Why dietitians are important to the healthcare team?

Dietitians are key members of health care teams. They contribute a broad range of skills as clinicians, practitioners, educators, researchers and as leaders. 

Do you have a dietitian on your interprofessional team?

There are many benefits to having dietitians as members of your health care team. 

When it comes to the prevention and treatment of some chronic diseases, dietary counselling by a dietitian is more effective than usual care or minimal dietary advice. For example, dietitian interventions improve outcomes related to diabetes prevention and management as well as heart disease compared to non-dietitian interventions. Nutrition interventions by teams with a dietitian have been shown to be more effective in reducing blood pressure than teams without a dietitian.

Looking for the evidence? See Outcomes of Dietitian Interventions from PEN: Practice Based Evidence in Nutrition.  

How many dietitians should be on your team?

One dietitian for every four to 14 family physicians is recommended for primary care settings, such as family health teams, community health centres, nurse practitioner-led clinics, primary care networks and family health networks.

Who should I refer to a dietitian? 

Dietitians work with patients throughout the lifecycle. Here are some of the reasons to refer:

The advice and information dietitians provide is tailored to their patient’s personal needs and challenges, including taste, food skills and accessibility. Dietitians translate the science of nutrition into terms everyone can understand, looking beyond fads and gimmicks. And until your client can connect with a dietitian, has easy to read, science based information on these topics and more to help them get started.   

I’d like to refer my patient or client to a dietitian. How do I find one in my area?

Provincial Telehealth services:

These provinces have call centres where your patients and clients can speak with a dietitian at no cost:

In British Columbia, call 8-1-1

In Manitoba, call toll free 1-877-830-2892 or 204-788-8248 in Winnipeg

In Ontario, call Telehealth Ontario toll free at 1-866-797-0000.

In Newfoundland & Labrador, call 8-1-1

Local Services:

1. To find a dietitian for individual fee for service appointments, visit Find a Dietitian and search by postal code, city and/or specialty. Many employee health insurance plans cover dietitian services.

2. If your patient has diabetes or is at risk for diabetes, you can refer them to a publicly funded Diabetes Education Program. There are similar programs available if your patient is receiving cancer treatment. 

4. Refer to an outpatient clinic with access to a dietitian.

5. Public Health Units and Community Health Centres offer counselling, free programs and workshops with access to a dietitian.  Criteria to access these services will depend on the program and organization.

6. If your patient receives homecare services, you can call your case manager to see if they can have a homecare dietitian come to the house.  A physician's referral is typically not required.

7. Some grocery stores offer fee for service appointments with dietitians along with some free programming like cooking demonstrations and workshops.  Check with your local store.

Is there a difference between a dietitian and a nutritionist?

Dietitian is a protected title across Canada, just like physician, nurse and pharmacist.  Nutritionist is also a protected title in Alberta, Quebec and Nova Scotia. Refer to this table for details by province.  Some dietitians have a job title that includes nutritionist such as "community nutritionist".  To be sure you are accessing the most qualified nutrition professional, look for the initials RD or PDt (DtP in French) after the health professional's name.  

Like all regulated professionals, dietitians undergo comprehensive and rigorous training, both on the job and in universities. They are held accountable to the highest standards of education and ethics. Find out more about education and training.

For more on dietitians:

What can a dietitian do for you? (Video)
What is a dietitian? (Video)
What is a dietitian (article)


Last Update – August 30, 2021

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Dietitians look beyond fads to deliver reliable, life-changing advice. Want to unlock the potential of food? Connect with a dietitian.