There’s a difference between dietitians and nutritionists

Dietitians and nutritionists both focus on diet and nutrition to improve wellness and address health conditions.

Let’s clear up the confusion between dietitians and nutritionists

Dietitians and nutritionists both focus on diet and nutrition to improve wellness and address health conditions. But, when trying to choose between a dietitian and a nutritionist, know that there are important differences in their qualifications, scope of expertise and legal requirements as practitioners.

The public may assume that dietitians and nutritionists are one and the same; but in British Columbia nutritionist is not a regulated health profession. What does that mean? It means that nutritionists are not subject to any regulatory or government oversight. It also means that the term “nutritionist” is not a protected title in B.C. No specific qualifications are needed to call oneself a nutritionist — so anyone with an interest in nutrition can use it.

How is a dietitian different? Across Canada the title “dietitian” is protected by law, just like physician, pharmacist, or nurse. Only qualified nutrition professionals who are registered with a regulatory body, such as the College of Dietitians of British Columbia, may call themselves dietitians. The CDBC is mandated by government to regulate dietitians to practise safely, ethically and competently. To be registered in B.C., dietitians must have a five-year university degree in nutrition with at least 1,250 hours of supervised hands-on training; pass a national competence examination and undergo regular criminal record checks. Many dietitians also have additional degrees or certificates to enhance their skills. Dietitians are also required by law to keep their skills and knowledge up to date. And, if you have any concerns about the care you receive from a dietitian, the CDBC has a formal complaints process for recourse.

The qualifications of nutritionists vary. Many nutritionists have post secondary certificates or degrees in nutrition; while, other nutritionists may not have any formal education or practical training in the field.

There is a vast range of education options for nutritionists, from private schools and public institutions; to self-help books and internet sites. Some nutritionists choose to “certify” or “register” themselves; but in B.C., terms such as “certified”, “registered”, “specialist” or “therapist” (and many others) are not controlled, so anyone can use them.

Both dietitians and nutritionists focus on whole foods and nutrition to improve wellness and address health conditions.

But only dietitians are uniquely and rigorously trained to provide nutrition care across the entire continuum of health — from staying healthy, getting better, living with illness or disability, to coping with end of life. Not only can dietitians provide holistic nutrition care to well people, they are the only nutrition professionals who are legally qualified to provide medical nutrition therapy in clinical settings like hospitals, diabetes clinics or cancer centres. Dietitians are also well trained to advise government on nutrition guidelines; manage food systems and food production; research new and better ways to enhance care, promote health and prevent nutrition-related illnesses; and educate future dietitians and health care professionals.

When it comes to choosing a nutrition care provider, you can trust a Registered Dietitian to provide you with safe, ethical, competent and science-backed care.

Check that your nutrition care provider is a regulated health professional by visiting the College of Dietitians of B.C.’s public register of dietitians. To find a dietitian near you please visit Dietitians of Canada – Find a Dietitian. Or, you can access free dietitian support, through Healthlink BC, by calling 8-1-1.

For more information on regulated health professions in B.C. Visit


Fern Hubbard

College of Dietitians of British Columbia

Just Posted

Cowichan Cougars miss golden opportunity to avoid relegation

“We were hoping in the second half we could flip the script”

Crofton pleased with project result, timeline not so much

But survey raises a number of concerns

‘Anything Goes’ in Musical Society’s madcap new show

Every possible character is on board an ocean liner

UPDATE: Tsunami warning cancelled for coastal British Columbia

Warning issued following 7.9 earthquake off Kodiak, AK

VIDEO: It’s Hometown Hockey time in Cowichan!

See our videos and pictures by our reporters from the big event at The Stick.

Castlegar homicide victim identified

The victim was 38-year-old Jordan Workman of Castlegar, B.C.

B.C. Liberal leadership candidates get one last prime-time pitch

Leadership campaign to be decided in Feb. 3 vote

Andrew Scheer on trade, Trump and Trudeau

Canada’s Conservative leader begins three-day visit to B.C.

Victims restrained, sex toys and cash stolen from B.C. adult store

Armed suspects sought in adult store robbery

Vancouver Islanders ponder need for tsunami siren song

Alarm sounds in Port Alberni but not at the DND base in Esquimalt

Babcock, Goyette and Smyth honoured at Order of Hockey in Canada

Mike Babcock, from Saskatoon, guided the Detroit Red Wings to a Stanley Cup in 2008

Bell Canada alert prompts RCMP, privacy watchdog to probe data breach

Company spokesman: ‘Fewer than 100,000 customers were affected’

‘The tsunami alarm failed my household’: North Coast residents concerned over sirens, alerts

People living in northern communities share how they learned about Tuesday’s tsunami warning

Most Read