Differences Between a Registered Dietitian and a Nutritionist

There are a lot of terms out there that get thrown around when it comes to nutrition and dieting. It can be confusing to try and figure out what all of them mean—and even more confusing to try and determine who you should listen to.

After all, when you’re trying to improve your health, you want to make sure you’re getting the best advice possible.

So what’s the difference between a Registered Dietitian and a nutritionist?

What is a Registered Dietitian?

A Registered Dietitian is a food and nutrition expert who has met certain educational and professional requirements.

In order to become a Registered Dietitian, one must receive a 4-year degree from a University, fulfill a rigorous supervised practice requirement, and pass a national examination to become licensed.

Registered dietitians are also required to stay up-to-date on the latest nutrition research and information. They often work in hospitals, clinics, or other healthcare settings.

What is a Nutritionist?

Nutritionists are not always required to be licensed, nor to meet any specific educational or professional requirements. Many nutritionists do have post secondary certificates or degrees in nutrition—however, other nutritionists may not have any formal education or practical training.

While some unlicensed nutritionists are knowledgeable about diet and nutrition, it’s important to remember the fact is that in some areas, anyone can call themselves a nutritionist regardless of their qualifications. Regulation for nutritionists (where it exists) is only at the province/state level, rather than at the national level as with Registered Dietitians.

In British Columbia, for example, “nutritionist” is not a regulated profession. This means that nutritionists are not subject to any government or regulatory requirements, and that “nutritionist” is not a protected title in BC. In other words, anyone with an interest in nutrition can use the title “nutritionist.”

Because of this, it’s important to be wary of any advice given by a nutritionist unless you know for sure that they are reputable and knowledgeable.

Registered Dietitian vs Nutritionist

Putting knowledge and expertise aside, what separates a nutritionist from a Registered Dietitian are: education, training, and a license.

An analogy would be the difference between a licensed health practitioner and an herbalist:

The licensed practitioner has gone through school, internship, training, and passed a licensing exam to ensure they are qualified to practice.

The herbalist may have years of experience and knowledge, or they may have read plenty of books and Internet articles about health and herbal remedies.

They may even have taken classes or completed a degree in a field related to health, or have a certificate in herbal medicine.

But the bottom line is that they have not gone through the same process to become licensed, which means they are not held to the same standards.

The same can be said of the difference between nutritionists and Registered Dietitians. Nutritionists may have a lot of experience and knowledge, but they simply have not gone through the same rigorous process to ensure that they are qualified to give nutrition advice.

Again, the benefits of working with a Registered Dietitian are that they have met specific educational and professional requirements and are required to stay up-to-date on the latest nutrition research in order to ensure they are qualified to practice.

This is not meant to say that nutritionists are not knowledgeable about diet and nutrition. But, unfortunately, the fact is it’s difficult to tell if someone is qualified to give advice when there are no requirements

So, when it comes to making decisions about your diet and nutrition, be sure to consult with a Registered Dietitian. They are the diet and nutrition experts who can give you the most accurate, reliable and up-to-date information to help you improve your diet and your health.

Registered Dietitian in Victoria, BC

At Continuum Health Centre in Victoria, BC, our Registered Dietitians provide a multitude of personalized services, such as:

  • Assessing nutritional needs for individuals and groups
  • Using a client-centered approach to nutritional counseling and designing
  • Implementing and monitoring nutritional care plans (and therapeutic diets) based on relevant scientific, medical, and nutrition information.

For more information about our dietetic and nutrition services, please call 1-778-433-7737 or click here to book an appointment with a Registered Dietitian now.