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What Does a Pediatric Nutritionist Do?

Whether your child is dealing with health issues or is simply a picky eater, a pediatric nutritionist can help. Find out more about these vital specialists.

Many children (and their parents) can benefit from working with a pediatric nutritionist. These specialists have the training and experience to help with various nutrition issues, from picky eating and weight management to diabetes and other chronic illnesses. Read on to learn whether a pediatric nutritionist is a good fit for your child.

What is a Pediatric Nutritionist?

A registered dietitian nutritionist helps people improve their overall health and wellness via a better diet. A pediatric nutritionist specializes in providing nutrition guidance for children and their parents. They can help parents understand how to encourage better eating habits in picky children who aren't eating enough nutrients to support healthy development. 

Additionally, a pediatric nutritionist can help children and their parents manage challenging conditions like diabetes, chronic illnesses, celiac disease, lactose intolerance, and food allergies. A pediatric nutrition expert can also be part of a treatment team for children with eating disorders.

Am I a Good Candidate to Work With a Pediatric Nutritionist?

Pediatric nutritionists can help clients from infancy to their teenage years. Here are some situations where this type of specialist could offer assistance.

You Think Your Child May Have Unidentified Food Allergies

Picky eating is a fairly common behavior for children. While some children simply outgrow their distaste for necessary foods such as vegetables, others maintain restrictive eating habits well into their teenage years. If your child has trouble getting enough nutrients through a healthy diet, you may want to consult a pediatric nutritionist who can help you determine the cause of your child's eating behavior.

A pediatric nutritionist has the knowledge and experience to help children overcome the aversions that typically cause picky eating. However, they can also work with you and your child to identify potential food sensitivities or allergies. These issues can also cause various other symptoms, such as digestive distress, rashes, and cold-like symptoms.

In many cases, bloodwork alone isn't enough to accurately diagnose food sensitivities and allergies. A nutritionist can develop a food elimination plan to determine the cause and then create an eating plan that provides adequate nutrients without relying on those problematic foods.

Your Child Has GI Issues

Most children deal with occasional gastrointestinal issues, such as diarrhea, constipation, nausea, and stomach aches. However, if your child experiences any of these issues consistently, it may indicate a chronic condition. 

Issues such as acid reflux, bloating, and digestive distress can be caused by a myriad of issues, both physical and mental. For example, mental health issues can contribute to ulcers. Persistent digestive problems are also sometimes indicative of illnesses such as Crohn's and celiac disease.

If you aren't sure what is causing your child's GI issues, you might start by contacting a pediatric nutritionist. They can start by recommending dietary changes that often minimize or eliminate specific digestive problems. If those changes don't have the desired effect, the nutritionist can work with your child's doctor and other GI specialists to determine the underlying cause of the symptoms. Once your child's medical team has identified the reason, a pediatric nutritionist can help your child manage their symptoms effectively through an optimal diet.

Your Child's Doctor is Concerned About Weight

Weight issues aren't uncommon in children, and they can have various causes and consequences. If your doctor is concerned that your child's high weight may be causing some health issues or increasing their risk for diabetes and other illnesses, your child could be a great candidate for a pediatric nutritionist. This specialist can help your child identify potential causes of their weight gain and develop a holistic wellness plan that incorporates sustainable changes in diet, exercise, stress management, and sleep.

Weight gain isn't the only condition a pediatric nutritionist can help with. Underweight children can also benefit from working with this type of expert. Many things can contribute to a child being underweight: food allergies, picky eating, mental illness, and underlying medical conditions. A pediatric nutritionist can help you understand your child's nutrition challenges with your child's pediatrician. They can give you the information and tools you need to help your child develop eating, sleeping, and activity habits that can help them reach a healthy weight.

How a Pediatric Dietitian Can Help You Create Healthy Lifestyle Choice:

If you have a child who struggles with proper nutrition due to an illness, food allergies, or simple pickiness, a pediatric nutritionist can help. 

Picky Eaters

Picky eating is relatively common among children, but that doesn't mean it's something to ignore. Excessively picky children often fail to consume the nutrients their bodies need for growth and development. Undernourishment can affect mental health, academic performance, and overall wellness. 

A pediatric nutritionist can help you, and your child understand the underlying reasons for their behavior. They can help identify food sensitivities and other issues contributing to picky eating. A pediatric nutritionist can develop a healthy eating plan that addresses nutritional deficiencies.

Healthy Development

Diet can play a significant role in your child's physical and mental development. If your child's doctor is concerned about their progress, it's a good idea to contact a pediatric nutritionist. These experts have in-depth knowledge of the link between nutrition and pediatric development, and they can effectively address your child's unique needs.

A pediatric nutritionist can do more than create a list of healthy meals for your child. They can delve into other areas, such as sleep, stress, and activity level, that may be contributing to development issues. Then, they can create a comprehensive plan to address those areas along with eating habits.

Food Allergies

Food allergies don't always look the same, especially in children. While a severe allergic reaction can cause anaphylactic shock, many other milder symptoms can indicate food allergies. Unfortunately, these signs aren't always clearly linked to certain foods, so it isn't easy to pinpoint the underlying cause.

For example, sometimes food sensitivities cause symptoms like a runny nose or cough. Many parents don't think that these cold-like symptoms could be linked to their child's diet. A pediatric nutritionist can help children and parents figure out which foods are causing these problems.

Healthy Weight

Many children struggle with maintaining a healthy weight. Picky eating can cause children to be underweight and nutrition-deficient. But it can also have the opposite effect, causing weight gain in children who only eat highly processed junk food. 

A pediatric nutritionist doesn't rely on crash diets or other unhealthy weight management methods. Instead, they help children and parents understand what's causing the weight issues and give them expert recommendations for sustainable progress.

Neurological Disorders

Neurological disorders, such as developmental disabilities and cerebral palsy, can make proper nutrition difficult, especially for children. Parents are often overwhelmed with all the other aspects of caring for children with neurological disorders that they don't have the time or energy to research nutrition changes. A pediatric nutritionist specializing in this area can provide targeted support to help clients and their parents know exactly what to do to improve nutrition.

Chronic Disease

A healthy diet can't necessarily cure some chronic diseases. But children who eat a nutritious diet and get adequate activity and sleep often experience fewer uncomfortable symptoms of illnesses such as celiac disease, Chron's, and irritable bowel syndrome. Some pediatric nutritionists specialize in helping their clients optimize nutrition as part of chronic diseases' treatment and management plans.


Pediatric diabetes is a severe condition that can have lifelong consequences if not appropriately managed. Unfortunately, it can be challenging for parents to know exactly how to support their children during treatment. Some pediatric nutritionists are specially trained to help manage diabetes through diet and other aspects of wellness. These specialists can be invaluable resources to diabetic children and their parents.

A pediatric nutritionist can offer many benefits to parents and help children develop the healthy habits they need for long-term wellness.

Is a Pediatric Registered Dietitian the Same as a Pediatric Nutritionist?

Not necessarily. There aren't many legal regulations on the term "nutritionist," so practically anyone can claim to be a pediatric nutritionist. However, pediatric dietitians have fulfilled rigorous educational and experience requirements and passed a standardized exam to get their dietetic registration. Every pediatric nutritionist in our network is a Registered Dietitian with exceptional credentials and years of experience in the field. 

Setting Realistic Success Goals for Working with a Pediatric Nutritionist

Before you start reviewing search results for "nutritionist near me," it's essential to understand what you can expect when working with a pediatric nutritionist. Hiring a nutritionist for your child isn't about finding a quick fix for their eating and wellness issues. Rather, it's an investment in your child's long-term health. A pediatric nutritionist gives you the tools and support to help your child overcome their struggles with food and build healthy habits that last a lifetime.

How to Get Started with a Pediatric Nutritionist Today

If you're ready to help your child get past their food issues and improve their health, a pediatric nutritionist can help. Don't limit yourself to the first person in your location who has availability. Instead, let Top Nutrition Coaching match you and your child with a highly qualified expert who has a compatible personality. We connect every client to the best pediatric nutritionists in the country who specialize in everything from chronic picky eating habits to diabetes management and neurological disorders.

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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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