Is there a difference between a Dietitian and a Nutritionist?

 

Sometimes yes, sometimes no! Some dietitians have a job title that includes nutritionist such as community nutritionist.  To be sure you are accessing the most qualified nutrition professional, look for the initials RD or PDt (DtP in French) after the health professional's name or ask - are you a dietitian? Dietitian is a protected title across Canada, just like physician, nurse and pharmacist.  Nutritionist is also a protected title in Alberta, Quebec and Nova Scotia. Refer to the table below for details by province.


What does a dietitian do? 
Dietitians translate the science of nutrition into terms you can understand. They unlock food’s potential and support healthy living for their patients, clients, and communities.  A dietitian would not just hand you a diet or a list of foods not to eat and send you on your way or promote or sell you unnecessary food or supplements. Dietitians look beyond fads and gimmicks to deliver reliable, life-changing advice tailored to your objectives as well as personal needs and challenges.
 
Comprehensive Training
Dietitians have a degree in foods and nutrition from an accredited university program and undergo comprehensive and rigorous training, both on the job and in universities. Just like all regulated health professionals, dietitians are committed and required to stay on top of emerging research, skills, and techniques. They adhere to Principles of Professional Practice.
 
Why see a provincially regulated professional? 
It’s one way you can be assured the advice and information you are receiving is sound. You wouldn’t ask a celebrity how to build a safe bridge, you’d ask a professional engineer. You wouldn’t ask your neighbour who has an interest in medicine to provide you with medical advice. The same thinking should apply for nutrition advice.
 
Dietitians, just like engineers and medical doctors, are accountable to provincial regulatory bodies for the highest standards of education and ethics. These provincial regulatory bodies are in place to protect the public. They also serve as a point of contact for consumer complaints and malpractice. For more information or to verify if your nutrition provider is registered, contact the regulatory body in your province.
 
What about titles like Registered Holistic Nutritionist, Certified Nutritional Practitioner, RONP, RNCP, ROHP, RHN, CNP? 
These titles are not the same as Registered Dietitian and do not indicate the person is a provincially regulated health professional. They are often used by those who have completed privately owned training programs that vary in length and rigor. 
 
To verify your nutrition care provider is a Dietitian, look for RD or PDt (DtP in French). And remember, Dietitian is a protected title across Canada, just like physician, nurse and pharmacist.  Nutritionist is also a protected title in Alberta, Quebec and Nova Scotia.
 
Refer to the table below for details by province.
 

Province

Protected Titles and Initials through Provincial Regulation *

British Columbia

Registered Dietitian, Dietitian, RD

Alberta *

Registered Dietitian, Dietitian, Registered Nutritionist, Nutritionist, RD

Saskatchewan

Registered Dietitian, Dietitian, Professional Dietitian, RD, P.Dt

Manitoba

Registered Dietitian, Dietitian, RD

Ontario

Registered Dietitian, Dietitian, RD
(en français) diététiste professionel(le), Dt.P

Quebec

Dietitian, Nutritionist, Dietician, RD, P.Dt
(en français) diététiste, nutritionniste, diététicien,  Dt.P 

New Brunswick

Dietitian, Dietician, Professional Dietitian, Registered Dietitian - Nutritionist, Registered Dietitian, P.Dt., R.D.,  RDN
(en français) diététiste, diététicienne, diététiste ou
diététicienne professionnelle, diététiste-nutritionniste, diététicienne-nutritionniste immatriculée, diététiste ou diététicienne immatriculée, Dt.P., Dt.I, Dt.N.I

Nova Scotia

Dietitian, Nutritionist, P.Dt

Prince Edward Island

Registered Dietitian, RD

Newfoundland and Labrador

Registered Dietitian, Dietitian, RD

Yukon, Northwest Territories, Nunavut

Dietitians who live/work in the Territories are required to join a provincial regulatory body.


* The titles Dietetic Intern and Provisional Dietitian are also protected in Alberta.

Resources

Updated March 8, 2018

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