Dietitian vs Nutritionist

People often ask me what the difference is between a Dietitian (or Registered Dietitian) and a Nutritionist, so I am providing a brief explanation of that here.

A Dietitian or Registered Dietitian (RD) is a graduate of a university who has met specific academic and professional practice requirements, including completion of a qualified internship in a hospital setting as well as successful challenging of the Canadian Dietetic Registration Exam (CDRE).

Dietitians, at minimum must have Bachelor of Science degree in Dietetics or Human Nutrition and some have completed post-graduate degrees (Masters or PhD) in areas such as Human Nutrition.

“Dietitian” and “Registered Dietitian” and the abbreviation “RD” are legally protected terms in Canada and the College of Dietitians of British Columbia (CDBC) is the legislative body that oversees the professional practice of Dietitians across all practice areas and settings in this Province.

In British Columbia, Dietitians practice under Chapter 183 of the Health Professions Act [RSBC 1996].

The term “Nutritionist” is not regulated in Canada, so anyone can call themselves a nutritionist, even without any training at all. Some nutritionists that work at fitness clubs or ‘wellness clinics’ may have taken a one year course at a ‘school of nutrition’ and have a certificate in ‘natural or holistic nutrition’.

University educated nutritionists usually work in research, writing educational materials or in the food industry and usually hold university degrees in nutritional or food science.

Under law, even university-educated nutritionists cannot counsel clients or treat patients.

Remember that extended benefit coverage will reimburse visits with a Registered Dietitian but not a Nutritionist.