Sage Nutrition Associates - RD Exam Prep

Top 5 textbooks when prepping for the RD exam

Did you know RD exam questions are written with information from sentinel textbooks from our undergraduate coursework? Real-life registered dietitians use their experiences to write RD exam questions, but ultimately, the questions must match the evidence-based information found in our nutrition textbooks. So, keep your textbooks from your undergraduate coursework if possible. 

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Top 5 textbooks when prepping for the RD exam 7

At Sage, we talk to so many students about their use of textbooks. We found that students either sold their textbooks, had online access to the books during that class only, or perhaps have outdated books. So, what does that mean when it comes to taking the RD exam? Many rely on their RD exam review guides to contain all the information they need to pass the exam. 

The truth is that any RD exam study guide is a synthesis, “cliff’s notes version” you may say, of all of the important textbooks used to write RD exam questions. So, if you are the type of person who needs more explanation of concepts, you will probably benefit from having a copy of one or two of the following books I am going to share with you.

We know everyone can benefit from having a copy of these books. It is a very good idea to consider how well you did in your undergraduate coursework, or any knowledge gaps you may have in certain topic areas (clinical and food service management are most common). Some questions to ask yourself:

  • How well did I retain information in this certain topic area? 
  • Can I easily recall the information when asked?
  • Did I cram and get through the class, or did I spend my time really studying and understanding the materials?

For example, your nutrition biochemistry teacher sang songs and made all the students give presentations, but never actually taught anything (this happened to me!).  For that class, I had to study my textbook A LOT outside of class to get the concepts. If not for the textbook, I would not know about the Krebs cycle or fat metabolism! My teacher was nice and all,they were just not great at explaining or delivering information effectively in my opinion.

With that, let’s get into my top 5 textbooks to have when studying for the RD exam. These 5 books are referenced by the Commission on Dietetic Registration as books used to write RD exam questions. 

  1. Krause and Mahan’s Food & the Nutrition Care Process, 15th edition.
  2. Boyle, Community Nutrition in Action, An Entrepreneurial Approach, 7th edition
  3. Brown, Nutrition Through the Lifecycle, 7th edition.
  4. Brown, Understanding Food Principles and Preparation, 6th edition.
  5. Payne-Palacio and Theis, Foodservice Management Principles and Practices, 13th edition.

Let me explain a little more about each book and why to consider them while studying.

  1. Krause, 15th edition. This is the MUST HAVE clinical textbook. It is comprehensive and takes you through each step of the nutrition care process. This is my go-to clinical resource, the book I always grab when a clinical question comes up. It has concise explanations of topics like digestion, absorption, excretion, cultural competence, nutrition support basics, lifecycle, and every medical nutrition therapy concept  you need to know for the rd exam. Since clinical comprises about 45% of the questions on the RD exam, it is great to have this book as a resource. Consider borrowing a copy or having a copy in your library.  If you are a clinical dietitian or planning to become one, Krause will serve you well as you continue to hone in your skills as a new dietitian.
  2. Boyle, Community Nutrition in Action, 7th ed. This is pretty much the go-to community text. There are others out there, but this one has all of the important terms you will need to be familiar with for the rd exam.  It also does a good job of explaining government programs, providing examples of programs, marketing for community programs and health care policy. It can be a little wordy at times, but, if you just focus on the definitions and examples, this is a good text.
  3. Brown, Nutrition Through the Lifecycle, 7th ed. This is the authoritative guide to lifecycle nutrition. It has those concise details that you need to know for each life stage.  If you did not have a WIC rotation, pediatric rotation, or work with women and children in any of your rotations, it will probably be good to consider using this book. I have found a lot of value in using it as a reference because it has not only normal nutrition, but it also has common nutrition related problems and solutions to those problems.. The key points and questions at the end of the chapters help to provide the main points. I highly recommend it!
  4. Brown, Understanding Food Principles and Preparation, 6th ed. The best food science book in my opinion. The information is well-organized, and includes details about what happens to foods as they are cooked, have pH changes, are stored improperly, and more. The graphs and charts are engaging and enhance the information. The pictorial summaries at the end of the chapters are fun and present the information in a concise and fun way. This is a great text for those who love to cook and want to incorporate cooking demos or videos into their practice as a dietitian.
  5. Payne-Palacio and Theis, Foodservice Management Principles and Practices, 13th edition.  This is by far our favorite food service management book. The book is well-organized and provides information on all of the common questions we get about food service management –  systems theories, functions of management, staffing issues, financial management and performance improvement. If you didn’t get a lot of experience in your foodservice rotation (Laura dished out peaches her entire 6 week foodservice rotation!), then this book is for you!

I do recommend trying to get these editions of these books if possible. It’s likely that older versions will not reflect the most up to date information in RD exam questions. There are some newer editions of several of these textbooks. The editions of the books listed here are reference for the 2022-2026 CDR RD exam reference list.

I hope this is helpful in guiding you towards building your nutrition library. 

Thanks for reading!

Study hard,


rd exam prep
Lauren & Laura of Sage

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