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 work with you to help you feel your best. They translate scientific research about food and nutrition into practical solutions for individuals, families 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. The advice and information they provide is tailored to you and your needs.
University educated – Hands-on training
Dietitians have a university degree in foods and nutrition from an accredited university program and hundreds of hours of supervised, hands-on training.  Just like all regulated health professionals, dietitians are required to practice ethically and to complete annual professional development to make sure their skills are up to date.  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 their professional conduct and the services they provide. 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, contact the regulatory body in your province.
What about titles like Registered Holistic Nutritionist, Certified Nutritional Practitioner, RONP, RNCP, ROHP, RHN, CNP?
These titles do not indicate the person is a provincially regulated health professional. They are used by those who have completed training programs that vary in length and rigor and are privately owned.   Such training programs are not delivered or accredited by a recognized institution.


Protected Titles and Initials through Provincial Regulation *

British Columbia

Registered Dietitian, Dietitian, RD

Alberta *

Registered Dietitian, Dietitian, Registered Nutritionist, Nutritionist, RD


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


Registered Dietitian, Dietitian, RD


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


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.


Updated December 8, 2016

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