taught that dehydrated, stale grains (in the form of breakfast cereal) are a part of a balanced morning meal. You will be taught that processed foods are a good thing and that the scientists who invented these foods are geniuses. Ludicrous, right? Well, not if you’re General Mills, Kellogg’s, Mars, Pepsico or SOYJOY–these are just a few of the sponsors of the American Dietetic Association. And their partners? The CocaCola Company and the Hershey Center for Health and Nutrition are two of them. They are also sponsored by big pharmaceutical companies. Can we trust the entire program, or is it corrupt? It is led by the very food companies they recommend buying from (and yet, the companies that create totally unhealthy foods). Their sponsors want to see you eating processed foods (the food companies) and needing medications as you get older (the pharmaceutical companies). The dietician that we work with is a diamond in the rough.

(And side note, Registered Dieticians are the ones who make the menus for hospital cafeterias. Have you ever tried to find real food in a hospital cafeteria? Ha! It can’t be done! I was at a hospital yesterday with one of my kids, and we tried to find lunch. What a joke! Fake cheese, low fat (corn filled, sugar filled) yogurts, gluten-filled everything, packaged junk, pre-mixed hot food fried in rancid, artery clogging, trans-fat laden soy oil. YUCK!)

A Certified Nutritionist is trained in micro and macronutrients and how food impacts the body at the cellular level. They learn about the gut brain connection, and how food impacts mood and behavior. They study the nutritional profiles of foods and learn about how foods work together. Nutritionists would never tell you to eat processed foods. They may lead you to a diet of GAPS, or Paleo, or to a Weston Price style diet where you eat soaked grains. Some nutritionists may prefer vegetarianism or low carb or gluten free, depending on their clinical experience and their studies. There is freedom within this industry, and yet, you can count on a nutritionist pointing you to whole, real foods.

I appreciate the freedoms to express different points of view as a Certified Nutritionist. Someday, I may become one (I would love to now, but my life is very full with precious children–maybe someday). That is, I might do it if the career is still around. See, the American Dietetic Association is trying to change things. As of January 2012, their new title is “Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics.” They are branding themselves with the word “Nutrition” even though the food they promote is not healthy. This is their way of monopolizing the field, and having the power to “take down” anyone who practices as a Nutritionist and yet hasn’t been trained by them.

If they have their way, in the next decade or so, all “Nutritionists” will be promoting cornflakes and diet soda and anyone who teaches anything different will be in trouble. Scary, isn’t it?

Kimberly Hartke, publicist for the Weston Price Foundation, wrote a great article about this ordeal over at the Canary Party. I encourage you to read the details of this situation. And if you’d like to take action (please do!), there is information about what to do at the Alliance for Natural Health.


*photo credit: choctruffle



  • Nancy @ Real Food Allergy Free

    This is wonderful information. I have wanted to meat with a dietitian to discuss my child’s food allergies but I haven’t made an appointment because I know what they would recommend. Now I know I need a nutritionist! Thanks!

  • Laxstaci

    I disagree I am studying nutrition and I feel it depends on the school you go to. I am almost complete with my Master’s and I agree that I have been taught a wealth of information about macro and micronutrients, etc. However, the intial program of study at my school is the same for nutritionist and dietitcians. In addition as a dietician you have more requirements and must got through an internship. I cannot speak to the later part of the dietician training but I assure you dieticians get nutrition training. It may be the dieticians you first experienced missed the big picture or have moved away from what they first learned in their training. You should not broad base all dieticians/ all nutritionists into categories because each one you meet will be different. The dietician actually has more triaining Instead you should trust what works and passes the common sense test as you have with this last dietician. I feel it is a case of finding a few bad dieticians, not that all dieticans teach poor habits. As you can see from this article some states do not require any certification to be classifed as a nutritionist.

  • Cedar Chest

    Sorry to disagree, but potatoes are very good for you. I eat a nutrient dense diet and don’t listen to a word my doctor tries to tell me about food because he has no clue. Neither do most RD’s because they are trained by the same allopathic engine. They are being fed a load of garbage by the makers of the garbage they want us to eat and call food, which it ain’t.

  • Tara

    Having just received a Master’s degree in Nutrition and completed a long list of dietetic coursework, I agree with some points you make, and disagree with others. There is a lot of calorie counting done by dietitians, and a lot of folks really like that (look at how successful Weight Watchers is – I’m talking about the business, not necessarily the folks on the diets). You, on the other hand, like myself, want something different – something lasting, something real. There are a whole host of dietitians that want the same thing; that wholeheartedly disagree with the “system” as is, and intend to work on the problem from the inside. We don’t want to give up on the ADA, or whatever their new name is, by dis-associating from it; rather, the hope is to maintain that voice within the larger group that keeps asking the right questions. Look into the group: Hunger and Environmental Nutrition Dietetic Practice Group within the ADA ( All this is to say that not all dietitians are the same – I appreciate your post. Oh, and in my dietetic coursework, I took lots of classes on micro/macro-nutrients and body systems, too.

  • Jenni

    Thanks for the post. I agree with most of what you said. I studied Human Nutrition in college and now work for the Nutrition Department at a public University. In college I certainly learned a lot about the functions of the body, down to the cellular level, and also learned what the cells do with the food we eat. However, what I didn’t learn – and what I think you’re getting at – is the difference between what your body does with REAL food and what is does (or can’t do) with processed, chemically enhanced food. The molecules change during processing and we no longer can use them in the same way. Some may say our bodies adapt, but I think the long list of health conditions Americans suffer from say differently.

    Most of my education was focused on low-calorie diets. We were encouraged to eat fruits and vegetables and limit sugary foods but at the same time were told to limit meats, dairy, and, of course, saturated fats. I never heard the word gluten when I was in class, which is likely because the Celiac epidemic was not prevalent at the time, but I would question whether or not that is even talked about now. The big issues are always heart disease and diabetes, not food allergies.

    While I think they got some things right, like not eating fried foods and sugary foods, there is a lot that was incorrect. We were encouraged to eat Lean Cuisine-type frozen meals as a good lunch option – you know, to keep our calorie intake low. Never once did one of my professors talk about the additives and preservatives added into these food and how those substances can affect your body.

    You’re also right about the Dietetics Association wanting to take out all other nutritionists. I was told repeatedly to beware of “nutritionists” because the title is not regulated by the government and you don’t know what level of education they have. Are there even agencies that offer this title anymore? I was also told if I did not pursue my RD I would not be able to get a job – and they were right. You cannot get a job at any type of business without an RD. You could start your own business but it would be a struggle to convince people that you actually know what you’re talking about.

    Honestly, I believe the ADA/AND and the universities think they are giving their students the best education possible. I don’t believe dietitians are doing anything wrong, they’re just misinformed a lot of times. That is how they have been taught, so I can’t fault them for what they don’t know. Personally, I feel I have learned more about life-giving nutrition after graduating and studying on my own than I ever did while pursuing my degree.

  • Rachel

    I agree with most of the other comments on this article. I have a masters in human nutrition, yet in some states I cannot give nutrition advice, while people who sell supplements can (Florida is a strange state, legislatively speaking). There are many dietitians who believe in whole food, which is good. I think the best thing is that more people are aware of what’s going on and actively working on making the system functional for all. There are even a few hospitals out there incorporating real food!

    Also, here’s a link to a simple study looking at what happens in the body with processed foods and whole foods. VERY cool.

  • ashleigh

    This article is completely wrong. I can’t believe that you sum up all dieticians into a bad category. I know several and have met with several registered dieticians and NEVER have I heard them suggest eating processed foods especially cereals. Unreal. Be educated before you insult a tremendous amount of people who are fighting for our children and school systems and HOSPITALS to be healthier. This makes me so mad. As a celiac I was really starting to like your blog. It’s a shame

    • Brenda

      Hi Ashleigh, thank you for your comment. I am sorry that this post has made you so angry. My son was a micro-preemie and has always been underweight and was seen by several dietitians through the hospital system. He was involved in many years of “feeding clinics” with multiple doctors and dietitians counting his calorie intake. I have stacks of paperwork that they sent home with me, constantly recommending foods like Cheetos and Lorna Doone cookies. He had a feeding tube put in, and the formula that they prescribed for him was nowhere near “real.” It made him vomit daily, and they said to continue with it. They recommended ice cream, melted, in his bottles. I asked several times about getting veggies into him, and I was told, by multiple people, that veggies didn’t matter, he needed to gain weight, and the way to do that was through foods that listed high calories on the *package*. I know that there are dietitians who disagree with the system, but truly, the system is flawed. I am about to embark on a research-post about hospital foods. Have you tried finding “real food” in a hospital cafeteria? It is a difficult task. I am not saying that dietitians are bad people, I am just saying that the system that they are being educated by is very messed up.

  • Angela

    I have recovered a bit from being the object of your hatred. Still mad as hell, but able to be, hopefully, a bit more rational. The truly scary part of your rant against dietitians is your failure to recognize that the term “nutritionist” is not regulated, unless it is part of the title RDN (see below). You may have met some that had legitamate training, but as an unregulated field, there are many more that do not have any real training other than the sensationalist things they have read, or their own history. Historically, if you look way back, any dietitian that had a masters degree and worked in public health (as opposed to working in a clinical setting) was likely to call herself a nutritionist — that is what we are after all. The Academy has even changed the designation to RDN (Registered Dietitian Nutritionist) to accommodate us.

    As you dealt with the anger in comments, you backed off your personal assault of all dietitians (though you still don’t know how to correctly spell the name). Now you say it is a fault of the education. That would have been a less bitter pill to swallow. But, not all trainings are the same, either. There are plenty of dietitians who received training in whole foods. I think the crux of the matter is, as dietitians, we are obligated to teach “evidence based” medicine/food changes. There are a lot of diets out there which have no scientific evidence and therefore, are not the first things out of our mouths. There are also a lot of diets which work for an individual that any legitimate dietitian would help them follow. I would even say that, as a RDN, if the evidence-based approach to deal with low weight gain weren’t working, I (and many of my colleagues) would describe some of the more individualized options, like GAPS, or Leaky Gut or a host of others, and ask the patient/guardian to make that choice.

    Since your rant also included gluten as a scandalous food, I am compelled to share something. There is a LOT of evidence that the real culprits in all the gluten sensitivities (except Celiac, which seems more genetic), but all the other gluten problems are probably related to: the use of pre-emergent herbicides, aka Roundup. The increase in gluten sensitivities tracks right along with the increased use of RoundUp. Choosing organic would help you avoid that. Or, possibly the use of bromine as a additive to speed up the natural aging process of flour (which helps the bread to rise). Bromine is carcinogenic. Bottom line, gluten itself is not poison but often the wheat it is in has been poisoned. Gluten has always, since the beginning, been a part of our food system and has not been altered by modern food processing.

  • Lauren

    I am just beginning a Masters Program in Dietetics to become a whole foods Registered Dietician, inspired by the work of Weston Price! I couldn’t be more proud and beg to differ on your negative opinion of RDs.

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