WHAT DOES A DIETITIAN DO?
Dietitians are regulated health professionals that are passionate about helping people of all ages unlock the potential of food. We work in a variety of settings such as hospitals, health clinics, long term care centres, community health centres, food industry, and many more. We are classically trained in the prevention and treatment of chronic diseases and also provide general dietary counselling. Below is a list of some of the topics you might speak to a dietitian about.
A key role that dietitians play as health professionals is in the translation of scientific evidence into practical solutions for health management. As nutrition educators, you can be confident that the information we provide is reliable and safe whether it’s as a part of a nutritional assessment, nutrition care plan, or in the form of educational materials such as blog posts, YouTube videos, or infographics. In addition to being credible, the information provided and advice given in nutrition consultations is also tailored to our patient’s needs, values, and abilities. Nutrition education is a collaborative process where engagement from other health professionals and from patients themselves is highly encouraged in order to provide the best care.
HOW ARE DIETITIANS EDUCATED AND TRAINED?
Dietitians undergo comprehensive and rigorous training before they can apply for a license and begin practicing. The first step is obtaining a degree in a specialized food and nutrition undergraduate program that has been accredited by Dietitians of Canada, a professional association that advocates for competent dietetic practice. During their schooling, future dietitians take courses in the sciences (human nutrition, food science, physiology, biology, chemistry), as well as the social sciences (communication, behavioural sciences, public health, business studies,jurisprudence). Following this degree, the theoretical knowledge on disease management, food systems, population health, and counselling is put to the test during supervised practical training in the form of an internship.
The final steps needed to practice as a dietitian are to pass the registration exam, which ensures that you’ve met the requirements to practice competently from your academic and practical training,and to register with your provincial college. The college is responsible for setting the professional standards of practice, defining a dietitian’s scope of practice, and outlining the code of ethics, with the ultimate purpose of protecting the public. The college also mandates continued professional development to maintain your license thereby helping to ensure that dietitians stay up to date on new research.
With all the knowledge, training, and accountability that dietitians have, you can be sure that the information we provide is credible and reliable.
WHAT ABOUT NUTRITIONISTS?
Now that you understand what a dietitian is, you might be wondering whether they are the same as nutritionists. In Alberta, Quebec, and Nova Scotia, the term nutritionist is protected and can be used interchangeably with dietitian. In the remaining provinces, like Ontario, nutritionists are not overseen by a governing college, meaning that anyone can call themselves a nutritionist regardless of whether they have had any education or training in nutrition. Without the proper education, training, and accountability to a college, it is not clear whether nutritionists in the remaining provinces are providing credible, science-based information.
In addition to nutritionists, there are other titles such as Registered Holistic Nutritionist (RHN), Certified Nutritional Practitioner (CNP), Registered Nutritional Consulting Practitioner(RNCP), RONP, and ROHP. According to Dietitians of Canada “These titles are not the same as Registered Dietitian and do not indicate the person is a provincially regulated health professional. They are often used by those who have completed privately owned training programs that vary in length and rigor.”
If you have any questions about dietitians or would like help managing your health, book a nutrition consultation with me today!
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Sincerely in Health,
Brittany Trueman, MHSc, RD