Some of my colleagues and I want to put this out here, in case there are any misconceptions about what dietitians do. There seems to be some confusion about the dietitian vs nutritionist titles, and what we do in general. I want to clear that up right now, so here we go.

We’re Not All Finger-Waggers: Finger wagging is so old-school. There still are some in our profession, but that’s true of every profession. Some of us are cool, easy going, and fun to be around. There are those of us who are pencil dietitians, not erasers, meaning that we like to add things to peoples’ diets, not take things away. We work with your lifestyle and preferences to create a plan with you that works for you.

The first dietitian I ever encountered was on TV, in the form of Mrs. Garrett on The Facts of Life. Somehow between her and the fact that dietetics as a degree started as home economics, dietitians have gotten a reputation as hairnet-wearing biddies who work in the kitchen. In truth, dietitians work in many areas, including media, industry, and consulting in addition to private practice and hospitals. And we don’t all wear lab coats, either.

Dietitians are not Nutritionists: The title of ‘Dietitian’ and ‘Registered Dietitian Nutritionist’, in the United States (in Canada we only have one protected title, and that is ‘Dietitian’) is regulated. As dietitians, we have done a science-based, 4 year university degree in Nutrition, then an internship, then written board exams. We are overseen by regulatory bodies.

Anyone can call themselves a ‘Nutritionist’ or ‘Nutrition Coach’,  Some nutritionists may give good advice, but dietitians’ practice is based in science and we are regulated health professionals.

We Eat Crappy Food Sometimes, Too: Don’t think we’re all drinking green smoothies and eating salads all day. We eat like everyone else – we probably do have an above-average diet overall, but we also love to indulge as well. My biggest pet-peeve is when I’m eating something less than healthy, someone will invariably comment about how I’m a dietitian and I shouldn’t be eating that food. None of us are super-human, even dietitians. Thanks for your concern, but leave me alone with my Nanaimo bars. I want to enjoy my treats too.

We Don’t Care What You Ate Last Night: I sometimes avoid telling people at parties what I do for a living, because when they find out, it invariably leads to exhaustive nutrition confessionals about how bad their diets are and the ‘I really need to see you!’ Listen – I don’t work when I play. If you want some advice, book an appointment.

 We Sometimes Judge Your Grocery Cart: I admit to being shocked at other peoples’ carts at the supermarket. Sometimes it’s hard to hold my fire, but that would be obnoxious to give advice when it’s not warranted. I do cringe though when I see someone strolling through the store with 6 bags of chips, 2 cases of pop, and a box of Froot Loops, especially if they’re with kids. Maybe they’re buying food for a party? Probably not. I have to admit, though, that I hide my husband’s Wonder Bread under a pile of kale in my cart.

We Don’t All Follow Canada’s Food Guide: There’s a rumor out there that dietitians are bound and required to follow the Canada’s Food Guide. This is far from the truth. I haven’t followed it in years, and many of my colleagues don’t either, believing it to be a faulty tool. Dietitians are governed by our regulatory colleges, but the tools we use to practice differ from one dietitian to the next. Some of us are more progressive than others, so when looking for an RD to work with, choose someone whose personality and working style mesh well with yours. Just like choosing a doctor, therapist, or nanny, you want to ask questions before you hire someone. There are dietitians out there for whatever your nutrition need may be, from how to manage a vegan diet to how to grocery shop on a budget to how to eat to prepare for your first marathon.