When you are sick, you go to the doctor. When your car needs repair, you go to a mechanic. When you have questions about food impacting your health, where do you turn?
It can be easy to turn to the internet when seeking nutrition advice for personal healthcare decisions. However, the nutrition information on the web may not be science-based or from true nutrition experts.
Instead of turning to the web for nutrition information, go to a nutrition expert - a dietitian!
Curious how seeing a dietitian can improve personal healthcare? Here are all the reasons, some surprising, why you may need a dietitian.
What Do Dietitians Do?
A dietitian is not a doctor and may even be different from a nutritionist. A Registered Dietitian Nutritionist (RDN), or casually a dietitian, is technically a nutritionist accredited by the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics (AND). They have a science-based education with at least a bachelor's degree.
RDNs must pass a national exam administered by the Commission on Dietetic Registration (CDR), obtain appropriate licensure, and complete continuing education requirements. Dietitians work in a variety of roles related to food, nutrition, education, or a combination of roles.
Where Do Dietitians Work?
Dietitians traditionally work in hospitals to see patients that are sick or in foodservice to provide healthy meals to vulnerable populations like the elderly or children.
While these roles are very important, dietitians can work in many more settings than just hospitals, schools, or nursing homes/long-term care facilities. Dietitians, similar to doctors, specialize in different areas of nutrition.
Some dietitians specialize in eating disorders, some in weight loss, food allergies, children's nutrition, hormonal imbalances, heart health, etc. Some dietitians work in private practice, others in media outlets, worksite wellness programs, grocery stores, doctors' offices, etc.
What Happens When You Meet with a Dietitian?
If you want to meet with a dietitian for personal health concerns, this may be done in person or virtually in most settings. Depending on what the reasoning of the visit is, a dietitian will ask some health history questions along with gathering other information needed to answer your questions. It may be best to meet with a dietitian more than once to get the answers you are looking for.
Dietitians can then help guide personal food choices or help steer to best eating practices for your individual needs. They can help with new suggestions for foods, meal prep, mental shifts, or several other factors that can help you reach your health goals.
10 Reasons to Meet with a Dietitian
There are many reasons to meet with a dietitian that go beyond the stereotypical example of weight loss or disease management. Some reasons to meet with a dietitian may surprise you, as dietitians can be specialized in many areas of health.
1. Help Manage a Chronic Disease
If you are diagnosed with heart disease, diabetes, cancer, kidney disease, celiac disease, or any other chronic disease, your doctor will recommend meeting with a dietitian. Food choices can have a major role in disease management with a chronic disease, and a dietitian will help guide the best food choices for your health.
2. Looking to Lose (or Gain) Weight
Maybe most famously, dietitians can help those looking to lose or gain weight healthily. They can help you break a plateau or answer questions regarding what is a sustainable approach to lose weight and provide accountability.
If weight loss surgery has been discussed between you and your doctor, you will also meet with a dietitian before, during, and after weight loss surgery.
One way to access a dietitian for weight loss, healthy eating, or disease management is through bistroMD's meal program. Not only do you get dietitian-approved meals delivered to your door, but you gain access to a dietitian for more personalized support to help reach your personal goals!
3. Navigate Pregnancy or Fertility Nutrition Questions
Nutrition plays a strong role in growing a healthy baby and maintaining a healthy pregnancy. A dietitian can help guide the best foods during this important time for the mother and growing baby.
Additionally, a dietitian can be an important part of personal healthcare for those with fertility concerns.
4. Looking for Relief from Gut Issues
If suffering from gas, bloating, cramping, constipation, reflux, etc., working with a dietitian can help pin down the root of these digestive system discomforts.
Perusing the internet can open a wide variety of advice for relieving gut issues. However, a dietitian can offer sound medical advice along with the best individual recommendations.
5. Frustrated with Food Sensitivities or Allergies
Like gut issues, pinning down what is causing a reaction to a food can best be tackled by a dietitian on your side. They can help guide through an elimination diet if necessary and strategize a plan for finding what foods are causing sensitivities/allergies.
Using their nutritional expertise and knowledge, dietitians can help teach how to create a balanced, healthy diet without the problematic foods.
6. Elevate Athletic Performance
Whether a high school athlete, first-time 5K participant, or a seasoned triathlete, working with a dietitian to elevate athletic performance can be beneficial. They can help guide the timing of fueling for optimal muscle growth and recovery as well if weight changes are desired.
Dietitians can also help determine if there are any nutrients in the diet that are lacking for peak performance.
7. Looking for Answers to Any Nutrition Questions
Even if you are not wanting to lose weight, manage a health condition, or elevate athletic performance, it can be beneficial to meet with a dietitian. They can clear up any nutrition questions you have instead of sifting through various websites to find your answers.
Go straight to the expert and get their undivided attention to your questions!
8. You Want to Eat Healthier
Confused about all the mixed messages about what fad diets and foods to or not to eat? Wondering what the best diet is for your health? These are all reasons to meet with a dietitian.
Dietitians can provide insight into simple approaches to eating healthier, like meal planning, and ways to save time and money in the kitchen. They can also offer expert insight into what to focus on for eating for health.
9. Improve Relationship With Food
Meeting with a dietitian can help restore a healthy relationship with food. If food is consuming thoughts or feeling out of control with eating, a dietitian can help get in tune with mindful eating and a healthy, balanced approach to eating.
10. Need Help With Any Other Health Issue
Experiencing any health issue from an abnormal blood draw, constant fatigue, mental health concerns or any other health issue can warrant meeting with a dietitian. You do not need to have a serious chronic medical diagnosis to gain benefit from meeting with a nutrition expert.
You may be surprised how they can help something you are going through that at first glance feels unrelated to what you are eating!
Bottom Line: Do You Need a Dietitian?
Dietitians are considered the experts of food-related issues from young to old. Like other health professionals, they specialize in different areas. There is a dietitian that can help your situation no matter how unique it may be.
Dietitians play a pivotal role in helping with disease management, weight loss, gain, or food sensitivities. However, their roles go beyond these more traditional benefits.
Dietitians can also assist with fertility, pregnancy health, athletic performance, disordered eating, and helping guide healthy eating for any other concerns.
Pogored. 8 reasons to see a Dietitian. Cleveland Clinic. Published December 18, 2020. https://health.clevelandclinic.org/8-reasons-to-see-a-dietitian/.
Ligos L. 15 reasons to see a Dietitian. Published November 16, 2018. https://thesassydietitian.com/15-reasons-to-see-a-dietitian/.