What The Hell’s The Difference?

I’ve made reference to nutritionists and dietitians a lot in many of my posts.  In truth, I’ve used them both during my many years of dealing with Diabetes and especially anytime there’s been a major change to my therapies.  For example, I spoke with a dietitian when I started on the insulin pump, back in 2015. I casually rolled my eyes at the prospect, wondering what this person could possibly teach me about eating well after over three decades of being Type-1 Diabetic.  Imagine my surprise when that appointment led to learning about carbohydrate counting.  Everyone was blown away by the fact that I had come so far and no one had tuned me in to the concept before that.  It’s no wonder that my A1C’s used to be in the mid to high 8’s.

Since I just posted about dieting and fitness yesterday and made mention of both dietitians and nutritionists, I had someone reach out and ask me, “What’s the difference, if any, between a dietitian and a nutritionist?”  Well, shit! I don’t know…  Or at least, I didn’t know until I decided to research it and look into it. My search brought to me to a Canadian website call Dietitians Canada. What I learned is that in Canada, “Dietitian” is a protected title, much like physician, nurse or pharmacist. “Nutritionist” is also a protected title, but only in the Provinces of Alberta, Quebec and Nova Scotia. But what’s the difference between one or the other?

We’ll, for the most part, anyone can provide nutritional information or guidance and call themselves a “nutritionist.” They’ll still help individuals reach certain health and fitness goals by aiding in the implementation of proper diet and exercise. Although nutritionists can have varying degrees of education fro what they do, the problem is that because there’s no regulatory body overseeing nutritionists, some may have no nutrition-based education at all. I’m certain that some of you could see the potential problem with that…

Dietitians do a lot of things that nutritionists don’t, such as research, influencing policy and creating diet and food plans for people with chronic conditions such as, oh, you know… DIABETES! In order to become a dietitian (in Canada), one requires an undergraduate degree from an accredited institution in human nutrition and dietetics, followed by over a thousand hours of supervised on-the-job experience. Then they need to actually register with the regulatory body within their Province or Territory.

Quite a journey to take, and they do a lot more than what the every day patient sees when visiting them in the clinic. The article I linked above goes on to explain that, “dietitian are committed and required to stay on top of emerging research, skills and techniques.” In other words, their training is constantly ongoing as they have to keep abreast of new information and developments that relate to their field. The article also explains that to ensure you get the most qualified nutrition professional, look for the acronyms “RD” or “P.Dt.” Since dietitian is a protected title in Canada, a nutritionist shouldn’t have those included in their names.

Lastly, the article ends by warning about titles such as “Registered Holistic Nutritionist” and “Certified Nutritional Practitioner” as these are not provincially regulated health professionals and there’s no telling what level of education they’ve obtained from a private institution in order to gain that title. There you have it. Now, you know. And now, I know. One of the things I love most about writing this blog is that I practically ALWAYS find something new to learn and research. ☯

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Shawn

I am a practitioner of the martial arts and student of the Buddhist faith. I have been a Type 1 Diabetic since I was 4 years old and have been fighting the uphill battle it includes ever since. I enjoy fitness and health and looking for new ways to improve both, as well as examining the many questions of life. Although I have no formal medical training, I have amassed a wealth of knowledge regarding health, Diabetes, martial arts as well as Buddhism and philosophy. My goal is to share this information with the world, and perhaps provide some sarcastic humour along the way. Welcome!

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