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Dietitians are most known for providing nutrition advice—but they offer more benefits than just that.

Food plays an important role in our health and so does how we eat. Dietitians work to provide suggestions, tools, and resources to help you reach your goals.

Whether you’re interested in improving a condition, helping a picky eater, or just learning healthier habits, you might want to consider booking an appointment.

In this guide, we’re discussing who dietitians are, what they do, and who might benefit.

What is a Dietitian? Dietitian Definition

If you’re looking for ways to improve your health, you’ve probably heard of dietitians but may not be exactly sure what they do. To know whether you want to see one, it’s a good idea to understand the full meaning of a dietitian’s role.

Dietitian definition: A professional who is qualified to give advice about food and eating.

Traditionally, we think of dietitians guiding people on how to lose weight. While that is certainly a common reason for seeing a dietitian, they can help with a host of other reasons related to eating. For example, someone who needs help gaining weight or altering their diet after surgery can also benefit from a dietitian.

Beyond just providing food plans, these professionals help you unlock food patterns and challenges. After getting a full picture, they can offer solutions and tailored suggestions. This can come in the form of:

You can book individual appointments with a dietitian or they may be a part of your healthcare team. Dietitians can work in:

Many dietitians also work alongside other healthcare professionals. For example, let’s say you have a chronic condition that requires a specific diet. A dietitian can develop diet plans or eating suggestions that follow your doctor’s advice.

What Qualifications And Training Do Dietitians Have?

Registered Dietitian (RD) is a regulated title in Canada. While others providing nutrition services have varying training, all registered dietitians in Canada have gone through education and exams.

There are 3 main steps to become a dietitian in Canada:

1. University dietitian degree

Complete a degree from an accredited university program. Courses students study include sciences, social sciences, nutrition topics, and population health.

2. Practical training

Practical training can either be a part of an integrated university program (usually a 5-year dietitian program) or as a post-degree program (Master's or postgraduate practicum program).

3. National licensing exam

In most provinces, students need to pass the Canadian Dietetic Registration Examination (CDRE).

Nutritionist vs Dietitian: Nutritionist Definition

To figure out who can help you meet your health goals, you may want to know the difference between a dietitian vs a nutritionist in Canada.

Nutritionist definition: An expert in nutrition

Nutritionists can give you advice on nutrition while dietitians can help treat health conditions.

 Whereas registered dietitians are regulated in all provinces, the “nutritionist” title is only protected in three provinces:

In each province, nutritionists have varying education, so it’s a good idea to ask for qualifications if you’re considering one.

All dietitians are educated on nutrition. Some dietitians have additional training, also making them a nutritionist.

Are All Diet Experts RDs?

If you’re looking for advice on your diet or eating habits, it’s important to consider that not everyone has the same level of education.

For example, nutritionists are only regulated in a few provinces. Where they’re not regulated, a nutritionist’s education will vary, so you’ll need to check.

There are also many food and diet services offered by people or companies with varying qualifications. For example, health coaches may be registered dietitians, or they may have no training at all.

Other programs offer food recommendations based on fad diets and not research. When it comes to food and eating, there are a lot of so-called experts, so it’s best to choose someone reliable. A registered dietitian who has been through years of accredited education can provide science-backed advice.

When a professional’s credentials aren’t clear, don’t be afraid to inquire. Simply ask, “are you a registered dietitian?”

Why Should I See a Dietitian?

Nutrition plans may be the first thing that comes to mind when you consider visiting a dietitian. But there are many reasons to consider seeing a dietitian.

Whether you have a concern, want to meet specific goals, or just have eating-related questions, dietitians are your go-to source.

Below are the common reasons people seek out a dietitian.

Dietitian for Weight Loss

Seeing a dietitian for weight loss is a good way to begin your health journey. Rather than following a fad diet, seeking a dietitian to lose weight can help you meet long-term goals.

Not only do dietitians guide you with nutritional information, but they also work on behavioral habits that might be preventing you from losing weight. A 2020 study found that dietitians are an effective part of weight loss. In particular, intensive behavioral therapy seemed to be most effective.

Find a Dietitian Near You for Weight Loss

Dietitians for Eating Disorders

Seeing a dietitian for disordered eating is a good idea to help improve your health and thought patterns. Whereas nutritionists can help their clients make better food decisions, dietitians are also trained to deal with the behavioral component. Often, a person with an eating disorder will work with both a psychotherapist and dietitian.

Dietitians for Picky Eaters or Kids

Picky eating is common among kids, especially when it comes to healthy foods. However, if you’re struggling to serve them the nutrients they require, consider booking an appointment with a dietitian. Working with everyone’s preferences, they can find recipes and food plans that provide all the essential vitamins and nutrients. Pediatric registered dietitians are experts who specialize in food problems or disorders involving kids.

Dietitians for Digestive Issues

Over 20 million Canadians experience a digestive disorder each year, according to the Canadian Digestive Health Foundation. Dietitians can help you deal with complaints like constipation, stomach aches, diarrhea, etc. Conditions like IBS and GERDS can also be improved with professional advice.

Dietitians for Eating Restrictions

Whether it’s food allergies, a health condition, or a lifestyle, such as veganism, having food restrictions can make it tough to get all the nutrients you need. A dietitian can help you find ways to eat healthy while still enjoying your meals.

Dietitians for Pregnancy

To learn about the different nutritional requirements during pregnancy and how to meet them, consider booking an appointment with a dietitian.

Dietitians and Nutrition Help for Sports Goals

Sports dietitians specialize in helping people and athletes meet their exercise goals through food.

Dietitians for Meal Planning Tips

Dietitians can also help you better plan your meals. Whether it’s cooking for your family or eating healthy with a busy lifestyle, dietitians can provide recipes and tips. They can be a great resource for people who want to get healthy but aren’t sure how to cook or where to start.

Dietitians for Hospital Rehabilitation

After major surgery, a dietitian often guides patient eating plans. Before a patient is discharged, they may have a consultation to understand how their eating choices will affect their recovery.


Keep in mind that you don’t need a specific reason to visit a dietitian. If you’re curious about how they could improve your health, you can book an appointment to discuss your goals or questions.

I’m Not Sure If I Need a Dietitian

If you’re not sure whether you should see a dietitian, you don’t need to commit to a set of appointments upfront.

If you have a situation or condition that you’re not sure a dietitian can help with, mention it when you call or email. The dietitian or receptionist will be able to tell you whether you should book an appointment.

To get a full picture of whether a dietitian could help, it’s often best to book an initial appointment or consultation. This gives the dietitian time to learn your goals and assess how they may be able to help. Based on that, you can book additional appointments or choose another professional.

Initial Dietitian Appointment: What to Expect

Whether your first appointment is in person or via phone or video, you can expect a similar process.

Firstly, your dietitian will get to know you and your reason for booking the appointment. If you’re suffering from a condition, they’ll likely ask you more questions about it to assess your needs.

After learning your goals, they’ll also ask questions about your preferences and lifestyle. For example:

Your answers will help your dietitian learn about unhealthy habits and ways you can overcome those challenges. They’ll also be able to provide tailored advice, such as foods you can afford and prepare.

What you gain from your first appointment depends on your situation. You may be educated about nutrition and given sample meal plans and recipes. Alternatively, you may take home coping skills, like dealing with emotional eating.

During follow-up appointments, your dietitian will ask about what worked and what didn’t. From there, you can evaluate your plan or adjust your habits.

How Many Dietitian Appointments Will I Need?

During your initial appointment, ask your dietitian how many appointments you may need. Since it’s tailored to each client, it’s impossible to say how many appointments are required before discussing your goals.

Since change is a long-term process, you’ll likely have at least a few appointments.

Do I Need a Doctor's Referral to See a Dietitian?

No, you do not need a doctor’s referral to see a private practice dietitian. You can book an appointment with any registered dietitian you choose.

Are Dietitians Covered By Provincial Health Care Plans?

Private practice dietitians are not covered by OHIP or any other provincial health care plan. However, they are sometimes covered under workplace health insurance plans.

Dietitians are covered in Canada when they are deemed medically necessary. For example, if you get surgery, you might need to adjust your eating habits while you heal. In that situation, the dietitian who speaks to you in the hospital would be covered.

You may also be eligible for local programs if you meet specific criteria, such as a chronic health condition.

Ask your doctor if your condition is eligible for any local government-funded dietitian clinics or programs.

I Can’t Afford a Dietitian Out Of Pocket. What Should I Do?

Since dietitians aren’t covered in Canada, if your workplace insurance plan doesn’t cover it (or you don’t have insurance), you might not know what to do.

If you can’t afford to pay out of pocket, there are a few resources:

Provincial Health Lines with dietitian and nutrition advice.

If you can’t afford to pay out of pocket, there are a few resources:

Where Can I Find a Dietitian Near Me?

Whatever your health goal, a dietitian can help you understand the role food plays in achieving it. From learning to cook to overcoming disordered eating, dietitians provide a wide variety of education and resources.

Medimap lists the best local dietitians in the country. Whether you’re searching in Toronto, Vancouver, or anywhere in Canada, we’ll help you find the best option near you.

Get Good Diet Advice. Find a Dietitian Near You

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