Dietitian Vs. Nutritionist—What’s the Diff?

Montreal Translation SyllabusThere’s a big diff, actually. Just ask a dietitian how they feel about being called a nutritionist—you’ll get an earful!

What’s a nutritionist?

When translating the French term “nutritionniste,” resist the temptation to put “dietitian” in English. Though both professions deal with diet and nutrition, in Canada the terms are vastly different.

In fact, the term “nutritionist” is largely not protected by law, so pretty much anyone can call themselves a nutritionist and hang out their shingle. Perhaps they’ve taken a course or two, perhaps they haven’t. Their nutritional advice may be sound, but it might not be. Nobody’s checking and they’re accountable to no one.

What’s a dietitian?

When translating the French term “diététicien” or “diététiste,” be sure to check the person’s credentials, and then choose either “dietitian,” “registered dietitian” or “professional dietitian—but not “nutritionist.”

Unlike nutritionists, dietitians have completed at least a bachelor’s degree in their field, done a practical internship, passed a provincial or national exam, and then maintain their professional status through ongoing professional development courses. They are licensed to practice in their field, are members of professional associations, and “are held accountable for their conduct and the care they provide.” For more details, read this document.

The next time you stumble across these terms in your translations, remember that a little research will ensure an accurate translation!

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