What is the difference between a Nutritionist and a Dietitian?

A Registered Dietitian is a food and nutrition expert. They must meet strict educational prerequisites in order to call themselves RDs. A minimum of a 4-year Bachelors of Science in Nutritional Sciences, a 1-year internship, and a nationwide exam must be passed before they can be registered with the Commission of Dietetic Registration (CDR) and licensed to practice diet and nutrition consultation. Some dietitians have further degrees, such as Masters Degrees and PhDs. The majority of RDs work in the treatment and prevention of disease in hospitals, clinics or private practice. In addition, a large number of RDs work in community and public health settings as well as food and nutrition industry.1 Their recommendations and treatment plans must be evidence-based and rely heavily on scientific studies. Most dietitians in Canada are free under provincial health plans and in the United States take insurance. In some Canadian provinces (Alberta, New Brunswick, Nova Scotia, and Quebec) registered dietitians can also call themselves registered nutritionists.

While you may hear some dietitians call themselves nutritionists, not all nutritionists can call themselves registered dietitians. “Nutritionist” is an unregulated term in both the United States and Canada, and practitioners may have varying degrees of education in nutrition. Some may have no nutrition education before enrolling in a certificate program, others may have masters or PhDs. Nutritionists don’t work with hospitals and aren’t clinically trained to treat patients with diseases. They often work in private practices and deliver larger group nutrition and cooking classes. However, nutritionists are often more trained than the average dietitian to to deliver more alternative therapies than dietitians. Note that the term “Registered Nutritionist” is regulated in Alberta, New Brunswick, Nova Scotia, and Quebec and is used there interchangeably for “Registered Dietitian.”

Registered Holistic Nutritionist (RHN) is a professional trained by the Canadian School of Natural Nutrition (CSNN) to educate individuals and groups about the benefits of nutrition.2 After a 1 to 2 year program through this school of nutrition, students are required to complete 50 practicum hours and pass a board exam, which is the same across Canada. However, this designation is not regulated by a governing body.

To learn more about the differences between nutritionists and dieticians, consult the links below.

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