The Benefits of Meeting with a Registered Dietitian Nutritionist

Navigating through all the noise about nutrition can be difficult. It seems like a new diet fad makes headlines every few weeks. Should you be counting calories or carbohydrates? What is a macro, anyway? How can you avoid nutrition advice that can do more harm than good? How can what you eat help you manage disease and improve your overall health?

If you’re tired of trying to sort through social media or news articles to find a nutrition plan that works for your health needs, you may need expert help. But finding the right nutrition expert can be confusing, too.

As Registered Dietitian Nutritionists (RDNs) at South Shore Health, we get a lot of questions about our profession. Here are some answers.

What’s the difference between a registered dietitian and a nutritionist?

All dietitians are nutritionists, but not all nutritionists are dietitians. (Told you it was confusing!)

Let us explain: When you meet with a dietitian, he or she has had extensive professional training. 

RDNs must:

  • Obtain a bachelor or master’s degree in nutrition from an approved program 
  • Complete a lengthy, accredited, supervised internship 
  • Pass an exam, administered by a national organization called the Commission on Dietetic Registration, to become a Registered Dietitian


Once a dietitian is registered, his or her education doesn’t stop. An RDN must attend classes and follow evidence-based research to provide sound guidance to patients and maintain the certification. It’s kind of like being a doctor—there’s a rigorous program to get the title, and a lot of work goes in to keeping it. At South Shore Health, our nutrition experts are all registered dietitians.

Nutritionists don’t have to follow any tight guidelines, and they don’t have to follow evidence-based science when making recommendations. When you meet with a nutritionist, you’re not getting recommendations based on the latest scientific research, which could be harmful to your health. 

Why should I meet with a Registered Dietitian Nutritionist?

An RDN helps you develop a personalized plan that works for you.

Your RDN draws from the latest scientific research into nutrition and considers your medical history, current medications, and your lifestyle to develop a plan that’s as unique as you are.

At South Shore Health, we work with patients to help manage a variety of disease states, such as diabetes, heart disease, irritable bowel syndrome (IBS), celiac disease, as well as weight management. 

Will insurance cover an appointment with a Registered Dietitian Nutritionist?

It depends on your plan. It’s always best to call your health insurance provider and ask if your plan covers Medical Nutrition Therapy, and to determine if your doctor needs to make a referral. The number is usually on the back of your insurance card.

Nutrition plays a huge role in a person’s overall health. A Registered Dietitian Nutritionist can help develop a sound plan to manage disease and keep you healthy. 

To learn more about nutrition services at South Shore Health, click here.

Mary Kate O’Leary, RDN, also contributed to this post.