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

Learn how to take control of your health by working with a registered dietitian to address the root challenges keeping you from reaching your health goals.

Maybe you’ve been struggling to reach a certain health goal, or perhaps you simply aren’t sure where to start when it comes to improving your health. Working with a registered dietitian nutritionist gives you immediate access to a professional with the know-how and experience to help you address the root cause of whatever challenges you face. 

Unlike coaches and weight loss influencers, registered dietitians have completed extensive academic and professional training and earned professional qualifications in clinical nutrition.

A registered dietitian nutritionist can help you reach your health goals in several ways, whether it’s teaching you about a healthy diet or creating a personalized meal plan. When choosing the right dietitian for your nutrition journey, it is important to keep several factors in mind. 

Keep reading to learn:

  • How a registered dietitian meets you where you’re at
  • Qualities to look for in a nutritionist
  • Red flags to watch for when choosing an RD
  • The costs and benefits of working with a nutrition expert

How a Registered Dietitian Nutritionist Works With You

A registered dietitian nutritionist gives you insight into how nutrition can impact your overall well-being. They have the knowledge and educational background to create a meal plan focused on nutritious foods. If you want to learn about healthy eating and how food choices can improve your quality of life, you should consider working with a nutrition professional.

Qualities to Look for in a Registered Dietitian Nutritionist

As you search for a "nutritionist near me," here are some essential qualities to look for in a professional who can help you reach your health goals. Another great way to find your nutritionist is to work through a highly vetted network like Top Nutrition Coaching that can match you with a professional based on an intake quiz

Organizational skills

Dietitians and nutritionists should have excellent organizational skills. Many dietitians and nutritionists will have more than one client, so they must keep their information organized to serve each client best. 

For example, eating plans should be well organized to ensure that information isn't mixed up or lost. Meal plans should also be clear so clients can follow them without confusion when they’re grocery shopping or cooking at home. 

Being organized is an essential quality in nutrition since a person's health is directly affected by the directions that a nutrition professional includes on a meal plan.

Problem-solving skills

Dietitians and nutritionists should be excellent problem-solvers so they can help clients find solutions that are tailored to their unique needs. Registered dietitian nutritionists regularly utilize their education, training, and problem-solving skills to identify possible causes of specific symptoms. Then, the best experts will use what they’ve learned to adapt their nutritional counseling and further garner results.

Listening skills

Listening is an essential function in healthcare. It’s important to find a nutritionist with excellent listening skills. A nutrition professional should listen to their client's concerns, likes, dislikes, and goals. If a client is unsure about something, their nutritionist needs to hear them out and consider possible programs or tools to implement.

There should never be a "my way or the highway" mentality regarding your health, especially when you rely on a health professional to give you relevant information. Working on your health takes hard work and determination, and you should always have the opportunity to voice your thoughts to your nutritionist.

Training and Credentials

Your qualified nutritionist should have sufficient training, credentials, and qualifications you can trust, but not all nutritionists have the same experience. If someone is giving you advice that impacts your health, you should be confident that they know what they're talking about. 

Essential training and qualifications for nutritionists vary from state to state, so it’s important to find a company that has rigorous standards for vetting their health professionals. 

The registered dietitians in the Top Nutrition Coaching network are highly qualified nutrition professionals with:

  • A bachelor's degree in nutrition
  • Hundreds of supervised practice hours
  • Board licensure
  • Additional certifications and specialties—this may include continuing education credits, diabetes education, or a master's degree in addition to their bachelor's. 

To become a registered dietitian, a trainee nutritionist will receive supervised training or technical expertise during a dietetic internship that provides professional interaction with clients. This clinical experience helps nutritionists and dietitians improve communication and analytical skills in a coordinated program. The training also helps develop personal qualities that allow them to be successful in nutrition.

Customer service skills

Customer service is an essential quality in any client-facing profession, particularly healthcare. Every health professional you work with should have exemplary customer service skills, such as treating you with respect, prioritizing your health, and maintaining careful records. Whether clients want to lower body fat, get help with sports nutrition, reduce their risk of diabetes, prevent disease, or anything else, a nutritionist should always remain respectful. 

Nutritionists work with clients directly, so customer service skills are necessary. Nutrition professionals should make their clients feel comfortable, respected, and heard. If you are struggling with dietary or medical issues, you'll want to work with someone who listens carefully to your concerns. 

Regardless of their education level or years of experience, every dietitian must demonstrate respect for their clients.

Other Dietary Professionals Who Can Help Meet Your Nutrition Goals

Although we firmly believe that working with a registered dietitian is an excellent choice, other professionals can share advice on meeting your nutrition goals. If you're serious about using nutrition to reach your health objectives, consider working with a dietitian or nutritionist. 

Your doctor

Based on your symptoms, history of health conditions, and health profile, your doctor might advise you about which foods to remove or include in your diet. They might also make lifestyle recommendations, such as increasing your daily activity level or adding specific vitamins or minerals to your diet, and they'll know if medical nutrition therapy is right for you. Your doctor's advice probably won't be as in-depth as the dietary advice a nutrition professional can provide, but it can still be helpful to consider.

Personal trainer

A personal trainer can also recommend good ways to meet your nutrition goals. They may not have an extensive understanding of nutrition, but they will likely know enough to share some valuable tips. Although these tips probably won't be specific to the client, they may still be useful. A personal trainer will most likely focus on the physical aspect of helping their clients work toward their health goals, so their nutritional knowledge may be limited compared to a nutrition professional such as a dietitian or nutritionist.

Health coach

Health coaches specialize in motivation, human behavior, and health. They aim to engage their clients in ways that promote healthy behavioral changes. Health coaches may have effective methods for helping their clients reach their overall goals, but their knowledge of nutrition can't compare to that of a registered dietitian.

Watch Out for These Red Flags When Choosing your Nutritionist 

If you've decided that you would benefit from the help of a nutrition professional, there are a few red flags to watch out for during your search.

Quick fixes

If a nutritionist or dietitian offers you a quick fix to your health concerns, choose someone else to work with. Improving your health will take dedication, time, and hard work. Science does not back up any magic pill, cleanse, drink mix, or crash diet that can "fix" your health overnight. An ethical nutritionist won’t offer you a quick fix to your health concerns. Instead, they will consult with you to create a nutrition-focused plan to achieve your health goals.

Unrealistic promises

Transparency is an important quality in a registered dietitian. Some companies may advertise unrealistic promises, like looking twenty years younger or losing 30 pounds in two weeks. These claims can perpetuate eating disorders and lead to additional health problems or put the client's health in danger. Some companies make unrealistic promises without any insight into your health status or lifestyle habits. Unfortunately, their promises are empty words that won't lead to success in your health goals. 

Selling something

If a nutritionist or dietitian claims that you will only be successful if you purchase an item they're selling, they may not be the best choice for you. Some nutritionists or dietitians sell protein powders, drink mixes, or a specially formulated food service that will allegedly give you guaranteed results quickly. Yes, all clients seeking professional nutrition help will need to pay for those services, but you should not have to purchase "miracle" products to see results. 

Nutritionists and dietitians should focus on bringing about lasting change through nutrition-based concepts. You should spend money on quality knowledge from experienced practitioners, not trendy products.

Strict weight loss rules

You may want to avoid working with anyone who gives you overly strict rules for weight management. You may lose weight by implementing these tactics, but your results won't last. Some nutritionists might demand that you stop eating after 7 p.m., cut out all sweets, and never eat any of your favorite comfort foods. Some of these tactics may produce weight loss results, but most people can't live like that.

Your favorite foods and eating patterns are part of life. You might work on changing your preferences and habits, but this works much better with a gradual and relaxed approach. Proper nutritional counseling should focus more on what you can add to your diet instead of what you should eliminate. 

Unscientific advice

Avoid nutrition professionals who use scare tactics instead of advice backed by science. Try to work with a nutritionist or dietitian with an impressive academic background, such as a nutrition science master's degree and a significant amount of supervised training.

Nutrition and dietetics professionals should offer you proven, science-backed strategies to help you reach your health goals. Choose someone who can interpret scientific studies in clinical nutrition and dietetics and share that information with you in an accessible way.

Working on your health goals doesn't need to be complicated. An experienced nutrition professional with a solid academic background should be able to interpret science-backed health information and use their skills and experience to create a plan for you or use an analytical software program to help them.

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

Working with a nutrition professional can be life-changing. The information and support a nutritionist provides can have a lasting, positive impact on your life. Labor statistics show that nutrition professionals don't have a typical baseline salary, so their hourly rates vary significantly from person to person. Although working with a nutritionist is a significant financial investment, it can save you money in the long run.

Preventative cost: Lower risk of developing chronic disease

An essential aspect of a nutritionist's job is to lower your risk of developing chronic diseases such as heart disease, cancer, and diabetes. Learning how to fuel your body with proper nutrition is one of the best preventative measures for your health. According to the CDC, chronic diseases are the leading cause of death and disability. You have a better chance of lowering your risk of developing these conditions (and the costs associated with them) when you work with a nutrition professional. 

Preventative cost: Lower blood pressure and cholesterol

Dietitians and nutritionists can teach you about the best nutrients for your body. They can help you make lifestyle changes that positively impact your health and quality of life by lowering blood pressure and cholesterol. It's crucial to keep your blood pressure healthy because your vital organs need the nutrients and oxygen carried in your blood. Healthy cholesterol levels are essential because "good" cholesterol (HDL) helps your body flush out "bad" cholesterol (LDL). Higher levels of good cholesterol are associated with a lower risk of heart disease.

Preventative cost: Lower risk of obesity

Nutrition and dietetics professionals can reduce your risk of obesity, which can be dangerous for overall health. Obesity typically increases the risk of serious illnesses such as heart disease and certain cancers, as well as the likelihood of developing diabetes. If you learn to adopt proper nutrition habits and invest sufficient time into working toward your health goals, you can lower your risk of developing these serious and costly conditions. Weight management dietitians and nutritionists can help keep your weight in a healthy range, thus reducing your risk of developing dangerous conditions that are harmful to your body.

Reactive cost: Medications for diabetes

When deciding whether to work with a nutritionist, you may want to consider how much money you'll have to spend on treatment if you develop diabetes. Insulin costs can add up, with vials ranging from $50 to over $1000 a month. Glucose meters and medications to control blood sugar are also expensive. You may want to consult with your insurance company to determine what diabetes-related treatments they will cover.

Reactive cost: Heart-related treatments and care

Treatments and medications can be an expensive aspect of maintaining your health after surgery or illness. Dietitians and nutritionists can identify ways to preserve heart health and lower the need for pricey medications for heart conditions. A registered dietitian nutritionist has the education, experience, and organizational skills to support their clients as they work to improve their heart health.

Reactive cost: Impact of obesity

By maintaining a healthy weight, you can avoid costs related to obesity. In addition to chronic issues like heart disease and diabetes, obesity can cause problems such as excessive joint pressure. Obesity is also linked to a loss of productivity and increased absenteeism at work.

Dietitians and nutritionists have the tools and education to help their clients reach their ideal weight. A nutritionist will get to know each client's likes and dislikes to help them maintain a healthy weight.

Final Thoughts

Whether you need help with renal nutrition, pediatric nutrition for your family, or advice for any other health concerns in between, finding the right registered dietitian nutritionist is essential. And with so many options (or scams) out there, be sure to do your research and consider the above tips before making your decision about the right services for you.

At Top Nutrition Coaching, our experienced, certified experts will partner with you to get to the root cause of your issues and find ways to help you take control of your health. Take this quiz to match with a nutritionist who is chosen for your health needs.

Find your personal nutrition coach today.

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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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