Why do we even need Dietitians?

What is a Registered Dietitian or “RD”?  As quoted from Dietitians of Canada:

Dietitians are regulated health professionals. To use the title Registered Dietitian (RD), dietitians must be registered with the dietetic regulated body in the province in which they practice.  Dietitians undergo comprehensive and rigorous training, both on the job and in university. Dietitians are held accountable to the highest standards of education and ethics, which means we look beyond fads and gimmicks to deliver reliable, life-changing advice. Not every nutritionist is a dietitian! To become a dietitian, you need to complete a Bachelor of Science degree from an accredited university program plus undergo comprehensive and rigorous training, both on the job and in university.”

There are many requirements to become certified as a Registered Dietitian. Some RDs also refer to themselves as a nutritionist but not all nutritionists may be an RD. Some Canadian provinces have started to regulate the term “Nutritionist” but not all. Ontario, where I practice, has not yet regulated the term. Please confirm with your provincial regulatory body if “Nutritionist” is protected in your area. The following table shows the main differences between an RD and those who call themselves “nutritionists” in areas where it is NOT protected like Ontario.

DietitianNutritionist
Completed Bachelors and/or Masters of
Science in Nutrition
No formal training required
Completed accredited internshipNot eligible to complete
Successfully completed the Canadian
Dietetic Registration Exam (CDRE),
demonstrating a comprehensive
understanding of dietetics and nutrition
Not eligible to write
Be a member of provincial regulated
body (such as College of Dietitians of Ontario)
Not eligible to be a member
Carry professional liability insuranceNot required

As mentioned in my bio, I am a Registered Dietitian who has worked as a clinical dietitian for more than 10 years in both long term care and hospital settings. I have helped people at the start of a diagnosis as well as at the end stages of life. This broad experience has taught me so much about nutrition, beyond anything I learned when studying to be a dietitian.

My greatest learning is that everyone is different and what works for one individual may not work for someone else even if they have the exact same medical history.  Figuring out what works for you is often trial and error, which can be very confusing and frustrating for patients and clients. Help from a family doctor and a Registered Dietitian can help you navigate all of the available options to find out what works for you and is SAFE for you. 

There are unfortunately many unsafe diets out there that can extremely dangerous depending on your history. I have seen some very sick people admitted to hospital simply because of a diet they tried to follow. People who think they are doing the “healthy thing” or because they didn’t fully understand how to eat for their body and medical history or fall for the “lose weight fast and easy” promise can lead them to following a diet that is unsafe for them as an individual. In the wrong person, some diets can lead to permanent damage. I worked in rehabilitation for many years and would often see repeat admissions of people who could have had a very healthy life if they made a few changes to how they ate.  That is why I believe it is so very important to let your family doctor know what you are doing and to seek assistance from a Registered Dietitian. So, when trying to improve how you eat or trying a new fad to lose weight or become healthier, work with an RD to make sure you are doing it in the best way possible for you. 

As a Registered Dietitian, I do not just provide a generic handout or tell everyone to follow Canada’s food guide.  I break down the information and work with the person to help them incorporate it into their life. We all want pleasure in our life and to enjoy what we eat. Dietitians use their training and knowledge to work with you to achieve both in a safe way that still allows you to meet your goals may it be weight loss or to just feel better.

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