With thanks to Natasha McLaughlin-Chaisson, Registered Dietitian.

As a Registered Dietitian, I often come across very confused clients who have received nutritional advice and information from different sources. The issue with this is that the information is often contradictory and clients do not know who or what to believe! The following information will help you find credible sources of nutrition information.

What is a Registered Dietitian?

Registered Dietitians are healthcare professionals who have completed a Bachelor’s Degree in Food Science and Nutrition from an accredited university as well as supervised practical training through a university program. Registered Dietitians must write a professional entry exam in order to qualify for licensing to practice in the field of dietetics in their country and province. Yearly continuing education supported by science evidence-based research is then necessary for yearly re-licensing through provincial regulatory bodies.

Registered Dietitians can be found in the public healthcare system (hospital, extramural, foodservice, etc.) alongside medical doctors, specialists, nurses, physiotherapists, and psychologists. They can also work in the private industry alongside the same professionals mentioned above as well as athletes, sports teams, etc. In the private industry, fees for consultations are usually covered by most health insurance companies. Registered Dietitians are the experts in all that is nutrition related, including:

 Medical/nutrient interactions

 Vegetarianism

 Sports nutrition

 Eating disorders

 HypertensionDietitian taking notes

 Obesity

 Diabetes/hypoglycemia

 Cancer

 Crohn’s, Colitis and IBS

 Osteoporosis

 Cardiovascular diseases

 Nutrient deficiencies

 High cholesterol, blood pressure and triglycerides

 Pregnancy/breastfeeding

 Tube feeding

 Allergies/intolerances

 Celiac disease

Chronic disease prevention

What is a nutritionist?

In various provinces, the title “nutritionist” is not protected by law. This means that there are no requirements in regards to education in order to use this title. The fact that anyone can call themselves a “nutritionist” in New Brunswick, and throughout most other Canadian provinces, without any need for licensing or education, means that insurance companies do not cover the cost of consultations with these people. It also means that although people who call themselves “nutritionists” may choose to base what they promote on actual science-based evidence, some do not, as is often the case in the “diet”, “supplement store” or “personal training” industries. It is crucial, however, that you research which titles are protected in your province before deeming someone a non-professional because, for example, in Quebec, the titles Dietitian AND nutritionist are synonyms. In this case, both titles are protected.

What to do?

Don’t believe everything you read or hear. Go one step further and learn to critically analyze sources of information. Make sure the person touting the information is in fact a professional in THIS field. Remember, some titles are not protected in certain provinces such as nutritionist, nutrition consultant and certified nutrition expert. Other titles can be incredibly vague; for instance, “doctor” does not mean the person has a PhD in Nutrition, Biochemistry or Organic Chemistry. Doctor can be a title used by someone who has a doctorate in marketing, in accounting, or in education!

Though I am able to change the tire on my car, this does not make me a mechanic, just as, giving cough syrup to my sick child does not make me a pharmacist. Similarly, the fact that someone believes that they eat well or has lost weight does not, by any means, make him or her, an expert in nutrition. Nutrition is more complicated than it appears. The first years of the degree are purely science based consisting of classes in physiology, anatomy, organic chemistry, biochemistry, etc. A Registered Dietitian’s role is to help translate complicated science and evidence-based nutritional research into practical nutritional advice that is easily understandable.

Finally, a video to sum it all up!