Dietetics Dictionary: Basics of the Field

There are many acronyms and terms in the field of dietetics, so we’ve compiled a list of the basic terms you need to know in this Dietetic Dictionary. The terms are listed in groups of related terms (not alphabetical order) so you can read through or search the page for a specific term. If you have suggestions for us to add, email us at theaplusrd@gmail!

Looking for definitions of advanced certifications? Click here to read our Dietetics Dictionary: Advanced Certifications Edition!

RD/RDN

A registered dietitian (RD) or registered dietitian-nutritionist (RDN) is a health professional trained in medical nutrition therapy, public health, and management. They complete extensive coursework, a supervised practice experience, and a national exam in order to have this title. RD and RDN can be used interchangeably, but they are distinct from the term “nutritionist” alone. There are no requirements to use the title “nutritionist” – RD and RDN denote a verifiable nutrition expert who has extensive training to provide nutrition care.

LDN

Some states require “licensure” for dietitians, meaning that you must file your qualifications with the state you are practicing in. The term “LDN” (licensed dietitian nutritionist) denotes a Registered Dietitian who has been properly licensed within the state. Many RDs who work in licensure states include “RD, LDN” after their name. See “Licensure” for more information.

NDTR

Nutrition and dietetics technicians, registered (NDTRs) are nutrition professionals who are trained to provide nutrition services independently in community settings and with a registered dietitian in clinical settings. Currently, NDTRs may complete an accredited Associate’s Degree along with 450 supervised practice hours or a Bachelor’s Degree with the DPD coursework. Beginning in 2024, NDTRs will be required to have a Bachelor’s Degree.

Learn more about NDTR programs: https://www.eatrightpro.org/acend/accredited-programs/dietetic-technician-programs

NDTRE/RDE

“Nutrition and Dietetic Technician Registered Eligible” and “Registered Dietitian Eligible” are not acceptable terms in the field of dietetics. Some students want to denote that they are finishing their training and are “eligible” to become a credentialed professional when applying to jobs. These terms are prohibited by the Academy because they are confusing and not regulated. If you are applying to jobs right before taking the exam, you can note your training finish date and your anticipated exam date on your resume. The combination of your degree(s) and your dietetic internship listed under “Education” on your resume will show potential employers that you are trained to be an NDTR or RD.

RD2Be

RD2Be is the popular term for dietetics students. It’s not an official term but it is commonly used on social media!

Licensure

Licensure is a requirement in certain states to help protect the work of registered dietitians. Requiring dietitians to register in the state is a way of ensuring that they are the only professionals that can provide certain nutrition-related services. Once you become a registered dietitian, obtaining licensure is a matter of paperwork. Additionally, if you intend to practice telehealth or otherwise provide medical nutrition therapy to clients who live in a state other than your own, you will need to be licensed in that state too (if the state requires licensure). However, once you’re licensed in one state, most states will grant you “licensure by reciprocity” – meaning that they recognize that you’ve submitted all your paperwork once before to your state and they will agree with your state’s licensure. For more information: https://www.cdrnet.org/state-licensure-agency-list

Medical Nutrition Therapy

Medical Nutrition Therapy is the practice of applying evidence-based nutrition interventions to treat diseases and conditions. Registered Dietitians are the only healthcare professionals trained to deliver this kind of intervention. (NDTRs are trained to assist with delivery of MNT under the supervision of an RD.) 

The Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics (AND)

The Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics (often called “the Academy” or “AND”) is the professional organization for registered dietitians and dietetic technicians. Over 100,000 professionals and students are part of the Academy. The Academy oversees dietetics education and accreditation, provides resources and networking for nutrition professionals, and advocates for the dietetics profession and for nutrition-related policy on the state and federal level. Academy membership is not required to practice as a registered dietitian, but professional certification through the Commission on Dietetics Registration (see below) is required.

EatRight

EatRight is another name for the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics. Typically, this is the branding they use for materials designed for the general public. EatRightPRO is the website for nutrition professionals.

Academy Foundation

The Academy Foundation is the philanthropic branch of the Academy. The Foundation raises money for grants, scholarships, and fellowships for Academy members. They also have a “disaster relief fund” to help dietetics professionals who are affected by natural disasters.

ACEND

The Accreditation Council for Education in Nutrition and Dietetics (ACEND) is the branch of the Academy that oversees dietetics education and training programs. They determine the requirements students must meet in order to sit for the RD or NDTR exam and ensure that programs are meeting those requirements.

CDR

The Commission on Dietetic Registration administers the RD and NDTR exams. They also grant several types of advanced practice certifications and oversee continuing education requirements. On the road to becoming an RD, ACEND oversees all of the education and training you do, while CDR is your gateway in making the leap from student to professional.

Coordinated Program (CP/CPD)

A coordinated program in dietetics (abbreviated as either CP or CPD) is a degree-granting program that combines dietetics coursework with supervised practice. Essentially, students in a coordinated program do their academic courses and dietetic internship all in the same program. These programs may result in either a bachelors or a masters degree. CPs are great for students who know for sure they want to become a registered dietitian. However, they may not offer the same flexibility in coursework that a DPD program can – you may have fewer chances for electives. Some programs have students do all of the classes first and then the supervised practice, and some intertwine part-time practice with part-time classes.

Didactic Program in Dietetics (DPD)

A didactic program in dietetics is the core academic coursework required to become a registered dietitian. You may see this term used to describe a program as a whole or a set of courses within your degree requirements. This coursework is required to meet national standards, so no matter where you go to school, you’ll be taking courses that are similar to all those taken by all dietetics students.

Dietetic Internship (DI)

The dietetic internship is the final step in RD training! It typically consists of 1200 “supervised practice hours” – which means that you train directly under a registered dietitian. (Note: due to the coronavirus pandemic, the minimum required hours has been set at 1000 hours through mid-2022.) Dietetic internships are required to cover clinical nutrition, community nutrition, and food service management. They may also include certain special topics or emphasize certain areas of practice, depending on the program. (Note: you may also see the abbreviation “DI” used to mean “dietetic intern” as well!)

MS/DI

An MS/DI program is a special kind of dietetic internship that includes a masters degree. Typically, the degree is a Masters of Science in Nutrition, but you may also find programs that grant a Masters of Public Health or a Masters of Science in a closely related field. An MS/DI program differs from a Coordinated Graduate Program because students must have an undergraduate degree that includes DPD coursework prior to entering the program.

Future Education Model (FEM)
Also called Future Education Model Graduate Programs (FG) and Future Education Model Bachelor’s Programs (FB)

Future Education Model programs are a new type of dietetics program that comply with the 2024 requirement for RDs to have a masters degree. The FEM programs are similar to graduate coordinated programs – they combine the necessary course requirements with a dietetic internship. Typically, students are not required to have a bachelor’s degree in dietetics in order to enroll in an FG. The FB programs are the new requirement for eligibility to be an NDTR. Students with a degree from an FB program can also go on to become an RD, but must complete a graduate degree and required supervised practice hours.

For more information, check out our guide to the 2024 pathways to becoming a registered dietitian.

Individualized Supervised Practice Pathways (ISPP – pronounced “ispey”)

ISPPs are a type of supervised practice that is designed for students who did not match to a dietetic internship (but have a DPD verification statement) or have a doctoral degree (but not a DPD verification statement). ISPPs are administered through accredited programs but students may need to find their own preceptors. You can find ISPP programs by selecting “Only Programs that have an ISPP option available” on the Academy’s program search feature.

Accredited 

An accredited dietetics program is one that has been approved by the Accreditation Council for Education in Nutrition and Dietetics (ACEND). ACEND ensures that programs are meeting the requirements to educate future professionals. In order to become an NDTR or RD, you must complete an accredited program. You can find all the accredited programs here: https://www.eatrightpro.org/acend/accredited-programs/about-accredited-programs

Verification statement

A verification statement is documentation of your completion of a portion of your education and training. You will need a verification statement from your program director in order to apply for the dietetic internship and another verification statement when you complete the DI in order to sit for the exam.

Supervised practice

Supervised practice is another term for the Dietetic Internship. It specifically refers to work that you do as a student with a registered dietitian as a preceptor. Some programs may use this term to also refer to a practical experience you do for academic credit.

Preceptor

A preceptor is a nutrition professional who mentors students during their supervised practice. The term is typically used for the dietitians who teach dietetic interns, but students may also use the term to refer to any dietitian who mentors them during any kind of training. Preceptors are dedicated to helping students, and they often join a special network within the Academy called Nutrition and Dietetics Educators and Preceptors (NDEP). All dietetics professionals are eligible to be preceptors – so you can be one as soon as you feel ready to show students what you do in your career. (If you’re thinking about becoming a preceptor, talk to your supervisor to see if your workplace has any special requirements for students who will be working with you, such as background checks.)

Rotation

A rotation is a training experience within the dietetic internship. You may hear people talk about their “community rotation” or “pediatric rotation.” This refers to the time they spend learning a specific topic during the dietetic internship. Tip: to get a feel of what a dietetic internship offers, see if you can find the “rotation schedule.” This will show you how many weeks are dedicated to each specialty. 

The Match (Computer Matching)

The Match is the process by which students apply to dietetic internships. Students rank the programs they want to apply for, and programs rank applicants. The computer system then “matches” students to programs based on these rankings. The Match has a roughly 65% match rate – which means that about two-thirds of the students who apply get a placement in a dietetic internship program.

DICAS

The Dietetic Internship Centralized Application Services – most commonly referred to as DICAS (pronounced “di-cass”) – is the online portal in which students complete their dietetic internship applications. Nearly all programs participate in DICAS matching, though some may have additional application components outside the system, such as essays, portfolios, and interviews.

CEU/CPEU

Continuing Education Units (CEUs – also sometimes called Continuing Professional Education Units or CPEUs) are educational “credits” that all RDs and NDTRs must accumulate in order to stay registered. Typically, 75 CEUs are required every 5 years. 

CPE

Continuing Professional Education is required to maintain professional certification. When looking for CEUs, make sure the course/webinar/article is approved by the Commission on Dietetic Registration (CDR) for dietetics continuing education.

Certificates of Training (CoT)

 Certificates of Training are a type of CPE. They are usually online learning modules that provide resources and information on a certain topic, such as food allergies, informatics, integrative and function nutrition, etc. They are provided and approved by the academy and can be found on eatrightstore.org

Professional Development Portfolio (PDP)

At the beginning of each of your 5-year recertification cycles, CDR requires you to create a Professional Development Portfolio. There’s an online program where you can set goals for your continuing education over the next five years. These goals are not binding, and the PDP is meant to help you organize your CEUs.

DPG

Dietetic Practice Groups are communities within the Academy that focus on a specific area of dietetics. There are over 20 DPGs, and typical benefits of joining include networking opportunities, specialized educational webinars and programs, access to research databases, and leadership opportunities.

Stay tuned for our A+ RD Guide to the DPGs – coming soon!

MIG

Member Interest Groups are communities within the Academy that typically focus on members who share a certain demographic characteristic, such as age, gender, race, ethnicity, or religion. Similar to DPGs, these groups provide additional opportunities and education for members.

Stay tuned for our A+ RD Guide to the MIGs – coming soon!

FNCE

The Food and Nutrition Conference and Expo is the annual conference hosted by the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics. Over 10,000 dietitians and dietetic technicians typically attend. The three-day conference includes presentations about research and professional skills, networking sessions, a dietetic internship fair, and an expo with food and nutrition companies. Fun fact: the abbreviation FNCE is pronounced “fence-y.”

Code of Ethics

The Code of Ethics is a set of guidelines for nutrition and dietetics professionals regarding proper professional conduct. There are four sections of the Code of Ethics: “Competence and professional development in practice (Non-maleficence); Integrity in personal and organizational behaviors and practices (Autonomy); Professionalism (Beneficence); and Social responsibility for local, regional, national, global nutrition and well-being (Justice).” Violation of the Code of Ethics can result in a “warning” with education about improving conduct, and all the up to revocation of the professional credential. 

Scope of Practice

The Scope of Practice defines the areas of professional practice that RDs and NDTRs can participate in. This document is meant for both nutrition professionals and other healthcare professionals. “Scope of practice” is an important concept in healthcare – it ensures that health professionals do work that they are trained to do without accidentally stepping into fields they are not trained for. The Scope of Practice can also inform what RDs and NDTRs can do as they branch out into “non-traditional” fields.

Standards of Practice

Standards of Practice are guides for assessing your performance and competency as a nutrition professional. You can use these standards for self-reflection or provide them to your supervisors during regular performance reviews.