Dietitian Versus Nutritionist – What’s the Difference?

Not sure what the difference is between a dietitian and a nutritionist? You’re not alone – It can be quite confusing!

In Canada, the titles “Dietitian” and “Registered Dietitian” are protected by law. Registered Dietitians are licensed professionals and must be registered with Provincial Regulatory Bodies. Only someone who has met specific educational and professional requirements is legally allowed to use these titles.

Legally, Dietitians must practice according to set standards and laws that protect the public – just like other health professions such as doctors and nurses.

In most provinces, the title “Nutritionist” is not protected; therefore, people with different levels of training and knowledge can call themselves a “Nutritionist”, and there are no standards for quality of care.

But here’s where it gets tricky – depending on the work setting, some Registered Dietitians use the job title “nutritionist”. And some provinces have protected the title “Nutritionist” – these are Alberta, Quebec and Nova Scotia.

To be sure you’re speaking with a Registered Dietitian, check their qualifications. No matter what job title a Registered Dietitian is using, he/she will use the initials “RD” or “PDt” (“DtP” in French), or “Registered Dietitian”, after their name. Or simply ask if he/she is a Dietitian.

Now that we’ve cleared that up, what exactly does a Dietitian do?

That depends on the work setting. Dietitians have various roles in a variety of work settings including: hospitals, long-term care facilities, community health centres, home care, public health units, diabetes education centres, government, food industry, research, sports industry and private practice.

As an individual, the following are just some of the ways in which a Registered Dietitian can help you:

  • Managing your weight
  • Preventing or managing chronic diseases such as heart disease and diabetes
  • Planning menus for you and your family
  • Optimizing nutrition for sports
  • Managing digestive issues
  • Managing food allergies, intolerances and sensitivities

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