I am often asked what the difference is between a Nutritionist and a Registered Dietitian. I decided that Registered Dietitian Day was a perfect day to chat about this.
The bottom line is that Registered Dietitian is a qualified and regulated health professional with a regulated title, and just about anyone could choose to call themselves a “nutritionist”.
Okay, so why does that matter?
Well, an RD is registered with a College of Dietitians…similar to the College of Physicians or College of Nurses, etc. We are held accountable for our actions and also required to go through an assessment and set goals each year and follow up each year to ensure we are staying on track with professional conduct and development. We also are required to have malpractice insurance. A nutritionist does not have anyone that they are accountable to. If they were to give inappropriate advice, there would be no recourse.
What is the education requirement to become an RD?
RDs must complete a 4 year Bachelor of Science followed by a comprehensive dietetic internship and/or obtain a Masters of Science. Following this, the individual must write an exam and pass this exam to be registered with their college. I am a member of the College of Dietitians of Ontario. If I were to move to Alberta, I would need to re-write the exam to be accepted into the College of Dietitians of Alberta. The same would be true if I moved to any other country in the world. I would need to write the exam for that country’s College of Dietitians.
Dietitians are experts in nutrition and have guiding principles for counselling and overall conduct. Nutritionist is more likely to suggest more extreme measures and typically will not have as broad an understanding of overall health, as they are not truly a health professional.
I hope that this helps to clarify if you have ever wondered about this topic. Feel free to email me anytime if you have further questions.
Until next time…stay healthy!