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

Living with polycystic ovary syndrome (PCOS) can be challenging, but there are ways to manage the condition and live a healthy, happy life. One of the best ways to healthily and conveniently navigate living with polycystic ovary syndrome is by working with a PCOS nutritionist. 

The right nutritionist will be able to help you manage your PCOS symptoms and make healthy choices that can improve your quality of life. This health professional can also offer support and guidance on a balanced diet and lifestyle changes that may be necessary to control your PCOS.

That said, with so many nutritionists and dietitians available, it can be difficult to find a nutritionist who is the right fit for you. While the best PCOS nutritionists will be able to give you guidance on how to manage your symptoms, you also want to find someone you feel comfortable with and who you can lean on during times of stress. In this article, we will help guide you through all of the criteria you should look out for during your PCOS nutritionist search. Let’s get started!

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At a Glance:

  • Qualities to look for in a PCOS nutritionist or dietitian – Some of the most important criteria to look for in a PCOS nutritionist include an expert’s credentials, customer service, specialty, working style, and cost.
  • Other PCOS professionals who can help meet your nutrition goals – Registered dietitians and health coaches are two alternatives to working with a registered PCOS nutritionist.
  • Watch out for these red flags when considering PCOS coaches, dietitians, and nutritionists – If your nutritionist or dietitian is recommending an inflexible meal plan, cutting out entire food groups, or advising extreme food replacements, you are working with the wrong health expert. 
  • What is the cost breakdown of working with a PCOS nutritionist or dietitian? – The benefits of working with a PCOS nutritionist far outweigh the costs. A PCOS nutritionist can help prevent you from developing gestational diabetes during pregnancy and heart disease later in life. They can also help you manage an eating disorder and navigate you through a healthy and safe pregnancy.

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How a PCOS Nutritionist Works with You

A PCOS nutritionist will provide you with nutrition education about PCOS, recommend dietary supplements that may improve your condition, and help you create a personalized meal plan based on your needs and symptoms. 

The first session with your nutritionist will typically last between 45 and 90 minutes. The purpose of the initial consultation is for your nutritionist to learn more about your current and past medical history and assess your current eating and exercise habits. 

The number of follow-up sessions you have with a nutritionist will be based on your medical needs and goals. For instance, if one of your goals is to lose weight, regularly meeting with a PCOS nutritionist may be beneficial so they can alter your meal plan as needed and support you along the way. Follow-up sessions may also include furthering your nutrition education, monitoring your supplement use, meal planning, and support with eating issues. 

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Qualities to Look for in a PCOS Nutritionist or Dietitian

When looking for a registered PCOS nutritionist, there are several criteria you will want to consider. Here are five of the most important factors you should take into consideration when hiring a PCOS nutritionist. If your desired nutritionist does not meet one of these criteria, you may want to continue your search. 

Credentials

Unlike some healthcare professions, the title of "nutritionist" can be given to anyone who provides general nutritional advice in the United States. Nutritionists are not as regulated as dietitians, and anyone, even those without professional training, can legally call themselves a nutritionist. Therefore, you need to ask a nutritionist about their credentials before committing to their services. 

A Certified Nutrition Specialist (CNS) is the highest certification for personalized nutrition practitioners. Every CNS will have a master’s in science, along with 1,000 hours of supervised experience, and have completed 35 hours of relevant coursework in PCOS nutrition and the Certification Examinations for Nutrition Specialists. 

If the registered dietitian nutritionist you are working with has the letters “CNS” in their title, you know you are working with a highly qualified nutritionist. 

Customer Service

One of the most important aspects of working with a healthcare professional is consistent communication. Whether your body feels slightly uneasy or you are going through an urgent health crisis, your nutritionist is going to be one of the first people that you contact. Thus, it’s important to have a solid communication system with your nutritionist for you to receive the best possible care. This means having a nutritionist who quickly responds to any questions or concerns via phone call, email, or text message. 

If you start to feel like you are not receiving timely communication from your nutritionist, it may be time to find a new health expert to work with. 

Specialty

Most nutritionists have a specific area of focus. While some choose to pursue advanced qualifications in a particular health area, like prenatal nutrition or autoimmune conditions, other nutritionists have a more general approach and provide advice on healthy eating, weight loss, and increasing energy levels. 

If you are living with PCOS and looking for a nutritionist, you should be narrowing your search down to an expert who specializes in this health condition. A PCOS-specific nutritionist can help you create a healthy diet plan that can address your specific needs and prevent weight gain, if necessary. They can also help you understand which foods to avoid and which ones to eat more of to manage your symptoms.

Style

Not only is it important to work with an expert in the field, but you also want to find a nutritionist who you work well with. While some nutritionists may have a more nurturing and supportive approach, others will be more strict and firm to help hold you accountable for your goals. Working with a nutritionist is a collaborative process, and if you have incompatible working styles, this relationship is unlikely to be successful.

Before committing to a nutritionist, ask if you can have a quick phone call with them first. Even a short conversation will help give you an idea of whether or not you can see yourself working with this individual in the future. 

Cost

Unfortunately, many nutritionists are expensive to work with. Whether you like it or not, if you are working with a nutritionist who is outside of your budget range, then this is not going to be a financially viable solution long term. Before hiring a nutritionist, sit down and figure out how much you can afford to spend on this healthcare professional every month. Also, check with your health insurance to see if they cover nutritionist services. 

Many online nutritionist services offer health support at a fraction of the cost of in-person visits. These programs are just as effective as visiting an in-person nutritionist and are often more convenient for the clients. If you already have “nutritionist near me” in your search history, you should take the next step and work with an online nutritionist service. It’s a great option. 

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Other PCOS Professionals Who Can Help Meet Your Nutrition Goals

Other PCOS healthcare professionals can help you navigate this health condition, including registered dietitians, health coaches, and influencers. Before seeking out an alternate healthcare professional, here is what you need to know about these experts. 

Registered Dietitian

A dietitian is an expert in dietetics, a branch of knowledge concerned with diet and its effects on health. A dietitian will most frequently work with clients to alter their food consumption based on their medical condition or health goals. All registered dietitians (RDs) and registered dietitian nutritionists (RDN) have a bachelor’s degree in nutrition or a related field, supervised experience, and have completed a national exam administered by the Commission on Dietetic Registration. 

On the other hand, a nutritionist will focus on lifestyle factors, including stress management and exercise plans, among other things, dietitians mainly focus on diet and nutrition. If you are suffering from PCOS as well as an eating disorder, such as binge eating, a dietitian may be a great alternate option for you. Registered dietitians are qualified to diagnose eating disorders and design diets to treat specific medical conditions. 

Health Coach

A health coach is a professional who helps people make lifestyle and behavior changes to improve their overall health. Health coaches typically have a background in health, wellness, or counseling, and they use this knowledge to help their clients set goals, make changes, and achieve lasting results.

There are a few things to keep in mind when working with a health coach. Firstly, there is no guarantee that a health coach has the same level of training and education as a dietitian or nutritionist, which means they most likely will not be able to provide you with the same level of care. Health coaches also may not be covered by health insurance, so you may have to pay out of pocket for their services.

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

After you begin working with a PCOS nutritionist, dietitian, or health coach, there are several red flags that you should keep an eye out for, particularly when it comes to weight loss. If your healthcare professional begins to exhibit any of these telltale signs, it may be time to start searching for another polycystic ovarian syndrome expert. 

Inflexible Eating Plan

One of the most important things you will do with your PCOS nutritionist is create a healthy eating plan. Your meal plan will inform what foods you eat on a day-to-day basis, which means that it should also appeal to your taste preferences and favorite foods. 

If your dietitian or nutritionist is forcing you to eat salmon three times a day, and you hate salmon, this is not a plan that you will stick to. Allowing for flexibility in your diet means you can create sustainable and incremental changes, which is the best way to ensure long-term health progress. 

Working with a nutritionist is meant to be collaborative. Therefore, if your nutritionist is being too rigid with their advice and suggestions, it may be a sign that it’s time to move on. 

Entire Food Groups Are Cut

Fad diets continue to crop up in various forms. For instance, people with little knowledge of healthy eating tend to think of carbs as "bad" when it comes to losing weight, and this stereotype has become normalized in diet culture. In actuality, when you eliminate entire food groups like carbs, you are missing out on essential components like fiber. Fiber helps aid digestion and weight management as it keeps your body feeling full. Similarly, cutting out dairy means that you aren’t consuming the calcium you need to maintain strong bones. 

If your nutritionist is encouraging you to slash entire food groups, this is an immediate red flag. If your nutritionist is giving you this type of nutrition advice and asserting that it's professional medical advice, it most likely means that they do not have the credentials that they claim to have.

Always Hungry

Regardless of what meal plan you are on, hunger should not be an issue. If the meal plan that you have created with your dietitian is constantly leaving you hungry, this is a big warning sign. 

Every meal plan created by dietitians and nutritionists should include a wide range of foods and sufficient calories, including carbs, fruits and vegetables, lean sources of protein foods, and healthy fats. Regardless of how much you weigh, all women, including women with PCOS, should be eating around 2,000 calories a day. If you are consuming too little, this may be your nutritionist’s way of trying to get you to lose weight quickly and unhealthily. 

Your Diet Runs Your Life

Are you avoiding certain social situations because of your meal plan? Have you stopped eating out at restaurants? Do you rarely leave your house around meal times? If you are answering yes to all of these questions, this is a telltale sign that you are working with the wrong nutritionist. 

If you find that you are reluctant to eat with others due to fear of breaking your meal plan rules, your meal plan is too rigid. This type of meal plan is not going to be sustainable for you long-term, and it is not beneficial for your mental health or overall well-being. 

Extreme Food Replacements

A healthy diet should not be difficult to achieve. Most foods that you consume on any meal plan can be purchased at the grocery store, from carbs and fruits to lean proteins and vegetables. 

If your dietitian or nutritionist suggests you replace certain foods and whole meals with shakes or fancy protein bars, this is another red flag. Not only are these specific products more expensive than whole foods, but you also don’t need these products to achieve a healthy lifestyle. 

A nutritionist that is recommending these packaged snacks and processed powders is either encouraging you to take unhealthy shortcuts or is profiting off of your purchasing these products. 

Now that you know the red flags to look out for, here are some more PCOS nutritionist green flags.

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What Is the Cost Breakdown of Working with A PCOS Nutritionist Or Dietitian?

While working with a PCOS nutritionist does add additional expenses to your life, most women find that the benefits of working with a nutritionist far outweigh the fee. Here are some preventative and reactive costs of working with a PCOS nutritionist.

Gestational Diabetes

Women with PCOS have a higher risk of developing gestational diabetes during pregnancy. That said, with the help of a few nutritional guidelines, gestational diabetes can be prevented. A PCOS nutritionist can help you develop a meal plan specifically catered toward your health condition and pregnancy. 

For instance, a PCOS nutritionist will likely recommend that women with PCOS consume a diet that is high in fiber and low in refined carbohydrates. This type of diet has been shown to help regulate blood sugar levels and help reduce insulin resistance. Additionally, a nutritionist may recommend that women with PCOS consume more healthy fats, such as those found in olive oil, avocados, and nuts. These fats help to promote hormone balance and can help reduce the risk of developing gestational diabetes.

Heart Disease

Regardless of their current weight, women with PCOS are at risk of developing atherosclerosis (plaque buildup inside the arteries), having high blood pressure, and experiencing heart attacks. 

A PCOS nutritionist can help you prevent the early onset of cardiovascular diseases by helping you develop and stick to a personalised heart-healthy diet. For example, your nutritionist could analyse your diet and suggest cutting down high-fat dairy and salt and introducing more fruits and vegetables. 

This nutrition plan will keep your blood sugar at a healthy level, promote insulin sensitivity, and reduce inflammation. A PCOS nutritionist can also help recommend lifestyle changes, including regular physical activity and stress reduction techniques. 

Healthy Pregnancy

If you have recently conceived, a PCOS nutritionist can help you navigate your pregnancy in a way that’s safe and healthy for both you and your baby. For instance, a PCOS nutritionist can advise you on what types of nutrition you need to introduce into your diet during pregnancy. 

Folate, iron, iodine, and choline are all nutrient-dense foods that should be incorporated into your diet. 

There are also foods that women with PCOS should be limiting or avoiding during pregnancy, including seafood and caffeine, as they are at an increased risk for miscarriage and gestational diabetes. 

Eating Disorders

There is evidence to suggest that people with PCOS have a higher risk of developing eating disorders compared to the general population. One study of individuals with PCOS reported a very high occurrence of overall eating disorders (21%). 

Unfortunately, many of the treatments recommended for PCOS symptoms can increase the risk of developing an eating disorder, including weight loss and increased exercise. Women who are living with PCOS and have an eating disorder can greatly benefit from the help of a team consisting of a PCOS nutritionist and a therapist. 

Rather than frame a meal plan towards dieting and weight loss, a nutritionist can reframe it as developing healthy eating behaviors.

Acne or Oily Skin

Another common side effect of PCOS is acne and oily skin. Some women with PCOS also develop boils or bumps on their skin, known as hidradenitis suppurativa, and experience unwanted hair growth, known as hirsutism. Rather than seeing a dermatologist (and piling on medical fees), a PCOS nutritionist can also help address issues with your skin. 

When it comes to skin health, blood sugar management is crucial. Blood sugar levels regulate so much in the body, including androgen hormones. Too much sugar causes insulin levels to spike and testosterone production to increase, leading to sebum activation and acne. 

A nutritionist can help you develop a low-blood-sugar diet, which can help improve your hormonal acne over time. 

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About the author

Mariel Miranda
Mariel is a writer based in the San Francisco Bay Area, where she lends her talents to creating valuable content that enriches communities, strengthens cultures, and moves people to change. With over ten years of writing experience and as an advocate for physiological well-being, her breadth of work extends from parenting podcasts to health and wellness pieces.

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