Dietitian or Nutritionist — What’s the Difference, Who’s Qualified?

One only has to turn on the radio or open a newspaper to learn about the importance of proper nutrition. We, as North Americans, are acutely aware of the health risks resulting from trans fats, sedentary lifestyle, and poor diet. In an effort to make good food choices for our families, and ourselves many people look to nutritional experts for advice and guidance. In an attempt to meet the increased demands for nutritional expertise, health enthusiasts with varied training and education have gravitated to the nutrition field leaving consumers confused regarding the level of care they receive.

The easiest way to ensure your nutritional advice is from a qualified expert is to ask if he or she is a Dietitian or the designation RDN or RD. Any of these three designations ensure your health care provider meets the Canadian education and training standards for dietetics.

Some dietitians prefer to use a work title such as clinical nutritionist or community nutritionist. If you see this title used in a health care institution in BC or in public health within your health authority, it is likely that this person is a qualified dietitian. As a general rule, qualified dietitians do not use titles such as nutritional consultant, nutritional therapist, certified nutritionist, or registered nutritional consultant.

If you are looking for a consulting dietitian who is both a member of their provincial regulatory body and Dietitians of Canada (DC), be sure to check out the SportMedBC Directory of Practitiioners. You can also visit and click on Find a Nutrition Professional. You can search by province, or a specific area such as sports nutrition, food allergies, or eating disorders. If you want more details on the difference between a dietitian and a nutritionist there is a fact sheet available on the DC web site under the icon A Career in Nutrition.

Dietitians bring you food and nutrition information you can trust! Our award winning web site provides accessible nutrition information and interactive consumer tools that can help you and your clients plan meals, check their food intake and activity level, or test their knowledge. Visit often and click on Eat Well Live Well.

Dietitians of Canada is the professional association representing over 5000 dietitians in Canada. We regulate standards for dietitian education, training and accredit all Canadian dietitian education and training programs. We bring the knowledge and skills of our members together to influence decisions that affect food, nutrition, and health.

Janice Macdonald obtained her undergraduate science degree in foods and nutrition from Acadia University and moved to Winnipeg to complete her practicum training program and a Master’s degree in Education (Health Promotion). Regional Executive Director, Dietitians of Canada, BC Region 1997-2010.

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