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Dietitian vs. Nutritionist: Whats the difference?

Many people don’t know the difference between Dietitian and Nutritionist and often they think they mean the same thing. This post is here to educate you! There are some major differences between Dietitians and Nutritionists that I think you may find interesting…

Here are 4 major differences between Dietitians and Nutritionists you should know about:

  1. Dietitians have a license to practice. Dietitians must be registered with a provincially regulated body which upholds highest standards of service and ethics. We answer to a college just like other regulated health professions such as Physiotherapists, Medical Doctors, Chiropractors, and Naturopaths.

Nutritionists do not have a license to practice, meaning that there is no regulatory body ensuring that a Nutritionist is giving credible and ethical advice. A Nutritionist could literally be selling socks that “make you lose weight” and there would no repercussions.

  1. The titles “Dietitian”, “Registered Dietitian”, and acronym “RD” are protected. They can only be used by those who have completed the necessary education and passed a licensing exam. You must be registered with the College of Dietitians to be able to use any of these titles.

The title “Nutritionist” is not regulated, so ANYONE can call themselves a Nutritionist….yes your chiropractor, your pet groomer or even that “weight loss guru” you just followed on Insta! Just because they are a nutritionist does not mean that they know what they are talking about.

  1. Dietitians have A LOT of education and hands-on supervised practice behind them.

a) Dietitians need to have a science based degree from an accredited University (BASc), which means we have to take courses on human physiology, chemistry, biology, and so much more!

b) Need to have a done an 1250+ hours of intensive internship (which is similar to Doctor’s residency) where Dietitians are learning hands on skills on counselling, disease management, community nutrition, food systems, and research.

c) And then finally you get to sit and write a nerve wrecking NATIONAL exam. Only those who pass and registered with their provincial college can call themselves RD’s!

d) Many Dietitians go on further with education and have Masters and Doctorate Degrees.

e) Like other health professionals, Dietitians are required to stay up-to-date as new research, knowledge, skills, and recommendations emerge.

Nutritionists can have varying degrees of education from undergraduate university degrees or to NOTHING at all. I’ve seen Nutritionists who’s educational background only goes as far as Google!

  1. Dietitians are an integral part of your health care team.

Hospitals, doctors offices, etc. will refer you to a Registered Dietitian because we are the TRUSTED nutrition professionals with education behind the title.

Dietitians are trained to provide the best nutrition and health advice to help people be the healthiest versions of themselves. Dietitians won’t be the ones to sell you unnecessary supplements or products or make you follow the latest diet trends nor will they compromise your health to get results.

Nutritionists are not required to have any formal training required to understand medical health and so they are not usually part of your health care team in the hospital or with your MD.

Now don’t get me wrong – some Nutritionists are very knowledgeable and do provide sound nutrition advice! BUT…

Dietitians do hold a certain level of trust in the world of nutrition because when you work with a Registered Dietitian, you know that you are working with someone who has gone through a rigorous amount of training and education. We provide nutrition education that is backed by SCIENCE. We care about your health and wellbeing. We are liable for the advice we give!

Everyone is looking for that quick fix…and unfortunately, influencers tend to take advantage of that desperation by promoting things that have no sound evidence (supplements, bars, shakes, fad diets, WW, Noom, Herbalife and the list goes on and on) and many times these can actually be damaging to your health.

My advice to you is ALWAYS ALWAYS ALWAYS know where your information is coming from. Having a lot of Insta followers or being on TV (hello Dr. Oz!) does not make them a credible nutritional professional. Check the person’s credentials and educational background. Do they actually have any formal education and credibility to speak about nutrition?

Want to learn more about me, a Registered Dietitian, who is invested in helping you reach your health and nutrition goals? Check out my bio and drop me a message!

I’d love to learn more about you and see if we are a good fit for each other!

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I'm Anisha Gupta

Registered Dietitian and Nutrition Coach, living just outside of Toronto, Ontario, Canada.

Hello Nutrition

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