Written by: Dua Aldasouqi
I am a Registered Dietitian Nutritionist, Certified Health Coach, and founder of Dua the Dietitian, LLC. I live in Champaign, IL (two hours south of Chicago) and counsel individuals locally and nationally through Dua the Dietitian. This includes providing one-on one-nutrition counseling that is individually tailored to client needs and will soon also include group sessions and webinars.
I am also studying Islamic Studies and completing an Alimiyah program at Qalam Institute under the tutelage of Sheikh AbdulNasir Jangda, Mufti Hussein Kamani, and Sheikh Mikaeel Smith. I love both of these paths and am passionate about combining modern day nutrition and health recommendations with the traditional teachings of Islam.
How did I get here?
The first step to becoming a Registered Dietitian Nutritionist is to complete a bachelor’s of science (BS) in dietetics. Dietetics is basically applied nutrition. What this means is that someone that is a nutrition major will take and learn a lot of science–they take upper level biology, physiology, anatomy, chemistry, and organic chemistry. They are pros at science. A dietetics major on the other hand, will only take the lower level sciences so they have a broader understanding of these sciences. In place of the more advanced science courses, they will take applied courses like food science labs, nutrition through the life cycle, and medical nutritional therapy.
After completing their BS, they must also complete 1,200 hours of supervised work in an accredited dietetic internship. This usually take a year. The internship could be a part of a coordinated program (which means the BS and internship are combined so you don’t have to apply for the internship separately) or an independent dietetic internship. Most RDNs go through the latter as coordinated positions are far and few. The application for the internship occurs in the last year of undergrad and is a matching system (similar to medical residency) where you apply to a number of programs and rank them and the programs do the same with their applicants. On match day you receive one match. If you do not match initially, there’s a round two with all applicants that didn’t match and programs that didn’t fill all of their spots.
Once you complete your internship you become “registered dietitian/nutritionist eligible” and there is only one more step: the Registered Dietitian Nutritionist exam. After passing the exam, you are registered! You may use the credentials RD or RDN as you choose. Afterwards, you must complete 75 continuing education units every five years in order to keep your license.
In 2024, regulations will change in the US from requiring a minimum of a bachelor’s degree to requiring a minimum of a graduate degree which can include a master’s degree, practice doctorate, or doctoral degree. This will apply to anyone submitting for application after January 1, 2024.
The field of dietetics is broad and versatile. You can literally do just about anything you would like to do related to food and nutrition. The majority of dietitians work in clinical settings such as hospitals, dialysis centers, diabetes education, and long-term care centers (like nursing homes). They employ Medical Nutritional Therapy to provide treatment for patients along with dietary assessments and diet modifications. There is also a large number of dietitians in community health, public health, health communication, and research settings, where they may focus on overall wellbeing of a population rather than individualized care. Food Service Management is another area that dietitians may work in like hospital and school cafeterias to ensure meals provide adequate nutrition. Beyond this, dietitians also work in areas like sports nutrition, grocery stores, food companies, worksite wellness, and private practice.
Dietitians may also further specialize in certain clinical areas. In addition to the RDN credential, there are specialty credentials in areas of gerontological nutrition (CSG), sports dietetics (CSSD), pediatric nutrition (CSP), renal nutrition (CSR) and oncology nutrition (CSO).
Back to me
My choice of practice is a growing one today; dietitians are focusing on providing individualized care to the general public. This means providing one-on-one counseling to teach about proper nutrition, meal preparation, meal planning, physical activity, and more. Dietitians are also using social media to really help disseminate accurate nutrition information as nutrition information has become a maze.
I hope this helps you understand the field of dietetics a little bit more. If you have any questions or would like to learn more, feel free to reach out to me via any platform you like. You can email me (firstname.lastname@example.org) or leave a message on my website (http://duardn.com/schedule-an-appointment/). I am also on Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, and Tumblr – just search for “Dua the Dietitian” or “duaRDN.”