Dietitian vs. Nutritionist


I frequently get asked what I do as a conversation starter, my response is “I study dietetics”.

People usually look confused. “Die-what” or “Do you mean Dianetics?” or “What is that?”.

More often than not, I will repeat myself and say “I am going to be a Dietitian”.

“OH you mean a nutritionist?”

“No, Dietitian.” I reply.

If I had a dollar for every time this has happened to me, I would not have to be dietitian anymore.

There is good reason for this distinction between the two.


According to the Dietitians of Canada website:

Registered dietitians are health care professionals who are trained to provide advice and counselling about diet, food and nutrition. They use the best available evidence coupled with good judgment about the client’s or communities’ unique values and circumstances to determine guidance and recommendations. Dietitians are regulated health professionals. To use the title Registered Dietitian (RD), dietitians must be registered with the dietetic regulatory body in the province in which they practice”

What do Dietitians do?

Dietitians are trained to provide nutrition care plans for various people in the population, with wide variations in the disease states we encounter. We also support others, educate, conduct research, and advocate to continuously provide the most up to date nutrition knowledge in this ever-growing field.

Where do Dietitians work?

Dietitians can work in a wide range of settings. We are mostly known to work in hospitals and clinic settings. This profession has a lot flexibility which an advantage. You will also find dietitians working in public health, government roles, food service industry, grocery stores, with athletes, entrepreneurial ventures and many more. We basically can do any work related to nutrition and health.

How do you become a dietitian?

To become a dietitian, you must go to an accredited university and complete 10 months of comprehensive training and then pass an exam before you can legally call yourself a registered dietitian. Click here to learn more and read about my journey to become a dietitian.


The term “nutritionist” is often used to describe anyone that studies nutrition and health.

This degree of studying can vary widely across people. Some nutritionists can have an extensive background in nutrition, and some may only have a course or two. Both suitable for individuals with different purposes depending on what they want to pursue.

The main difference between the two is that dietitians are regulated by the government and are registered with a college that monitors their practice.

A dietitian may be called a nutritionist, but a nutritionist cannot be called a dietitian.

Dietitian is a protected title across Canada, which means we are protected and regulated with the government.

Nutritionist is only a protected title in some provinces. Titles that are not protected means that anyone can use it. Please see here for more details.  

Now you know the main differences and can impress any future dietitians that you meet! (You’re welcome)