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Nutritionist vs. Dietician: What’s the Difference?

You might quickly assume that ‘nutritionist’ and ‘dietician’ are used interchangeably. Yet, when it comes to a nutritionist vs dietician, they are actually two different titles.

While they both deal with how your diet and supplementation impact your health, they have different qualifications, education, and day-to-day tasks. However, for someone who isn’t a dietician or nutritionist, this can be really confusing.

Maybe you’re wondering: Which one is better for weight loss? Who can help me navigate my diet through a recent diabetes diagnosis? Which one should I turn to for enhancing my athletic performance? In this article, we’ll answer all these questions and more. 

So, what is the main difference between a nutritionist vs dietician?

The Key Difference Between Nutritionist and Dietician

Generally, the major difference between a nutritionist and dietician is that one is regulated and one often isn’t. The title ‘nutritionist’ frequently refers to a dietician — but not always. 

In Canada, many dieticians actually include nutritionist as one of their subtitles. More specifically, in Manitoba, the title ‘nutritionist’ isn’t protected or regulated. This is frequently why you want to find a registered dietician (RD) since this can confirm they’ve undergone proper education and examination to hold their title.

In truth, almost anyone can call themselves a nutritionist. Usually, these individuals have some kind of nutrition or diet training. Yet, they haven’t undergone as much education to the extent of a dietician, nor have they had to pass qualifying exams. They also haven’t had to prove their educational background to any regulatory board.

A dietician, on the other hand, goes through extensive educational programs and even an internship. We’ll examine these differences in more detail below. Hopefully, by the end of this article, you can make an informed choice regarding whether a nutritionist or dietician is right for you and your goals.

What Does a Nutritionist Do?

Nutritionists often work with individual clients. They are considered food and nutrition experts. And usually, they help a person work toward their health goals or establish a healthy lifestyle.

Many nutritionists will:

  • Create diet and exercise plans for clients
  • Assess an individual’s lifestyle 
  • Schedule regular meetings with clients
  • Provide motivation
  • Provide group cooking classes or recipe books
  • Give presentations about nutrition, diet, and food

Typically, nutritionists are great go-tos for general nutritional and dietary advice. They can help a person adjust their lifestyle for improved dietary behaviours. 

What Are the Benefits of Nutritionists?

The benefits of nutritionists is that they can help you gain greater awareness regarding the foods you eat. If all you’re after is some general guidance or education, they can often provide you with what you need. 

You might find a nutritionist working in an athletic club, school, cafeteria, long-term care facilities, and more.

How Do You Become a Nutritionist?

Since the title, ‘nutritionist,’ isn’t regulated in Manitoba, almost anyone can become a nutritionist. Usually, a nutritionist has an educational degree in nutrition, diet, or human physiology. They then advertise their own business and gain clients through word-of-mouth or marketing efforts, such as ads online.

If you’re looking to become a nutritionist, you can expect a nutritionist salary between $30 000 and $60 000 a year, depending on the rates you set. 

What Does a Dietician Do?

Dieticians are well-versed in the science of nutrition. ‘Dietician’ is a protected title in Canada, similar to nurse or physician. 

In contrast to what a nutritionist does, dieticians won’t simply offer up a meal plan or diet plan. They also won’t sell you any fads or gimmicks, such as quick-fix diets or supplements. 

Moreso, dieticians aim to provide custom-tailored advice to help meet your needs and your specific challenges. They are concerned with how diet and nutrition impact your health. And they will often work with clients who have medical conditions or eating disorders. 

Usually, you’ll find a dietician working alongside doctors, nurses, or other health practitioners in hospitals and clinics (such as our dieticians at Corydon Physiotherapy).

What Are the Benefits of Dieticians?

A Registered Dietician (RD) can help you find foods to suit your needs, including individuals who need help with diabetes, heart conditions, cancer, food allergies, autoimmune disorders, pregnancy, sport nutrition, digestive issues, infant eating, and more.

They can further help you lose weight in a sustainable and healthy way, while ensuring you don’t jeopardize your health in the process. 

The best part about turning to a dietician for your nutritional needs is that they will consider the specifics of your situation. This means that they can help you determine the best way to manage your diet in accordance with your cultural beliefs, your budget, your cooking abilities, and your health conditions. 

How Do You Become a Dietician?

Maybe you’re wondering about how to become a dietician. You’re thinking it might be the career path for you. Or maybe you simply want to know more about the training that a dietician undergoes. We’ve got you covered!

A dietician has a food or nutritional degree from an accredited institution or university. They must also undergo specific practical training, as well as pass a national licensing exam. 

The classes that a dietician takes include chemistry, physiology, microbiology, social sciences, nutrition relating to chronic disease and phases of life, and nutrition within the community.

Their practical training, or internship, then, allows dieticians to gain experience before they take on complete job roles. This means that they must complete a Master’s or Diploma practicum program or a Postgraduate practicum program. Once this is completed, it is required that any dietician pass the Canadian Dietetic Registration Examination (CDRE).

Should I See a Dietician or Nutritionist to Lose Weight?

This depends. 

If you have an underlying health condition, such as diabetes, a dietician will likely know more on which foods and diet protocols to follow for your specific situation. They won’t simply create a meal plan and leave you to it. 

However, if you also want an exercise program with a meal plan, you may want to seek out a nutritionist. A nutritionist will often provide exercise and diet programs.

At the same time, some dieticians may use these titles interchangeably. 

Which is Better For Managing Diabetes?

When it comes to any health condition, a dietician knows best. They are trained and experienced in dealing with unique health situations and know the physiological workings of the body and how food impacts it. 

If you’re diabetic, a dietician can also collaborate with other healthcare practitioners, such as your doctor, to help you achieve your goals and gain the most out of your life.

How Can I Optimize My Sports Performance With a Dietician or Nutritionist?

When it comes to determining whether you want a nutritionist vs dietician, usually, a dietician is best. This is simply because it is a regulated profession. Thus, dieticians are held to certain standards of practice.

However, a dietician and nutritionist can both help you improve your sports performance. For a more scientifically-proven approach, a dietician, again, may know best. 

Finding a Dietician Near You

Food is confusing. One day, a food is labelled ‘bad.’ The next day, it’s good for us. It’s so easy to get lost in the vast amount of information and mis-information regarding nutrition and diet. But an expert can help you cut through the layers of confusion and get back to the basics. 

If you live in Winnipeg, Manitoba, Corydon Physiotherapy can help you get your eating patterns and diet on track. We can help you navigate through the complications of food when facing a health diagnosis. We can also provide you with information for sustainable weight loss and improved energy.

All ages and lifestyles can benefit from seeing a dietician. If you’re ready to optimize your health, contact us at (204) 925-0380 and book your appointment with our Registered Dietician today.

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Sarah Morry, Registered Dietitian

Sarah received her Bachelor of Human Ecology with a major in Foods and Nutrition from the University of Manitoba in 1988 and obtained her Registered Dietitian designation in 1989. Sarah has been in private practice for over 25 years helping people reach their individual nutrition goals.

Her previous work experience includes Clinical Dietitian at the Saul and Claribel Simkin Centre (previously know as the Sharon Home), Ambulatory and Urgent Care Dietitian at the Misericordia Health Centre, Symposium Coordinator, Diabetes Research and Treatment Centre, and nutrition class instructor at the City of Winnipeg Parks and Recreation and Rady Jewish Community Centre. As well, Sarah works at a medical clinic in Winnipeg. She is an active member of the Dietitians of Canada and the College of Dietitians of Manitoba.

Sarah’s focus is on nutrition counselling individual children and adults, including seniors, related to therapeutic diets (e.g. high blood pressure, cholesterol and gastrointestinal disorders), weight management, healthy eating, prenatal nutrition, sports nutrition, eating disorders and group counselling.

Sarah understands many of the frustrations and hurdles one has to overcome in making lifestyle changes to reach these goals. As a mother to three active boys and wife, she appreciates how finding a healthy balance can be difficult. She is dedicated to her profession and loves helping people find that healthy balance and giving them practical and effective tools they can use to make healthy food choices for the rest of their lives.

Her coaching style is very client-focused, working hard to develop a trusting relationship with her clients where she works together, as a team, to meet nutrition objectives. Sarah takes great satisfaction that most of her clients feel a personal connection to her approach and she has a long history of client success stories.

Sarah has a passion for her profession. Her goal is to carefully listen to her clients and work closely with them to find a healthy and balanced way of living that fits their specific needs and individual circumstances. She believes that nothing is written in stone. If one approach doesn’t work, she and her clients will find one that does . . . together.

Sarah is thrilled to join the Corydon Physiotherapy Clinic Team and help her clients lead healthier lives.

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