Diet and nutrition are serious concerns, so why do we take most of our advice on those subjects from daytime television talk shows, advertising and celebrities? If what you are doing to stay fit is working, that’s fine: keep it up! If not, it might be time to consult with a professional dietitian and work out a personalized plan to meet your health goals.
What is a dietitian?
To begin, the basics: dietitians are educated and experienced in the technical aspects of food and nutrition, and the roles they play in promoting our health. In consultation with a patient, dietitians review scientific information and translate that into actionable advice and a course of recommended best practices.
Patients approach dietitians about more than simply issues of being overweight or obesity. Clients of all ages and needs may consult with a dietitian on matters including nutrition, healthy diet, and management of specific illnesses, athletic performance or other issues.
Dietitians are officially recognized by a handful of professional organizations. The largest in the United States is the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics (recently renamed from the American Dietetic Association), which offers certifications as Registered Dietitian (RD) and Dietetic Technician, Registered (DTR).
Now that’s out of the way, the important question is: how can a dietitian help you?
Here are four common reasons to see a dietitian:
1. You have a medical condition that requires diet management.
The obvious ones are diabetes, high blood pressure or high cholesterol. A dietitian can advise regarding best diet and lifestyle practices to treat or prevent these problems.
2. You have an eating disorder or struggle with body image.
This includes anorexia and bulimia, and may include some types of binge eating. A dietitian can help you create an effective nutrition plan and work to support improved body image and a healthy weight.
3. You have lifestyle or performance goals.
This can range from diet support as you train for a triathlon or athletic competition, to simply wanting to have more energy to play with your grandchildren. Proper diet is crucially linked to physical and mental energy levels.
4 . You have a persistent desire to eat right, but can’t find a way to follow through.
Maybe you don’t know what you should be eating, or maybe you just have difficulty sticking to the plan. A dietitian has expert knowledge to tailor a plan to your needs, and can support you along the way to meet your goals.
What to expect when you hire a dietitian
It is important to remember that dietitians cannot make a medical diagnosis, that is the role of a doctor. Dietitians also cannot authorize prescriptions, or administer or dispense drugs. Their role is to offer you diet and nutrition advice, consult regarding the impact on dietary health of drug prescriptions and offer patients support and motivation.
An initial consultation is typically a question and answer session: be prepared to go into detail regarding your diet, health, fitness goals, etc.
What’s the damage? An initial consultation will probably run you somewhere around $100. Follow-ups may be less expensive, but there may be additional expenses required for testing. Many insurance plans cover dietitian services, particularly if they are a result of a doctor’s recommendation. Talk to your healthcare provider to determine your exact level of coverage.