Nutritional Practitioner vs. Dietician – what’s the difference? 1

So what is the difference between a Nutritional Consulting Practitioner, Registered Dietician, or Nutritionist (registered or unregistered)?  Well, it can be a little confusing, but honestly it doesn’t have to be.

Registered Dietician/Nutritionist

The term “registered dietician” can be used interchangeably with “registered nutritionist” and is regulated by the Alberta government.  The term “registered” basically means that the individual has gone to a university and received their Bachelor of Science in Nutrition degree.  They generally work in more clinic settings like hospitals, clinics, etc. and usually follow the Canada Food Guide and specific guidelines for nutrition that are set by the Canadian government and Health Canada.  RD’s are generally covered by the provincial health care plans of each province.


Anyone can call themselves a “nutritionist” as long as they don’t use the term registered with it.  The term nutritionist is an unregulated term and nutritionists can have a variety of background behind them to support their career from a certificate obtained from a gym training program to a masters degree.  Because it is an unregulated term, it is up to the client to discover the credentials of the person they are working with, and most are not required to maintain continuing eduation.  Most nutritionists are in private practice, work in weight loss clinics, teach group nutrition classes or cooking classes.  Nutritionists (unregistered) may be covered by some third party health insurance companies.

Nutritional Practitioner

A nutritional practitioner is an individual who is registered through the International Organization of Nutritional Consultants (IONC) and has a three year (avg) diploma through an accredited institution as well as practicum hours.  They are also required to maintain a minimum amount of continuing education on a yearly basis to sustain their membership.  Nutritional Practitioners generally operate on a more holistic level and treat the whole person rather than just the one condition that brings the person to them.  In Alberta, NP’s are unable to use the term “registered” because that is regulated for dietician’s who have obtained their BSc degree from a university.  You will often find NP’s in private practice and helping clients with allergies, sensitivities, etc.  NP’s are covered by some third party health insurance companies.

Hopefully this helps you sort through a little bit more of what all the different terms are out there and which person is best to help you and what your needs are.

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