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What does a Registered Dietitian Do?

From dietitians and nutritionists to weight loss coaches and influencers, numerous professionals specialize in helping individuals achieve a healthy diet and lifestyle.
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The abundance of options can make it challenging to decide which health care professional you should work with. Before searching for a "nutritionist near me," it's essential to understand what each practitioner does and how they help clients achieve their goals. 

If you are considering booking an appointment with a registered dietitian nutritionist, you've come to the right place. This article will discuss the candidates who would benefit the most from 

working with a dietitian and what they can achieve through this relationship. 

What is a registered dietitian?

A registered dietitian (RD), also known as a registered dietitian nutritionist (RDN), is a nutrition expert specializing in dietetics, a scientific field focused on diet and its impact on health. Registered dietitians help clients modify their nutrition due to a medical condition such as diabetes or renal failure, or individual goals such as weight loss. The main objective of an RD is to collaborate with you to create a healthy yet realistic eating plan that is sustainable long term. 

To hold you accountable, a dietitian will provide you with strategies and tools to assist with meal preparation, grocery shopping, and dining out. These tools may include food models that outline healthy portion sizes, sample meals, nutritious recipes, and grocery list templates. 

Am I a good candidate to work with a registered dietitian?

There are certain health professionals that you should visit at least once a year, such as dentists, gynecologists, and general health practitioners. The same is true for clinical dietitians. While everyone can benefit from booking a session with a registered dietitian, some individuals should prioritize working with a registered dietitian.

You Are Pregnant

Discovering you are pregnant is a significant life change. For the first time, the food you eat affects not just you but someone else. For that reason alone, expectant mothers must be conscious of what and how often they eat. There are many misconceptions surrounding eating and pregnancy, which can often lead pregnant women to undereat or overeat. Some women grapple with morning sickness, extreme nausea, and a fear that they will gain too much weight during pregnancy, which can lead to undereating. Other women succumb to food cravings or believe they are "eating for two," which can lead to overeating. 

Both undereating and overeating can have a severe impact on a growing fetus. Working with an RD can benefit your and your baby's health. A registered dietitian can correct pregnancy misconceptions and help you create a diet that provides the necessary nutrients.

You Have a Food Allergy

Getting diagnosed with a food allergy can turn your whole world upside down. What used to be a mindless act of popping a piece of food in your mouth can suddenly become stressful and scary. 

Seeing an RD about food allergies can be beneficial for many reasons. If you have celiac disease, lactose intolerance, or other food sensitivities, an RD can teach you strategies to identify and avoid certain foods. Allergy management dietitians can also help you find substitutions to keep your diet balanced and tasty. 

An RD can also clear up misconceptions about what it's like to live with a food allergy. This can go a long way towards ensuring that your diet remains diverse and delicious and that you aren't unnecessarily depriving yourself of any nutrition.

You Have Digestive Problems

A multitude of factors can cause poor digestion. Individuals suffering from digestive issues may suffer from stress, lack of sleep, or an undiagnosed food allergy. An RD can get to the root of what is causing your digestive problems and help diagnose your disorder if necessary. 

If you do not have a severe disorder, simple changes to your diet and lifestyle can go a long way. If you suffer from mild constipation, nausea, or acid reflux, your RD may recommend limiting your intake of fried foods or caffeinated and carbonated drinks. If you have a more serious digestive disorder such as IBS or GERD, your dietitian may recommend other courses of action, such as taking medication. 

Still wondering if you're a good candidate for a registered dietitian? Read more here.

How a registered dietitian can help you create healthy lifestyle choices:

A registered dietitian can do much more than tell you what you can and can't eat. Here are some of the most significant benefits of working with a registered dietitian

Teach the Basics

Whether you have high blood pressure or are struggling to lose weight, an RD is an ideal person to advise you about diet and nutrition. Before your first session with a dietitian, you may not know much about the healthiest diet for you. But over many months, you will slowly learn everything there is to know about preparing healthy meals, grocery shopping, understanding food labels, and dining out at restaurants. The more you learn from your registered dietitian, the more confident and empowered you will feel in managing your own health decisions. 

Offer Customized Support

Many people consult the internet and self-help books when designing a healthy diet. The only thing wrong with that strategy? These resources are only able to provide general advice. 

Creating an ideal eating plan is not a one-size-fits-all situation. The best diet plan for you probably won't be the best diet for your brother, mother, neighbor, or close friend. For instance, an athlete will need specific sports nutrition advice that may be irrelevant to a non-athlete.

Many factors impact your body's nutritional requirements. A dietitian can provide customized advice based on your current diet, exercise regime, food preferences, dietary restrictions, budget, and medical history. 

Reliable Resource

A dietitian's job is not to lecture about healthy eating. Instead, this is someone who can continuously communicate with you about health best practices. Use your first nutritionist session to discuss diet trends, beneficial supplements, healthy aging, and general nutrition concerns. As someone immersed in the world of health and wellness, your dietitian will know about which products and strategies genuinely promote health and which are money-making schemes that aren't worth your while. 

Overcome Eating Anxieties

Everyone has a unique relationship with food. Whether you have an eating disorder, a food allergy, or are a professional athlete, life challenges significantly tie into health goals and medical concerns. A dietitian is someone you can feel comfortable talking to about food anxieties. You can work together to develop healthy behaviors and coping mechanisms to overcome food barriers and obstacles. 

Make Eating Enjoyable

It's a common misconception that specific diets must be restrictive and bland to be effective. That dreadful fate is easily avoidable with the right expertise and creativity. RDs are bursting with good ideas on food substitutions, healthy recipes, and cooking methods that keep your meals balanced and delicious. For instance, an RD can recommend the best gluten-free products available if you have to adopt a gluten-free diet and can no longer eat pasta, bread, and pizza. 

Is a Registered Dietitian the Same as a Nutritionist? 

Registered dietitians and nutritionists are nutrition professionals who specialize in how food impacts health. Both healthcare professionals practice medical nutrition therapy and work in hospitals, health care facilities, public health clinics, corporate wellness programs, and online communities. The main difference between the two is their credentials. 

You can immediately tell someone is a registered dietitian if the letters RD and RDN follow their name. Although the term "nutritionist" is not professionally regulated, to be called a registered dietitian, an individual must complete a bachelor's degree and a dietetic internship before taking the Commission on Dietetic Registration exam. While nutritionists have varying levels of professional experience and expertise, a certified nutrition specialist (CNS) is the most advanced certification for personalized nutrition practitioners. 

Setting realistic success goals for working with a registered dietitian nutritionist

A registered dietitian can teach you about diet and nutrition, give you the tools you need to improve your health, and hold you accountable for your health goals. 

A registered dietitian is an excellent resource for individuals looking to improve their health, but working with a registered dietitian is not a band-aid solution. Ultimately, you are in charge of managing your health and putting your wellness goals into practice. If something isn't working or a specific strategy is too difficult to maintain, speak with your RD. Devising realistic, approachable, and sustainable objectives is the best way to stay on top of your health. It's all about balance!

How to get started with a registered dietitian nutritionist today

It can be overwhelming to decide which nutritionist is right for you. That's where online services like Top Nutritionist Coaching come in. Rather than searching for a "registered dietitian nutritionist near me," we will do the heavy lifting of carefully matching you with one of the nation's best registered dietitian nutritionists. With our convenient telehealth platform, you'll have virtual appointments from the comfort of home with a nutrition professional who specializes in the services you need. 

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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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