What is a Dietitian?

With all the different nutrition-related titles out there today, it is important to understand what they mean. When a person calls him/herself a “Registered Dietitian”, “Professional Dietitian”, or “Dietitian”, it means that they have the education and training necessary to meet national standards and are registered with a provincial regulatory body. In other words, these titles are protected by law.

All dietitians have a Bachelor degree in food and nutrition, and have completed at least 1250 hours of supervised practical experience to meet specified competencies so that they have the knowledge and expertise to work with the public. In order to maintain their registration and ensure best practice, dietitians also complete a certain number of continuing education hours every year. All this is to ensure public safety, so that when you talk to a dietitian you know that they have the right nutrition education and training .

However, you might have heard someone refer to him/herself as a “nutritionist”. It is important to note that unlike the term dietitian, in most provinces in Canada the term nutritionist is not protected by law. Therefore, there are varying levels of knowledge and training associated with that term. For example, some dietitians may call themselves nutritionists, however it is also possible for an unqualified person to call him/herself a nutritionist.  Other titles that are sometimes used by unqualified people include "nutrition expert", "nutrition specialist", or using the term "registered" with followed by a variation of "nutrition". To know that you are receiving the most credible information for your health and lifestyle, it is important to ensure the person you are talking to is a qualified nutrition professional.

References:

Dietitians of Canada (2010). What is the difference between a dietitian and a nutritionist? http://www.dietitians.ca/Downloadable-Content/Public/What-is-difference-RD-factsheet.aspx

Dietitians of Canada (2014). Dietitians promote health through food and nutrition. http://www.dietitians.ca/Downloadable-Content/Public/Diet-Promote-Health-1-pager-pdf.aspx