Registered Dietitian vs. Nutritionist

A Registered Dietitian (RD) is a health professional who can provide advice on nutrition, food, and making healthy choices to improve your health or manage a medical issue. Registered Dietitians take complex medical and nutrition research and translate it into everyday food choices to help make healthy eating practicable, understandable, and enjoyable. Registered Dietitians are your trusted experts in nutrition.

Please see the following list provided by Dietitians of Canada which clarifies the difference between a “Registered Dietitian” and a “Nutritionist”.1

  • The title “Registered Dietitian”, “Professional Dietitian”, and “Dietitian” (American spelling: “Dietician”) are protected by law – through provincial legislation – so that only qualified practitioners who have met education qualifications can use that title. This is similar to the use of protected titles for other healthcare practionioners, such as “Medical Doctor” (MD), “Registered Nurse” (RN), “Physiotherapist” (PT), etc. Note: “Dietician” is the American spelling of the word “Dietitian” and is also protected by law.
  • Dietitians who have met national standards for education and training and who are members of the provincial regulatory bodies can use one of the following designations – RD, RDN, PDt, or RDt (or the French equivalent Dt.P.).
  • A dietitian is a health professional who has a university Bachelor’s degree, specializing in Foods & Nutrition, as well as a period of practical training in a hospital or community setting. Many dietitians further their knowledge by pursuing a Masters or Doctoral degree.
  • Dietitians are members of a provincially regulated profession that has Public Protection as their mandate. Dietitians are held accountable for their conduct and the care they provide.
  • The term Nutritionist is NOT protected by law in all provinces so people with different levels of training and knowledge can call themselves a “Nutritionist”. The title “Nutritionist” is protected for dietitians in some provinces and dietitians do use the title “Nutritionist”. As the term “Nutritionist’ is not a protected title in some provinces, you should contact your provincial regulatory body to ensure that you are receiving services from a dietitian.  Please note that in the province of Ontario, “Nutritionist” is not a protected title, so any individual, qualified or unqualified, can use “nutritionist” as their title.  “Registered Dietitian” (RD) and “dietitian” are protected titles in the province of Ontario, and is the qualification that Jennifer Broxterman, RD holds.
  • A variety of titles have been used by unqualified people to describe their involvement in nutrition-related practice. Many use the term “Registered” with a variation of “Nutrition” as a title (e.g. “Registered Nutritionist” or “Registered Holistic Nutritionist”). You should be careful to ensure that the person is a qualified nutrition professional. You can contact Dietitians of Canada or the Provincial Regulatory Body to obtain a list of Dietitians in your area.
  • Typically dietitians working in a hospital or healthcare institution will have a job title that uses the term “Dietitian” and will focus on clinical care of the patient or management of the food service. Dietitians working in community settings will typically have a job title that uses “Nutritionist” and focus on healthy eating and wellness at various stages of the lifecycle.

1 Dietitians of Canada – What’s the Difference Between a Dietitian and a Nutritionist