Dietitian or Nutritionist? Aren’t they all the same?
As a Registered Dietitian, I have been referred to as a Nutritionist many times, and it is true I am a Nutritionist. But is the opposite true? Is a Nutritionist the same as a Registered Dietitian? The answer is no. Even though both titles are related to food and nutrition, there are differences between what they mean and the credibility of the services offered.
What is a Registered Dietitian?
A Registered Dietitian, Dietitian or RD for short, is a nutrition health professional and is a protected and regulated title just like Physicians, Nurses, and Pharmacists. To become a Registered Dietitian in Canada you are required to:
- Complete an undergraduate degree in food and nutrition at an accredited (approved) University
- Complete a dietetic internship or masters degree combined with a dietetic internship
- Pass the Canadian Dietetic Registration Exam (CDRE)
- Register with a regulatory body (e.g. College of Dietitians of Ontario)
- Complete continuous education and yearly quality assurance
This ensures that we have the required education and training to practice competently and safely as nutrition professionals. Because of this you will find us working in areas that require nutrition expertise including hospitals conducting assessment and providing care to patients who are acutely and chronically ill, in government/public health influencing policy and developing programs, and in many institutions conducting research that drives important findings. We also work in primary care offices, private practice and community health centres providing nutrition workshops and individual counseling.
At our Dr. Shrayyef’s Nutrigrative Weight Management Centre. we have qualified registered dietitians to provide weight management services including myself. I completed my undergraduate degree in Food and Nutrition from Ryerson university and went on to complete my Masters in Public Health, specializing in Nutrition and Dietetics from the University of Toronto. During my masters, I completed my dietetic internship and training with the University Health Network and Toronto Public Health. I am also currently registered with the College of Dietitians of Ontario.
When you see a Registered Dietitian you have peace of mind that we are professionally and ethically responsible for providing you with quality care that is in your best interest and based on current evidence. We will not try to sell you on fad diets or sell you products. We are trained to critically assess information to ensure it is effective and safe before we implement it with our clients/patients. That being said we are not obligated to only follow Canada's Food Guide, we use our professional judgment to implement a variety of intervention based on what is best for you.
What is a Nutritionist?
A Nutritionist also provides nutrition services, typically focused on helping clients make healthier foods choices and adopt healthier habits. Unlike Registered Dietitian, Nutritionist is not a protected or regulated title in Canada (except for in Quebec, Alberta and Nova Scotia). This means that anyone can use that title with no specific education or training and are not accountable to any regulatory body to practice safely.
This allows anyone to call themselves a Nutritionist, whether they have the education or training or not, which can be an issue. Some nutritionists may have studied nutrition or holistic nutrition while others may not have studied the area but merely have an interest in the field.
It is important to note that some registered dietitians choose to call themselves Nutritionists or Registered Dietitian Nutritionist (RDN).
Here is a table summarizing the key differences.
Who should I choose?
Ultimately, the decision comes down to preference. It is best to choose the health professional you are most comfortable seeing and that fits your needs. However, before doing that it is important to check their credibility. Make sure they are either registered with their regulatory body or they have the required knowledge and experience to provide services safely and competently.