Every Dietitian is a Nutritionist, But Not Every Nutritionist is a Dietitian

I am a registered dietitian. This blog is to set the stage for Nourish & Nurture launch in 2019!

What does registered mean? And what exactly is a dietitian? Is it the same as nutritionist?

In this blog, I am showing in detail what a dietitian is and what makes dietitians special. You will see that it is specific to Canada (mostly specific to the province of Ontario). In other countries, where dietitians are regulated, there are differences in the processes.

Whenever I say that I am a dietitian, I get many questions, responses, or requests:

“Can you make me a meal plan?

How can I lose weight?

Are you a healthy person?

Do you eat dessert?

Don’t look at my plate or don’t judge my body or my food. Etc.

Or I get judged (yes! I get it a lot): “Oh no! the dietitian is eating cake!!!!”

I love being a dietitian and am interested to see and learn what people actually think about dietitians and their work. Many think that we only work in hospitals, or we just design meal plans, or we do not like food.

I became a dietitian because it combines science, health, human behaviour, communication, helping people, and of course, food. It also can be applied on personal and family levels.

As dietitians, we study food, and we know that is a fuel and nutrients. We can calculate the calories and the grams of carbs, fat, and proteins in food. But we also know food is not just that. Food is social, cultural, emotional, economic, and political. To many people, food may mean love, family, home, celebration, business, fun, comfort, and so many other things.

One exercise that I use a lot in my nutrition sessions is: to answer “What Does Food Mean to You?” on paper plates. It is always interesting and fun exercise to have!

What does food mean to you plates

What does food mean to you plates in another event

When I was a dietetics student, there were small amount of resources speaking about dietitians and their journeys, their work, and their achievement. Now there is plenty. This feels great!

What is a dietitian?

A dietitian is a regulated health professional and a part of the healthcare team. A dietitian uses food, nutrition and related sciences to provide evidence-based client-centered treatment, care, education, and support to promote health, prevent diseases or treat them. Some dietitians also work in food services as managers. Some dietitians work as educators and some work as researchers.

Dietitians translate science in the areas of food and human health to create plans, education, and recommendations that are practical and applicable to individual, groups, or population needs.

You may find dietitians working with individuals, groups, organizations, or populations. We work in so many different settings.

The following video features some of my favourite RDs speaking to Being a Dietitian!

Dietetics is a regulated profession. Any one can claim to be anything, But no one can say they are a dietitian without having certain qualifications and credentials, which are:

1) completing at least four years of a university degree in food, nutrition, or related field or equivalent.

2) Completing a year of practicum or internship.

3) Writing and passing the Canadian Dietetic Registration Exam (CDRE), which is mostly a competency-based applied cases exam.

In Canada, dietitians are regulated by Colleges and Associations. In Ontario, dietitians are regulated by the College of Dietitians of Ontario.

Dietitians follow standards of practice and code of ethics. We are also accountable to continuing learning and competency.

Why are we regulated?

In short: To protect the public!

To ensure that every dietitian is practising according to the laws and ethics and keeping competent by keeping up-to-date with knowledge and skills. Here is also the Dietetics Act in Ontario.

Dietitians are the most trusted source of nutrition information in Canada. Dietitians go through comprehensive education and training. Titles such as nutritionists (protected in some provinces – not in Ontario), registered holistic nutritionists, nutrition coaches, food experts may not have the same standards of practice or the same accountability.

Registered Dietitian Facts from Dietitians of Canada

How can I differentiate?

In Ontario, to make sure to get the most trusted nutrition information, look for “RD” after the expert name. Or you can check the College of Dietitians of Ontario's website.

How to become a dietitian?

Check out: Dietitians of Canada website.

Read about my journey to becoming a Registered Dietitian in Canada in my first blog.

RDs and Big food and big pharma?

Many times, I see that dietitians may be accused as being influenced by big food or big pharma. It is critical for dietitians to be evidence based and adhere to the code of ethics and be away from conflict of interests. Even dietitians who work in industry need to be aware of their recommendations to avoid ethical dilemmas and protect their clients.

My friend Steph Langdon created this blog series to share the variety of roles dietitians play. Check WhatRDsDo and my interview with her when I still was a grad student.

Now, it’s your turn. what do you do for life? Do you like it? Why do you like it?

What have you thought about dietitians in the past? Has this blog provided you with any new information?

Thanks for reading and see you again!


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