top of page

Certified Nutritionist vs. Registered Dietitian: What’s the Difference?

In a world inundated with health information and fad diets, it's essential to have reliable sources of guidance when it comes to nutrition. Registered Dietitians (RDs) and Registered Dietitian Nutritionists (RDNs) are healthcare professionals who play a pivotal role in promoting health and well-being through sound dietary advice and evidence-based nutrition practices.

The Credentials: RD vs. RDN

You might be wondering about the distinction between a Registered Dietitian (RD) and a Registered Dietitian Nutritionist (RDN). To clarify, these two terms are essentially interchangeable, as they represent the same qualification. The terminology change from RD to RDN in recent years was largely to reflect the broader scope of practice and encompass a more comprehensive view of nutrition and health. Whether you see an RD or an RDN, you can trust that they are credentialed nutrition experts.

The Education and Training

Becoming an RD or RDN is not a straightforward process; it requires a rigorous educational and experiential journey. Here's an overview of the steps involved:

1. Bachelor's Degree: The foundation of a dietitian's education is typically a bachelor's degree in nutrition, dietetics, or a related field. This coursework covers subjects like biology, chemistry, physiology, and nutrition science.

2. Accredited Internship: Following the completion of their undergraduate degree, aspiring dietitians must undertake an accredited dietetic internship. This internship typically lasts around six to twelve months and provides hands-on experience in clinical settings, community nutrition programs, and food service management.

3. National Examination: Once the internship is completed, candidates must pass a national examination administered by the Commission on Dietetic Registration (CDR) to become a Registered Dietitian or Registered Dietitian Nutritionist.

4. Continuing Education: To maintain their credentials and stay up to date with the latest research and practices, RDs/RDNs are required to engage in ongoing continuing education and professional development.

The Expertise

RDs and RDNs are experts in nutrition and dietetics with a deep understanding of how food and nutrition impact human health. Their expertise extends across various domains, including:

1. Clinical Nutrition: In healthcare settings, RDs/RDNs work with individuals with medical conditions such as diabetes, heart disease, and eating disorders, offering tailored dietary plans and support to manage their health.

2. Community Nutrition: RDs/RDNs may work in community health centers, schools, or public health agencies, addressing public health issues and promoting healthy eating at a community level.

3. Foodservice Management: Some RDs/RDNs manage foodservice operations in healthcare facilities, schools, or other institutional settings, ensuring that meals are nutritionally balanced and meet dietary guidelines.

4. Sports Nutrition: In the world of athletics, RDs/RDNs assist athletes in optimizing their dietary intake to improve performance and recovery.

5. Research and Education: Many RDs/RDNs also engage in research or educational roles, contributing to the body of nutritional knowledge and training future dietitians.

The Benefits of Working with an RD/RDN

When you consult with an RD/RDN, you gain access to a wealth of knowledge and expertise that can be transformative for your health and well-being. Here are some benefits of working with these professionals:

1. Evidence-Based Advice: RDs/RDNs base their recommendations on scientific research and established nutritional guidelines, ensuring that you receive accurate and reliable information.

2. Personalized Guidance: They can develop personalized dietary plans that consider your unique health goals, preferences, and any medical conditions.

3. Accountability and Support: RDs/RDNs offer ongoing support and guidance, helping you stay on track with your nutrition goals.

4. Disease Management: If you have a medical condition that requires dietary management, an RD/RDN can play a crucial role in your treatment and recovery.

5. Long-Term Health: The knowledge and skills RDs/RDNs provide can contribute to your long-term health and well-being, reducing the risk of chronic diseases and improving overall quality of life.

In conclusion, Registered Dietitians (RDs) and Registered Dietitian Nutritionists (RDNs) are dedicated professionals with the education, training, and expertise to guide individuals toward better nutrition and improved health. Their evidence-based approach and personalized guidance make them essential partners on your journey to a healthier, happier life. So, if you're seeking nutritional advice and support, don't hesitate to reach out to an RD/RDN—you'll be making an investment in your well-being that can pay lifelong dividends.

What is a Certified Nutritionist?

A Certified Nutritionist is a professional who has obtained a certification or credential in the field of nutrition, demonstrating their expertise in providing nutritional guidance and education. It's important to note that the title "Certified Nutritionist" is not as regulated or standardized as that of a Registered Dietitian (RD) or Registered Dietitian Nutritionist (RDN).

The specific requirements and scope of practice for Certified Nutritionists can vary widely depending on the certifying organization and the state or country in which they practice. Here are some key points to understand about Certified Nutritionists:

1. Certification Process: Certified Nutritionists typically obtain their credentials by completing a nutrition-related educational program and passing an examination offered by a certifying organization. These programs can vary in length and depth of study.

2. Varied Credentials: There are numerous certifying organizations that offer different nutrition certifications, such as Certified Nutrition Specialist (CNS), Certified Clinical Nutritionist (CCN), or Certified Nutrition Consultant (CNC). The specific title may vary, and the requirements for certification can differ significantly.

3. Scope of Practice: The scope of practice for Certified Nutritionists may vary depending on the certifying organization and the regulations in the state or country in which they work. Some Certified Nutritionists may focus on general nutrition education, while others may specialize in areas like sports nutrition, weight management, or holistic nutrition.

4. Nutrition Counseling: Certified Nutritionists often provide nutrition counseling and education to individuals seeking to improve their dietary habits, manage health conditions, or meet specific health and fitness goals.

5. Limitations: It's important to note that in some places, Certified Nutritionists may have limitations on their practice. They may not be authorized to diagnose or treat medical conditions, prescribe specific diets for clinical conditions, or work in clinical healthcare settings.

6. Continuing Education: Many certifying organizations require Certified Nutritionists to engage in ongoing professional development and continuing education to maintain their certification.

7. Consultation Choice: When considering working with a Certified Nutritionist, individuals should research the certifying organization, review the professional's qualifications, and understand the scope of services they can provide. It's also a good idea to inquire about their approach to nutrition and the scientific basis of their recommendations.

In summary, a Certified Nutritionist is a nutrition professional who has obtained certification through a specific organization, indicating their competence in providing nutritional advice and education. However, the standards and regulations for Certified Nutritionists can vary, so it's essential to evaluate their qualifications and the scope of their practice to determine whether their expertise aligns with your specific nutritional needs and goals. If you have complex medical conditions or require specialized dietary interventions, it may be advisable to consult a Registered Dietitian or Registered Dietitian Nutritionist for more comprehensive and regulated nutritional guidance.


How did you initially become interested in health and wellness?

My interest in health and wellness didn’t start until later in life. I was always envious of people who had something that set their souls on fire. It wasn’t until my early 20s that I was able to uncover that for myself, and that’s when I realized I truly loved nutrition and lifestyle as it relates to mental and physical health.

Why did you choose to become an AFPA Certified Holistic Nutritionist and Recovery Coach?

My desire to get certified initially came from the desire to learn more. At the time, I didn’t know that I would move forward in building a business and actively practicing as a coach. I just knew I wanted to learn and understand as much about nutrition as possible to heal from the health issues I was experiencing. But as I started to move along through the program, and healed my digestive issues, and lost an unexpected 30 pounds I realized that I had a responsibility to take this knowledge and go out, educate, and help others.

What was your career like prior to becoming certified as a Holistic Nutritionist and recovery coach?

Over the past 15 years, I have been working in the mental health and substance abuse field as a marriage and family counselor, and doing contract work as a master-level individual and family behavior health therapist, substance abuse counselor, and clinical case manager which allowed me to complete my doctoral degree in counseling, master in education teaching and learning, and bachelor’s degree in health service administration. After I relapsed from my binge eating disorder I took a year off to heal. While I was doing the work to heal I completed my holistic nutritionist and health coaching certification. Upon graduating I rebranded my private practice to focus on nutrition, emotional wellness, and lifestyle management and completely stopped marriage and family counseling to focus on trauma and recovery. I decided that form of counseling was no longer serving me how I hoped it would. So I decided to pursue my business full-time focusing on wellness. Since January 2016, I have been working for myself as a Certified Trauma-Informed Nutritionist and Recovery Coach within my business Spiced Life Conversation, LLC, and I also continue to create wellness products and write books.

My career as a coach and counselor is so fulfilling, and I feel so incredibly lucky that I get to wake up every day and support others on their recovery journey in what I find to be one of the most important things we can do for ourselves in our lifetime.

I predominantly work with clients in private one-on-one sessions, VIP Day, and wellness workshops and my team of recovery coaches handles all the virtual coaching done on our membership site. I have some clients on a 3-month or 6-month package, and some even up to 10 months. It really depends on a client’s needs and circumstances. The membership is 3 months, 1 year, or a lifetime option. Each program is designed to help clients explore their habits and lifestyles and how we can better optimize them to better support their wellness goals and build a sustainable life in recovery.

What are your favorite parts of being a Trauma-Informed Nutritionist and Recovery Coach?

This one had me thinking! There are so many favorites, so it’s challenging to choose only one. One of my favorites is when clients make connections between how they feel and behaviors or habits that they have — both healthful and less healthful. Making this connection not only allows them to strengthen their awareness but also encourages them to move closer toward their life in recovery. It offers them awareness, reinforcement, and direction.

Furthermore, I love educating my clients on why they are making the choices they’re making — why they’re eating the foods they eat, why it’s important to move their body (beyond the physical appearance), the value of practicing good sleep hygiene, and prioritizing self-care, and making self care a top priority and more. This offers them a sense of self-empowerment as they truly understand the why behind it all. They can now take authority in their own wellness because they have a solid foundation to stand on. Through education — paired with behavioral change — they can effectively make sustainable change and understand the value of their investment in themselves and their health. Because my time, resources, and program are not cheap, I offer premium prices for a reason. It makes them value their health and they take their recovery seriously. No one is going to waste $25,000 which is my program price to work with me in private. Only those who are serious about recovery work with me.

How has becoming certified with AFPA impacted your life?

Becoming certified as a nutritionist and health coach with AFPA has completely changed my life! I could never imagine that I would be where I am now when I completed my certification! I feel so lucky to wake up every day with the opportunity to impact others physically and mentally by sharing my passion with them and charging the prices I charge. It truly is a dream come true.

Do you have any client success stories you would like to share?

I have been working with a client who has completely transformed since July. She has gone from not understanding how to properly nourish her body, living a sedentary lifestyle, not feeling good in her skin, not having a morning or night routine, having poor hydration, and struggling with emotional eating and childhood abandonment issues. Now we can confidently say that she is nourishing her body, eating the rainbow, and caring for her emotional health by dealing with her unresolved pain from her past. She has transformed her supplement routine, is exercising every morning, getting up with her alarm, and practicing healthy self-care and self-management. I'm teaching her about herbs, and that's exciting as a herbalist I love talking about the power of herbs. She is on top of it, and she feels so much better as a result of it.

I think one of the most powerful parts of this process is the awareness-building. Awareness is the key to self-transformation. Regardless of what behavioral changes you’re making, you always need to develop that awareness to sustain the change and understand why you’re trying to change your habits in the first place.

What advice would you give others thinking about becoming certified as a nutritionist or health coach?

My advice to others who may be considering entering the world of health and wellness — do it! The value this has been for my own personal wellness, as well as those around me, has been incredible. There is no greater investment than the investment we make in ourselves, in our health, and in our wellness. In a nation filled with eating disorders and suffering due to mental health issues, there are so many people to be served. While I’ll do my very best to reach each and every person, I’d love your help alongside me.

Self-promotion time! Why should people work with you?

When working together, it is my goal to support you in not only making your desired lifestyle changes but also support you in shifting your mindset while doing so. Behavioral change will not be sustained unless your thoughts and mindset align with it. Oftentimes, our past experiences with diet and exercise or any component of a wellness journey, shape the way we see ourselves and can sometimes lead to sabotage if we haven’t been successful in the past. If we’ve struggled 99 times before, how can we expect the 100th time to be any different?

This is where I come in. I infuse our conversations with the acknowledgment of the ebbs and flows of life, the reality that we can’t be “perfect” all the time, the importance of habit development, and steps to making long-term change, and I plan to hold your hand throughout all of it. Self-doubt and fear-based thinking can take over and we are quick to abandon ship on our wellness the second we aren’t perfectly accomplishing all of our goals. Instead, meeting yourself where you are and taking an inch is how small steps yield incredible results. This is for the long term; it’s not meant to be a quick fix. Feeling better and living a better quality of life is meant to last forever. Self-awareness is the key to transformation; you must be aware before you can make any change. And most importantly, I believe wholeheartedly that wellness lies within the intersection of physical and mental health. This manifests in a number of ways, and it is my goal to continually consider it within the circumstances of each of my client’s lives.

This interview was done by my sweet daughter for a class project. I am glad to help. I share it with you guys because someone out there may be interested in becoming a nutritionist or health coach. Or perhaps you're considering taking an AFPA course. I hope this gives you inspiration and clarity to go for it.



I Can Help in Developing A Plan For Self Care

Do you want help developing a self-care plan that works for your own busy schedule? Do you want accountability in implementing a self-care plan? If you or someone you love is struggling to maintain optimal mental and emotional health, consider reaching out to Spiced Life Conversation Art Wellness Studio and Botanica. We are a Metro Atlanta, Conyers Georgia area. We are a coaching and counseling practice with empathetic, skilled counselors and recovery coaches who can help you set goals, develop a self-care routine, and move forward to build a more fulfilling life. Our team would be happy to work with you either just for a couple of sessions to develop and implement a Self-care plan or longer term to work toward overall better mental health within our membership site or other programs.

Dr. Nikki LeToya White
Dr. Nikki LeToya White

About The Author:

Dr. Nikki LeToya White MSEd-TL, Ph.D. RHN is the founder, director, and full-time board-certified trauma-informed nutritionist, folk herbalist, and wellness consultant at Spiced Life Conversation Art Wellness Studio and Botanica. She created Spiced Life Conversation, LLC Art Wellness Studio, and Botanica to provide the Metro Atlanta area with counseling and coaching services where clients are carefully matched with the right program for healing abandonment and childhood emotional neglect trauma that cause codependency, emotional eating, financial stress, and imposter syndrome as it relates to the fear of success and being abandon. We help you begin your emotional healing journey with ease. Recently, we have expanded to include an online membership site so we now provide support to people living all over the world. All of our recovery coaches provide at least one evidence-based treatment to assist in your recovery. Dr. White is a big proponent of self-care and helping people live a fulfilling life! She has been in full remission with both codependency and emotional binge eating disorder since 2016. In living a life in recovery from sugar addiction. I love my low-sugar balanced lifestyle.

Best Regard

Dr. Nikki LeToya White

Recent Posts

See All