703-465-1213

Dietitian vs Nutritionist

ArCTIC’s dietician, Lauren Trocchio, RD, CSSD, CSOWM, LD has a lot of letters behind her name.  Read on to learn what they all mean.

What is the difference between a registered dietitian (RD or RDN) and a nutritionist?

A registered dietitian can always be called a nutritionist, but a nutritionist can not always be called a dietitian.

The title ‘dietitian’ is protected by law. In the US, dietitians must complete a dietetics degree (must be an MS as of 2024); a structured, 1200 hour, supervised internship conducted in a variety of settings; and pass a national registration exam. Depending on the state, a dietitian may also need a license to practice. This is a protection for citizens as it ensures providers meet requirements to conduct certain activities.

The title ‘nutritionist’ is typically not protected. Some states do require individuals practicing as nutritionists to obtain a license (DC is one of them), and the criteria to obtain this are similar to the education and internship requirements of dietitians. However, most states do not require licenses for nutritionists. Therefore, someone may have no accredited or valid experience yet still call themselves a nutritionist.

A registered dietitian or licensed nutritionist are the only nutrition professionals qualified to provide Medical Nutrition Therapy (MNT), which is nutrition guidance for the treatment of disease.  Dietitians are educated not only on nutrients. science of food, and medical management of disease through nutrition, but also counseling techniques and behavioral therapy.

What is a CSSD?
CSSD stands for Board Certified Specialist in Sports Dietetics. This is the sports specialty certificate accredited by the Commission on Dietetic Registration. To achieve this specialty, you must:

– Be an RD for at least 2 years
– Complete 2,000 hours within the sports specialty field
– Pass a national exam

In order to stay abreast of advances in science, CSSDs must retake this exam every 5 years and complete 1,000 specialty hours.

What is a CSOWM?
CSOWM stands for a Board Certified Specialist in Obesity and Weight Management. This is an interdisciplinary board certification accredited by the Commission on Dietetic Registration. Nurse practitioners, psychologists, exercise physiologists, social workers, and dietitians may all achieve this specialty. To achieve this specialty, you must:

-Be an RD (or other provider as listed) for at least 2 years
-Complete 2,000 hours within the obesity and weight management specialty field
-Pass a national exam which covers the following areas in the treatment of obesity: nutrition, exercise, pharmacological management, surgical management, psychological aspects

In order to stay abreast of advances in science, CSOWMs must retake this exam every 5 years and complete 1,000 specialty hours.


Do you need help with weight management, sports performance gastrointestinal conditions, diabetes management, cardiovascular health, binge eating disorders and/or general wellness?

ARCTIC’s dietician, Lauren Trocchio, RD, CSSD, CSOWM, LD, can help you!

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Arlington, VA 22201
Phone: 703-465-1213
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