Though I have spoken about what a Registered Dietitian is and the many places in which we are able to work, I find not a lot of people actually know what I had to do to become a dietitian or what the difference between a dietitian and nutritionist is.
Let me start by breaking down what a Registered Dietitian needs to do before calling themselves a Registered Dietitian.
- Get accepted into an accredited university and complete a Bachelors of Science in Human Nutrition (or some other variation of a BSc. in food and nutrition). Accreditation is through Partnership for Dietetic Education and Practice.
- Get accepted and complete a one-year dietetic internship where skilled dietitians assess your readiness and teach you how to be the awesome dietitian you’re going to be!
- Write and pass the Canadian Dietetic Registration Examination.
- Register with your provincial regulatory body.
- Annually provide evidence to your regulatory body that you are kept up to date and participating in continuing education and competence.
Now, let me explain what you need to do to be a nutritionist.
- Call yourself a nutritionist.
Registered Dietitian is protected title in ALL provinces in Canada, thus when you see RD, RDN, or P. Dt you know you are working with a Registered Dietitian who went and did all the fun stuff mentioned above. Nutritionist is a tricky term because it is protected in SOME Canadian provinces. Thus, in Nova Scotia, Alberta and Quebec when you see a nutritionist, you are seeing a Registered Dietitian. However, in ALL other Canadian provinces, when you see a nutritionist you might be seeing a dietitian but you also might be seeing someone who is not educated formally in the field of food or nutrition at all.
So, it is true when they say all dietitians are a nutritionist but not all nutritionists are dietitians. I know there are some dietitians who would prefer if nutritionists didn’t exist, and I personally think that’s a little unfair. There are many nutritionists who have the same university degree as myself but didn’t go on to complete an internship, there are many nutritionists who do amazing work and truly help people navigate the confusing world of food and nutrition (and I thank you!). However, not all nutritionists are created equal, and there are a lot out there who are not educated at all and share so much misinformation. I often see this misinformation in the form of fear mongering, quick fixes or based on extremely poorly done research.
Like nutritionists, however, dietitians are not all created equally either and I disagree with some of them out there. The key is to not only find what’s right for you but most importantly, who is right for you. Find someone who is providing you credible, evidence based information. Find someone who wants to work with you, not just talk at you. Find someone you can trust and confide in, who helps motivate you and empathizes with your struggles. Find someone who you genuinely enjoy working with, who provides you guidance so you can genuinely enjoy your life. This might be a dietitian, or it could be a nutritionist or a health coach. I want people to succeed and I want them to succeed in a safe manner using proven methods. In the end, I want people to live their best, most healthful life whether that comes from working with a dietitian or working with someone else.