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Ready to Take Control of Your Health? Here's What to Look for in a Diabetes Nutritionist

If you have diabetes or pre-diabetes, your doctor has probably told you how important it is to modify your lifestyle to improve your health and manage the symptoms of your condition. You already know that you need to eat healthy foods and exercise. But it can be hard to translate those vague ideas into concrete habits that are sustainable long-term.

There are many professionals you can turn to for help. You might consider hiring a nutrition coach or following a meal plan created by an Instagram weight loss influencer. However, listening to these so-called "experts" isn't always the best choice. 

A nutrition coach may be able to offer encouragement and support, but they might not have formal education about the link between nutrition and managing diabetes. Weight loss influencers often focus on aesthetic goals such as extreme weight loss and sometimes use unsustainable means, such as crash diets, to reach them. 

A registered dietitian nutritionist is different. These highly qualified experts have years of education and professional experience helping clients manage diabetes through lifestyle choices. If you're committed to handling your condition by sticking to a balanced diet, a diabetes nutritionist is an excellent person to have on your side.


Still not sure whether a diabetes nutritionist is the right choice for you? Read more about how a registered dietitian nutritionist can help you manage diabetes.

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How a Diabetes Nutritionist Works with You

Every diabetes nutritionist in our network is a registered dietitian who has met rigorous educational and professional requirements to earn their title. A diabetes nutritionist specializes in helping clients manage diabetes symptoms through healthy eating and other lifestyle choices. If you have pre-diabetes, a diabetes nutritionist can help you improve your overall health and lower your blood sugar so that you have a chance of reversing your condition.

When you hire a diabetes nutritionist, they take the time to learn about your unique situation and health conditions. They will ask about your food preferences, sleep, daily activities, and stress level. Then, they will recommend a diabetes diet and build a holistic plan that includes practical suggestions for all those areas.

Qualities to Look for in a Diabetes Nutritionist or Dietitian

If you're ready to start looking for a diabetes nutritionist, here are some of the most important criteria. Focusing on these areas can help you choose an expert who will fit your goals and lifestyle well.

Credentials

Not everyone who calls themself a nutritionist has the same level of education or experience. There are no legal requirements governing the usage of the "nutritionist" title, so anyone can call themself one, even if they don't have any formal education or professional certifications.

To ensure you're working with a qualified expert, look for a registered dietitian (RD). An RD has met rigorous education and experience requirements. A registered dietitian (also known as a registered dietitian nutritionist) has completed thousands of hours of supervised work and has passed a standardized industry exam. If your main goal is to deal with your diabetes diagnosis, look for someone with a certification in diabetes nutrition.

Approach

An experienced diabetes nutritionist can help you improve your health and manage the symptoms of your condition through a balanced diet and other lifestyle choices. However, there are many different ways to meet those goals. Choosing someone whose philosophy and approach match yours is essential.

For example, working with a nutritionist who restricts specific foods or food categories might not be the best fit if you've struggled with disordered eating. If one of your goals is to improve your cardiovascular health through nutritious foods and exercise, you should look for a nutritionist who can help you create a balanced meal plan and exercise routine.

Experience

If you choose to work with a registered dietitian, you can be sure they have many hours of professional experience as a nutritionist. However, choosing someone with experience working with clients similar to you is vital. Look for a nutritionist who offers medical nutrition therapy and has worked with diabetes patients before. If you have gestational diabetes, ensure the nutritionist is familiar with this condition's unique aspects and effects on pregnancy.

Once you've narrowed your list down to nutritionists who have helped diabetes patients, you can consider additional factors. For example, if you have other health concerns, you may want to choose an expert who has successfully worked with clients with a similar medical history. 

Success Rate

If you're going to put a lot of effort into changing your diet and lifestyle to manage your diabetes, you want to be reasonably sure that your work will pay off. When interviewing diabetes nutritionists, ask them what their success rate is. For example, you might ask how many of their former clients have met their health and wellness goals. Have they helped any clients reverse pre-diabetes? Did any former clients successfully lower their blood glucose or cholesterol levels?

Make sure that their definition of success matches yours. If your goal is to lower your body mass index, improve your conditioning, or combat high cholesterol, look for a nutritionist with the desire and expertise to help you meet those goals.

Customer Service

Hiring a diabetes nutritionist is a significant investment of time and money. It's essential to make sure you're working with someone who will provide excellent service. For example, if you have a busy schedule, you may want to look for someone who has availability for sessions in the evenings or on weekends. 

Every dietitian in the Top Nutrition Coaching network offers exceptional service. We'll match you with a diabetes nutritionist with the right expertise, and you'll meet with them virtually via telehealth appointments. You can schedule these sessions at times that work for you. Plus, with our 24/7 unlimited messaging service, you can text your nutritionist in between sessions with questions or updates.

Skip searching for "nutritionist near me," and let us match you with a world-class diabetes nutrition expert.

Other Diabetes Professionals Who Can Help You Meet Your Nutrition Goals

A nutritionist isn't the only option if you want to work with someone who can help you manage your diabetes. Here are some other professionals to consider.

Physician

Your doctor is probably the one who diagnosed your diabetes and encouraged you to change your lifestyle as part of your treatment plan. Physicians are experts in physical health and diseases, so you can usually rely on your doctor to provide expert suggestions that account for your medical history and extenuating health circumstances.

However, although most physicians have a strong basis in nutrition fundamentals, they aren't necessarily nutrition experts. If you want highly detailed advice about nutrition and related aspects of your lifestyle, such as sleep and stress, you're better off finding an expert specializing in that field.

Life Coach

"Life coach" is a very broad term that can describe a wide range of professionals. Suppose you feel confident in your ability to identify unhealthy fats, build a solid nutrition plan, and develop an exercise routine but have trouble following through. In that case, you could benefit from working with a life coach. A life coach can help you maintain your motivation and advise you about other factors affecting your health, such as stress or indecision.

Personal Trainer

If part of your diabetes management plan includes getting more exercise and improving your conditioning and cardiovascular health, you might consider hiring a personal trainer. These fitness experts can help you craft a sustainable, effective exercise plan based on your unique physiology and goals. A personal trainer can also provide vital encouragement and support. 

However, not all personal trainers are nutrition experts or diabetes educators. Some are, but if you plan to rely on your trainer for meal plans or other nutrition advice, check whether they have any relevant credentials.

Psychologist or Licensed Mental Health Professional

If your mental health issues make it challenging to live a healthy lifestyle, you might consider working with a psychologist, therapist, or licensed mental health professional. These experts can help you identify and address the underlying causes of behaviors like binge eating. 

For example, an eating disorder or conditions such as depression or bipolar disorder can make it challenging to stick with a healthy eating and exercise plan. A psychologist or licensed therapist can help you deal with these conditions so that you're able to implement healthy lifestyle changes. 

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Watch Out for These Red Flags When Considering Diabetes Coaches, Dietitians, and Nutritionists

Not every nutritionist, dietitian, or nutrition coach is a trustworthy professional who has your best interest at heart. When deciding which expert to hire, watch out for these red flags. 

Highly Restrictive Meal Plans

Avoid a nutritionist who focuses on restriction unless you have extensive food allergies or a medical reason to eat an extremely limited diet. Nutrition plans that cut out entire food groups or severely limit caloric intake are often unhealthy and are usually unsustainable. 

Generally, a healthy diet shouldn't leave you feeling hungry. Be wary of any nutritionist who encourages such a plan or demonizes certain foods, such as carbohydrates or sweets. Most people who attempt restrictive diets eventually burn out and return to their original eating habits. It's usually more effective to make small sustainable changes that can build healthy habits without making you feel miserable.

Sales Pitches for Supplements or Diet Foods

Many supplements are safe and helpful; your nutritionist or physician may recommend some based on your unique health concerns. However, if your nutritionist's advice and meal plans are focused entirely on supplements or "proprietary blends," be wary. Unscrupulous nutritionists may use their platform to boost their income through supplement sales, which is unethical and potentially dangerous. In the U.S., there isn't much regulation of the supplement market, so it's not always wise to assume they are safe. 

Another red flag is a nutritionist who builds meal plans around diet products, meal-replacement products, or low-calorie foods. Occasional use of these tools isn't usually problematic, but exclusively eating diet items or low-calorie products is not healthy.

Trends

Fad diets and other trends come and go, but they almost always focus on offering a "quick fix." Avoid nutritionists who encourage you to follow fads designed for short-term results, such as a cabbage soup diet. Diet trends can range from harmless to dangerous, but few (if any) build long-term healthy habits.

Other diet trends center on scientifically dubious ideas, such as combining certain foods or eating specific foods at designated times of the day. There isn't any evidence that these trends work. Watch for "negative" trends, too, such as those that claim certain food combinations immediately turn to fat or create toxins in your digestive system.

Unproven claims

It's not hard to find drugs, supplements, or even meal plans claiming to improve your health significantly. Other common claims involve quick weight loss, boosting your energy, or even treating conditions like diabetes. The problem is that most of these claims are entirely baseless or founded on unscientific "studies" or "trials."

If your nutritionist claims that certain pills, herbs, essential oils, supplements, or homeopathic remedies can heal your diabetes, that's a huge red flag. Even if they recommend these things without making baseless claims about results or effectiveness, it's best to check with your doctor before adding supplements or other products to your diet.

Inflexible Plans

The key to long-lasting healthy habits is consistency. So a good nutritionist will likely encourage you to consistently eat your veggies, limit your alcohol consumption, and enjoy sweets only in moderation. However, there's a big difference between encouraging consistency and being unnecessarily strict.

When building a plan for you, a good nutritionist will factor in your food preferences, lifestyle, and personal needs. Find someone new if your nutritionist prescribes a program that doesn't include any flexibility for real life. The idea that you can never enjoy a piece of birthday cake or take a day off from exercising isn't healthy or sustainable. 

Read more about what you can expect a reliable diabetes nutritionist to do to support your health. You can reach your health goals with personalized help from a diabetes nutritionist.

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What Is the Cost Breakdown of Working with a Diabetes Nutritionist or Dietitian?

Wondering how much it costs to work with a diabetes nutritionist? Here are some diabetes management-related expenses to factor into your budget.

Sessions with Your Nutritionist

One of the first costs to calculate when you're deciding whether to hire a nutritionist is the cost of the sessions themselves. The rate for a session with a registered dietitian or nutritionist can range from under $100 to several hundred dollars. Your location, the nutritionist's credentials, and the type of nutrition counseling you need can also affect the cost.

Sometimes, the first session with a nutritionist is the most expensive, and subsequent appointments are cheaper. You may also get a discount by purchasing several sessions (or months of service) at a time upfront.

Healthy Food

Changing your eating habits can also cost money, especially if you're used to eating less expensive items such as fast food or shelf-stable snacks and pre-made meals. Fresh fruits and vegetables can be pricey in many areas, especially if you purchase organic varieties. 

Your new meal plan may include other ingredients that increase your grocery bills, such as meat, whole-grain bread, and minimally-processed snacks. Alternative items such as dairy-free milk or vegan items may also cost more. However, you may be able to lower the cost of healthy food by choosing seasonal produce and buying frozen meat, fruit, and veggies, instead of fresh.

Gym Membership or Home Workout Equipment

If your diabetes management plan includes increasing your physical activity to support heart health and lose weight, you might need to spend some money on a gym membership or workout equipment for your home. Gym memberships can range from under $50 per month to several hundred dollars, and possibly more if you hire a personal trainer. 

In most cases, working out at home is a more affordable option. You can improve strength and conditioning with a few resistance bands and dumbbells. There are also plans entirely based on bodyweight exercises with no equipment required. Adding walking or jogging to your routine may cost no more than a new pair of shoes.

Hiring a diabetes nutritionist is a significant investment. However, the potential cost of not investing in your health can be even higher.

Medical Tests and Appointments

If you have pre-diabetes or gestational diabetes, your healthcare costs will probably increase as you factor in extra doctor's appointments and tests. If you already have type 1 or type 2 diabetes, you still need to schedule regular doctor's appointments to monitor your condition and treatment plan.

The cost of medical testing and doctor's appointments can add up quickly. Diabetes can also lead to complications such as heart disease. You may have to factor in other costs, such as checkups with a cardiologist or regular bloodwork. Diabetes can cause damage to the eyes, so you may need to see your eye doctor frequently.

Medications and Other Treatments

Making healthy lifestyle choices can be an effective treatment plan for diabetes, but you may still need to take diabetes medications. Some common diabetes medications include insulin, alpha-glucosidase inhibitors to lower blood sugar levels, and other medicines to stabilize blood sugar and improve insulin production. The cost of blood glucose testing supplies and insulin syringes can also add up.

Your diabetes may contribute to other medical conditions with associated treatment costs. For example, individuals with diabetes often have high cholesterol as well. Doctors frequently prescribe statin drugs to help lower cholesterol. You might also need to take high blood pressure medications or aspirin for cardiovascular health.

Lost Income 

Diabetes can take a toll on your overall health and contribute to other medical conditions. Over time, you may have to take time off work due to medical appointments or feeling unwell. Even if you have paid sick leave to cover this time away from work, long-term health conditions can affect your ability to advance your career and grow your salary.

Untreated diabetes can lead to severe conditions such as chronic kidney disease and renal failure, which require dialysis or a kidney transplant. Individuals with these conditions often have to take extended leaves of absence from work, which can affect wages and the chance of promotion.

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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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