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Dietitian: What’s in a Name?

March 15, 2016 by Dean Simmons, Registered Dietitian

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Registered Dietitians - Nutrition Month 2016

March is Nutrition Month and a great time to highlight registered dietitians as a trusted source of nutrition information and advice.  While anyone can (and often does) provide food and nutrition advice, dietitians are the only nutrition professionals regulated by the Health Professions Act and registered with a provincial regulatory college.

When you see a dietitian you can take comfort knowing that they’re required (at minimum) to complete:

  • a four year undergraduate degree specializing in food and nutrition
  • a fifth year of supervised practical training in healthcare and public health settings
  • a requirement for on-going education and ethical practice

Plus, to safeguard the public, dietitians must pass a national competence exam, carry liability insurance, have a criminal record check, and complete a regulatory exam every 5 years.

What’s in a name?

Dietitians are the only health professionals that can legally use the titles “Dietitian”, “Registered Dietitian” or the initials “RD”.

Nutrition practitioners using unregulated titles such as “Nutritionist”, “Registered Nutritional Consultant”, “Certified Nutritional Practitioner” and “Registered Holistic Nutritionist” will have varying levels of education and training. These nutrition practitioners are not regulated by the Health Professions Act or registered with a provincial regulatory college.

Where do dietitians work?

Dietitians work in many job roles related to nutrition, food and health. You will find dietitians providing nutrition counselling services in hospitals, long term care and community health centres. Dietitians also work as researchers, teachers and policy makers. Some also work in food service administration, the food industry or have their own private practice.

How can I find a dietitian?

  1. HealthLink BC: Call 8-1-1 and ask to speak with a dietitian, or send them an email. This service is available Monday to Friday, from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. and is free for BC residents.
  2. Out-patient services: You can ask your doctor to refer you to a dietitian at your local hospital. This service is usually covered by MSP. Ask if you’re unsure.
  3. Private practice: You can find a private practice dietitian on the Dietitians of Canada’s website. Consulting services are not covered by MSP but may be covered by some extended health care plans.

In a world full of health, food and nutrition advice you can take comfort from the fact the dietitians are highly qualified professionals who can help you:

  • separate food facts from food fads
  • set and reach your healthy eating goals
  • manage chronic conditions like food allergies, diabetes and heart disease
  • create healthier food environments where you learn, work and play

This year’s Nutrition Month theme is the 100 Meal Journey and it celebrates the little steps you can take towards making big improvements in your health; and dietitians are here to guide you along the way.


Related blogs

Dietitians Don't Bite!
I Hope My Mom Brings the Oranges

Recommended resources

Dietitians of Canada: Find a Dietitian, Nutrition Month, Difference Between a Dietitian and Nutritionist
College of Dietitians of British Columbia: Public Protection & Accountability

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