Nutritionist vs. Dietician.....What's the Difference??
A question that I am often asked is “what is the difference between a Nutritionist and a Dietitian”, and so it is time that I share my thoughts on the topic! Before I address the differences, I think it is important to note the very clear similarities between the two professions.
First, they both understand the fascinating power nutrition has in the role of preventing and treating health issues. Second, both professions take the time to translate the science of what is going on in the body into terms that clients can understand in order to apply to their daily lives. And last but not least, both share the ability to provide education and encouragement to individuals seeking to overcome health challenges and lead a healthier life!
According to the Dietitians of Canada, to become a Dietitian (R.D.), you need to complete a Bachelor of Science Degree program from plus additional training through University and job experience. The wonderful thing about an R.D.’s education is that in order to obtain a degree, one must complete not only courses that align with their major, but also elective courses that encourage the well rounding of a University education; a degree in Nutritional Science perhaps could also include elective Art History courses to complete the degree program. As for a Registered Holistic Nutritionist (R.H.N.), the College Diploma Program is specific to nutrition, removing the non-essential educational components and diving extensively into the various ways diet and lifestyles impact one's health. At the Canadian School of Natural Nutrition, the College of which I am a graduate of the Natural Nutrition program, in order to obtain a diploma one must complete the required approximately 1,200 hours of education, including classroom training, case studies and self-study time. Both professions are therefore highly knowledgeable about the role that nutrition plays in the body. An R.H.N. would also be trained from a body-mind-spirit perspective to understand deeper lifestyle and spiritual issues that could be impacting a person’s physical health.
Scope of practice:
You will see R.D.s working in Medical Doctor Offices, Public Health Administrations, Public Hospitals, Long Term Care facilities and other government funded organizations. While these positions are not off limits to those with an R.H.N. designation, it is much more common to see R.H.N.’s working at Naturopathic Medical Clinics and other alternative health care centres, Wellness Spa & Retreat Centres, Private Long Term Care facilities, Fitness Centres, at a local Health Food Store to educate customers, or even operating a Solo Practice where they perhaps meet with clients online. A specific difference between a R.D. and R.H.N. is that R.D.s can take blood samples by skin pricking where as in accordance to the Code of Ethics, adhered to by R.H.N.’s, this is not within their scope of practice. If an R.H.N. is wanting to know information obtained through blood tests, they can simply refer a client to their family GP or to an ND for tests above and beyond what is covered under OHIP. While the paths of a Dietitian and a Nutritionist may not often cross, I think it is beautiful to see more and more collaboration between the Medical and the Naturopathic professions as clients can largely benefit from this balanced, team approach to health care.
Dietitian is a protected title across Canada, just like physician, nurse and pharmacist. Nutritionist is also a protected title in Alberta, Quebec and Nova Scotia meaning that R.D.s can refer to themselves as a Nutritionist. Holistic Nutritionists in these provinces, must use an alternate title such as Certified Holistic Nutritional Consultant (C.H.N.C) as there must be a clear distinction between the two professions. A designation that is exclusive to graduates of CSNN’s Natural Nutrition program is R.H.N. with the professional title of Registered Holistic Nutritionist™ who is Certified in Holistic Nutrition™. A Holistic Health Professional that graduates from an alternative Nutrition program, at an accredited College, will have a different designation. For example, Holistic Nutritionists that graduate from the Institute of Holistic Nutrition (IHN), another esteemed College in Ontario, would earn the title of Certified Nutritional Practitioner; C.N.P., and would also be highly qualified in guiding clients to optimal health. However, outside of the provinces where the title of Nutritionist is protected, anyone, regardless of their level of education, can call themselves a “Nutritionist” so it is very important that individuals are seeking the counsel from those who are Registered or Certified in Natural Nutrition as that means they have completed a College Diploma program and are not just a “health foodie”.
Cost of Services:
Another important difference is that the cost of services from a Dietitian are covered under OHIP (or other provincially funded health programs) while a Nutritionists fees are not. Since Dietitians are regulated by provincial standards, the province offers coverage to individuals to seek their services. Registered Holistic Nutritionist are a part of The CSNN Alumni Association (CSNNAA) who govern the practices of members according to bylaws and a Code of Ethics and have been self-regulated for decades. Even though services aren’t covered under OHIP, many Employer Health Insurance Companies are covering the services of R.H.N.’s as a part of their health benefit packages and this removes the financial barrier for individuals to seek alternative care.
Again because a R.D. is regulated by provincial standards, they must adhere to approved nutritional guidelines such as Canada's Food Guide, with a focus on certain food groups and calorie allowances. Many individuals who have explored alternative diets have grown to learn the imbalances that are recommended within Canada’s Food Guide and as such have moved away from that model of eating. An R.H.N. has the ability to recommend diet modifications that suit the individual needs of a client and don’t have to be confined to the outdated pyramid. Thankfully, the Canadian Government has agreed that the Food Guide is in need of revision and by 2019 a new guide will be fully released with what will hopefully, provide more balanced portions and natural food recommendations for Canadians.
An R.H.N. also offers more than just dietary suggestions and will recommend the removal of certain foods or the addition of others and if necessary, vitamin or mineral supplements as well. It is through comprehensive analysis of the clients symptoms that an R.H.N. is able to understand what imbalances are present in the body and then offer recommendations that address the root of the problem, that will in turn, relieve the symptoms. From an R.H.N.’s perspective, dietary needs are important, but there are also lifestyle and spiritual considerations that play a part in an individual's overall health and these are also addressed when working with an R.H.N..
With all of these differences aside, what matters most is that individuals explore and understand what it is that they are looking for and choose the representative that best aligns with them. Due to the personal information that is shared in working with a Nutritional Consultant of either profession, it is crucial that the individual feels that they can trust the Practitioner, while also feeling understood, respected, and supported. If you find that you don’t jive, you will be unlikely to take their recommendations! As an R.H.N. I offer complimentary 30 minute “Meet & Greet Sessions” so potential clients are welcome to come chat to help them decide if Holistic Nutrition with me will work for them.
If this is something you are interested in, feel free to book online and it would be my pleasure to meet with you!