The Value of Working with a Dietitian

March is National Nutrition Month!

During this time of year, us Registered Dietitian Nutritionists (RDNs) tend to have a little extra enthusiasm as we have more conversations about the importance of nutrition. I thought I’d use this as an opportunity to highlight what a dietitian does, and how we can help make a difference. I’ll also offer tips on how to get started with a dietitian.

When considering your nutrition goals, have you taken any steps towards changing them? Creating a plan for yourself has never been easier. Now, more than ever, nutrition research and trends are readily available whenever you want to access them, and from a variety of sources. When I work with clients, many of them start by telling me they already know what to do or what to eat. Some assume I won’t be able to tell them anything they don’t already know. And that can absolutely be the case! But many times, it’s not.

I often find that what people have previously learned about nutrition is useless – or potentially even harmful – for their goals. While some nutrition information that is so easy to access can be beneficial, there is also a fair amount of misinformation or pseudoscience. Recommendations can be conflicting, and this can cause confusion. In fact, confusion is what most people cite as their number one reason for quitting a diet, followed by too many rules. Sometimes, my first step with clients is to focus on UN-learning misinformation to create a blank slate for more useful data. Or on the other hand, perhaps someone knows exactly what to do, but for some reason it has not worked for them yet.

Here is where a dietitian can provide value. If you are confused, or searching for answers and have not yet had success, I encourage you: team up with an RDN. We have a lot to offer! Here are some benefits of working with a dietitian:

1. You’ll have help from a trusted, knowledgable resource.Being educated and aware of up-to-date research is part of a dietitian’s job. They are required to complete strict educational requirements before practicing as a professional. At a minimum, a Bachelor’s and Master’s degree in science and nutrition from an accredited school must be earned. Then a hands-on, year-long internship must be completed. Finally, after passing a registration exam, they must obtain a certain amount of education credits each year to practice professionally. Many go further and seek out additional training and certifications so they can specialize in a specific field. Some specialty roles include food allergies, gut health, enteral nutrition, disease prevention – just to name a few!How does that benefit you? It can save you time and effort. Dietitians tend to be evidence-based, meaning: they rely on science. They consider all the research outcomes before providing specialized advice or education to clients. They can help sift through the conflicting information and give you solid advice and plans to work with.

2. Someone can help you overcome barriers and find solutions.If your history with diet and nutrition has shown less than stellar results, a dietitian can help by offering a different perspective towards your unique situation. When reviewing your current and past habits, we can try to fill any possible gaps, or brainstorm new ideas to try. Maybe you’re tired of eating the same things every day but you don’t know what to eat instead. Perhaps you want to eat more healthfully but you don’t know how to cook vegetables. Or maybe you’re trying to get a new personal record at that upcoming marathon. We can help! Struggling with sticking to a new way of eating? We’ll take a closer look. Moving towards positive, long-term outcomes is the goal. Another great thing about working with a dietitian is that they are usually connected with many other healthcare professionals. If you find that working with one particular dietitian is not helpful, they can refer you to someone else. We could even help you form your own health team if necessary! Save time and prevent headache? Yes, please.

3. You’ll have your own personal support system.Food can be emotional. Changing habits can be hard. While you go through the process of modifying your habits, a dietitian can lend encouragement and support. Truly, every dietitian I have met genuinely wants to help others have better nutrition. They will go the extra mile to make a difference. This often means checking in on clients between appointments, or sending personalized recipes or menus. Other examples of support include setting up a personalized grocery shopping tour, or providing a virtual cooking class. If you are motivated to make changes, dietitians will put on their best helping hats to get you closer towards your goals.More than just support, we can provide accountability. Research shows that people are most successful with weight loss and maintenance when they meet with a dietitian on an average of 15-18 times per year. Why? Regularly meeting with a dietitian can help you stay focused on your goals. For example, knowing you are going to discuss your progress at your nutrition appointment next week might help you reassess your choices this week. While you might not need the full 18 appointments, you may find that just a few can really help your progress.

If you’re on the fence about seeking out the help of a dietitian, I suggest you give it a try. You may really appreciate the results!To find a dietitian near you, ask your doctor for a referral, or search here:

Tips to improve your appointment with your RDN:

1. Be prepared. You may want to provide a detailed food journal for 1-3 days for a better understanding of your current habits. You may also want to provide details about your health history, any medications you’re taking, your activity level, etc. You will have a more efficient and effective appointment if these bases are covered.

2. Get ready to have open, honest conversations. Dietitians are not the food police, we really want to help! Know that being honest about what you eat and what your goals are will really help you gain positive results.

3. Know your motivation level. Maybe you are prepared to grab your health by the horns and drastically change your nutrition habits. Or maybe you only want to change one or two things. Either is completely fine, just be able to share that at your appointment.

4. Check with your insurance. Many plans cover six or more appointments with a dietitian.

5. Enjoy the process!

References: Foundation 2020 Food and Health Survey