What is a Registered Dietitian?

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What is a Registered Dietitian?

Registered Dietitian (RD) is a health professional who can provide advice on nutrition, food and healthy eating choices to help you look good and feel great.Registered Dietitians take complex medical and nutrition research and make it easier for you to make daily food choices and plan healthy meals.They can show you how healthy eating can be fun, enjoyable and delicious!Registered Dietitians are your trusted experts in nutrition.

Watch these short videos for career stories of dietitians working in a variety of settings.

Why would I need to see a dietitian?

Whether you are trying to manage a medical condition with a special diet, control your weight, feed your family, or interpret nutrition facts on food labels, a Registered Dietitian can help.

Contact a dietitian if you need help with:

  • Weight loss or weight gain
  • Prevention or management of chronic diseases like diabetes, heart disease, high blood pressure, cancer, osteoporosis and kidney disease.
  • Menu planning for busy families, physically active lifestyles, vegetarian diets and budget conscious individuals.
  • Feeding your baby or toddler
  • Sports nutrition
  • Digestive problems
  • Food allergies
  • Making the right food choices to get enough calcium, iron, folate and other vitamins and minerals

Hiring a Registered Dietitian ensures that you get accurate and appropriate information from a professional who is accountable for his or her knowledge and expertise.By hiring a dietitian, you are protected against unethical or false advice and can trust that you’ll receive a high quality service.

What is the difference between a dietitian and a nutritionist?

The titles “dietitian” or “Registered Dietitian” are protected by law.This means that only someone who has met specific educational and professional requirements is legally allowed to use these titles, or the initials, RD, P.Dt, and Dt.P. (in French).

All Registered Dietitians in Ontario are members of the College of Dietitians of Ontario (every province has its own college).As a member of the college, a Registered Dietitian must practice according to set standards and laws that protect the public, just like you would expect from doctors, nurses, pharmacists and other health professions.

The terms “nutritionist” or “registered nutritionist” are not protected terms in Ontario. This means that anybody can call themselves a nutritionist and there are no standards for their quality of care.

Here’s the tricky thing – depending on where a Registered Dietitian works, he or she may have a different job title.Dietitians working in community settings often have a job title that uses “nutritionist”. To know if that person is a Registered Dietitian, look for the initials “RD” or “Registered Dietitian” after their name.

To verify if your nutrition provider is a qualified Registered Dietitian, consult the College of Dietitians of Ontario.

Make sure to check the qualifications of any health professional that provides advice on health and nutrition, especially when it comes to children.Getting the wrong advice could be harmful.

Where do dietitians work?

Dietitians work in many places, not just in hospitals!

You can find dietitians working in community health centres, public health units, the food manufacturing business, government services promoting health and nutrition and many other places. 

See the chart below for some examples of what dietitians do in different work settings.


What do dietitians do?

In hospitals

Assess and plan nutrition care for ill patients

Counsel patients who require special diets for their medical condition

Ensure patient meals are high quality and prepared and delivered safely

In nursing homes

Plan menus that will provide the best nutrition for residents

Ensure meals are prepared and delivered safely

In community health centres and public health units

Identify health problems in the community

Assess the nutrition needs of population groups and communities

Plan and deliver nutrition education programs

Develop nutrition education materials and tools

Increase access to food for those with limited income, transportation or who are isolated

Help individuals and communities stay healthy

In diabetes education centres

Educate and counsel clients who are living with diabetes or trying to prevent diabetes

In people’s homes

Counsel people who are housebound on special diets

Train and educate people who are on feeding tubes

Help families plan healthy menus

In the pharmaceutical industry

Educate doctors, nurses, pharmacists, sales staff and other dietitians on new products and research

Plan and deliver continuing education opportunities for health care professionals and consumers

In the food industry

Research and develop healthier food products

Educate consumers on food, nutrition and health

Consult with marketing and food service associations

Develop, promote and market better food and nutrition products

Ensure manufacturers follow regulations around food labeling and nutrition claims.

In government

Develop food and nutrition policies

Provide strategic advice on nutrition issues for different levels of government and different ministries

In education

Teach nutrition to students in dietetics, nursing, medicine, kinesiology, etc

Mentor future dietitians

Teach nutrition to pharmacy, nursing, medicine, and dentistry students

Support development of nutrition research skills

In research

Plan and direct research projects to increase knowledge of the relationship between nutrition and health

In sports and recreation

Help recreational and professional athletes get the most out of their activity

Counsel recreational athletes on weight loss, hydration, eating for competitions, and other nutrition concerns related to physical activity.

How do you become a dietitian?

You need special education and training to become a dietitian. To become a Registered Dietitian, one must have a university degree specializing in food and nutrition; complete a period of practical training either through an internship or Masters Degree program; and pass a national licensing exam offered by the College of Dietitians of Ontario.

Find out more about a career as a dietitian.

I’d like to see a dietitian for counseling.How do I find one in my area?

There are several ways to connect with a dietitian:

*Call EatRight Ontario toll-free at 1-877-510-510-2 or send an email for free information.The Registered Dietitians at EatRight Ontario can answer your questions by phone or email and also help you find nutrition services in your community.

Doctor referral: If you have a specific health condition (such as diabetes, heart disease, obesity, kidney disease, etc) your doctor may refer you to see a dietitian in a hospital, community health centre, diabetes education centre, family health team or private practice.

Diabetes Education Centre: If you have been diagnosed with diabetes or are at risk for diabetes, ask your doctor for a referral. Some diabetes education centres will also let you make an appointment for yourself.

Public Health Unit: Some public health units have dietitians that run nutrition programs for the community.Call your local public health unit to find out what services the dietitians offer in your area.

Community Health Centre: Some community health centres have dietitians that provide counselling and run nutrition programs that don’t always need a doctor’s referral.Call EatRight Ontario at 1-877-510-510-2 for help finding a centre in your community.

Private dietitians: Visit Find a Dietitian to search for a dietitian in your area.  Some insurance plans will cover the services of a private practice dietitian.

How much does it cost to see a dietitian?

OHIP will cover visits to Registered Dietitians in hospitals, community health centres, diabetes education centres or family health teams. A doctor’s referral may be required.

Some private insurance plans will cover the cost of seeing a dietitian.Dietitians who work in private practice decide their own fees depending on their years of experience and the types of services they offer.



Last Update – September 16, 2016

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If you have questions about what you've read here, or other questions about food, nutrition or healthy eating, click to email our Registered Dietitians or call 1-877-510-5102.