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What Does a Nutritionist Do?

Personal nutrition counseling can help you work towards your health goals by building a sustainable plan rooted in nutrition science tools and techniques.
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What are your health goals? Personal nutrition counseling is one of the most effective ways to address this question and many others you may have about your health. Many people are frustrated with the "one-size-fits-all" approach of fad diets and restrictive meal plans. Others may want to learn how to stay healthy while managing conditions such as diabetes, high blood pressure, or heart disease. Some people may be curious about navigating severe food allergies. No matter your reasons for seeking their help, a personal dietitian can provide customized assistance and scientific knowledge to help you build good eating habits for long-term health.

Since "personal nutrition" is a general phrase, here's a closer look at what nutrition specialists do and how to find a “nutritionist near me” who is well-suited to your needs.

What is a nutritionist?

A nutritionist is your guide to understanding the building blocks needed for long-term health. Unlike highly-restrictive fad diets, working with a registered dietitian nutritionist is not a "quick fix" to achieve weight loss or perfect health. Instead, dietitian nutritionists typically teach you eating habits that will physically and mentally support your body and help you to thrive. 

Registered dietitians (also known as registered dietitian nutritionists) have earned the highest level of certification in nutrition science. You can receive diagnoses and medical nutrition therapy for various health concerns by seeking out a nutrition expert with this title. 

Working with a nutritionist relies on a holistic health approach. The best nutritionists will look at all aspects of your life to treat health conditions and provide general guidance. They will equip you with food and nutrition education, skills for maintaining a healthy weight, and accessible meal plans. Your nutritionist will help you better understand the connections between sleep, stress, and your daily nutrition. You may also come away with an understanding of how adopting a few healthy habits can set you up for long-lasting success.

Your dietitian may suggest eating plans that address chronic illnesses depending on your concerns and nutrition needs. They may also provide education about the links between healthy foods and health conditions. Some common nutrition counseling specialties include weight management nutritionist, pediatric nutritionist, and sports nutritionist. Some nutritionists specialize in working with individuals who are recovering from eating disorders.

Read more here to learn all about the role of a nutritionist.

Am I a good candidate to work with a nutritionist?

Clinical dietitians can prescribe nutrition therapy for various health conditions and goals. Here are some situations where searching for a “nutritionist near me” can help.

Build an approachable diet plan

A weight loss dietitian may be the answer if you've tried one diet plan after another with limited success. Approximately 95% of highly restrictive or fad diet plans fail within one to five years after ending them. Cutting out major food groups or going on a very low-calorie regime is not sustainable long-term. More importantly, these fad diets can cause even more severe damage to your health, including metabolic problems and eating disorders. 

A dietitian offers a healthy and sustainable approach to losing weight through proper eating habits and nutrition. Using information about health objectives, medical history, lifestyle, stress levels, and sleep patterns, a registered dietitian works with clients to develop specialized programs that are effective in the short and long term. They will equip you with the tools to understand what nutrients your body needs and how to make consistently healthy choices. 

Get tools for managing diabetes

Whether you've recently received a diagnosis or have lived with type I or type II diabetes for years, one of the most crucial aspects of diabetes management is weight. Research indicates that lowering your body weight by just 2% can improve your blood sugar, while losing 5% of your current body weight can decrease your risk of heart disease. 

A diabetes nutritionist can support you to meet this weight reduction goal and ensure you understand therapeutic diets so that you have the nutrition tools to feel your healthiest. They can also address your unique health challenges and motivations in one-on-one counseling sessions. 

Reduce your risk of heart disease

A healthy diet is one of the best ways to reduce your risk of heart disease, hypertension, or high cholesterol. Experts recommend meal plans based on whole foods, eating within the daily 2,000 calorie range, and getting 150 minutes of moderate physical activity per week. A heart health nutritionist is well-versed in medical recommendations for cardiac health and can assist in building accessible heart-healthy meal plans. Your nutritionist can also share information about the benefits of anti-inflammatory foods that can relieve symptoms of hypertension and other cardiac problems. 

Seeking help from a heart health nutritionist also ensures that your health is monitored by a healthcare professional. If you have any unexpected irregularities in your weight or new health concerns arise, a holistic nutritionist who understands your cardiac health history can help you manage the problem.

Need some more time to think? Read more here.

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How a dietitian can help you create healthy lifestyle choices

Is a registered dietitian the same as a nutritionist? 

Not necessarily. All registered dietitians are nutritionists. However, not all nutritionists are registered dietitians. 

Registered dietitians have the highest level of certification in the nutrition field. They must hold at least a bachelor's degree, complete rigorous coursework, and obtain extensive clinical experience through a dietetic internship. Because of this higher level of expertise, registered dietitians can give qualified diagnoses and provide medical nutrition therapy to treat illnesses. On the other hand, a certified nutrition specialist needs fewer internship hours. These professionals can educate patients on holistic nutrition and food choices but lack the qualifications to prescribe medical nutrition treatments.

Setting realistic success goals for working with a nutritionist

The term "dietitian" may evoke images of low-calorie diets, cutting out food groups, being hungry, or having minimal results. The reality couldn't be farther from the truth. In practice, personal nutrition counseling offers the opposite – your nutritionist provides you with information and advice about healthy eating habits so that you have the tools to become an expert in your health needs.

However, prospective clients should know that working with a registered dietitian nutritionist is not a band-aid solution! Instead, you and your dietitian will work hard together. You'll build a nutrition plan rooted in science-backed techniques, your medical history, personal goals, and health concerns. You won't see results immediately, but it won't be long until you have a valuable skillset to promote overall health and wellbeing.  

How to get started with a nutritionist today

Top Nutrition Coaching connects you with leading nutrition experts online who have been thoroughly vetted for professionalism and expertise. If you're ready to start your journey to better health, Top Nutrition Coaching's matching specialists will pair you with a nutrition expert with the relevant background and training to help you achieve your health and wellness goals.

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About the author

Nicolette Star Maggiolo, RD, LDN
I'm a Registered Dietitian-Nutritionist with education from Boston University and clinical training from both Brigham & Women's Hospital and Massachusetts General Hospital in Boston. I specialize in helping the military and non-military individuals embrace nutrition as a partner in both their mental and physical health.

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