Dietitian vs. Nutritionist: Is There a Difference?

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Nutrition is a hot topic right now! With so much information flying around in the media, it can be hard to make sense of it all. Will the keto diet help me lose weight? Do eggs raise my cholesterol? Are artificial sweeteners safe? If you’re looking for trustworthy, evidence-based answers to these questions, a registered dietitian is your go-to!

Did you know that “dietitian” is a title protected by law in Canada, but “nutritionist” is not? With the exception of Alberta, Quebec, and Nova Scotia, the title “nutritionist” holds little meaning because anyone can use it. Only a qualified registered dietitian can use the designation of RD or PDt (DtP in French).

So, what makes a dietitian qualified?

  • All dietitians have university degrees from nutrition programs accredited by the Partnership for Dietetic Education and Practice (PDEP) to ensure well-rounded knowledge in chemistry, biochemistry, physiology, microbiology, social sciences, communications, clinical nutrition, community nutrition, food service management, and more.

  • All graduates from accredited nutrition programs are required to complete 35-40 weeks of supervised practical experience in hospitals and other organizations to be eligible to write the Canadian Dietetic Registration Exam (CDRE) and become dietitians.

  • All dietitians are regulated health professionals just like doctors and nurses, registered with a regulatory body in their province (Ontario dietitians are regulated by the College of Dietitians of Ontario).

  • All dietitians are required to stay on top of emerging research, skills, and techniques to provide safe and effective nutrition care to the public.

Where do dietitians work?

Dietitians are important members of healthcare teams, working alongside doctors, nurses, occupational therapists, and other healthcare professionals to deliver client-centered nutrition care. Some dietitians specialize in specific health conditions like heart disease, diabetes, obesity, or kidney disease. Not all dietitians work in hospitals or clinics, though. You may also find dietitians working in:

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  • Research

  • Foodservice

  • Grocery stores

  • Long-term care

  • Food product development

  • Government policy development

  • Community programs

  • Education

  • Media 

  • Prisons 

  • Sports teams

  • Private practice/entrepreneurship 

Dietitians are experts at interpreting and applying complex scientific research to help Canadians reach their health and nutrition goals. You can find an RD in your area here or make an appointment with Bridge Nutrition Services.

Be sure to check back with us in March for weekly posts throughout Nutrition Month!

Ryan Stallard