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Tips for Seeing a Nutritionist

Updated on February 16, 2008

A lot of people decide to see a nutritionist to help them create a healthier diet to follow. Before you go, you should learn a few things, like which questions to ask or how to choose a nutritionist. After all, you want to get as much out of these appointments as possible.


Make healthy changes before you see a nutritionist. Go ahead and cut out soda, candy, and other offenders ahead of time. This way, your RD can spend time focusing on bigger issues, like weight control, vitamin deficiencies, food allergies, or snacking habits.

The Difference between a Nutritionist & a Registered Dietitian

There isn’t a legal definition for the term nutritionist, so a lot of people call themselves nutritionists. Just because someone calls themselves one, it doesn’t mean that person has any formal education in the field of nutrition science or dietics. If you want reliable advice from a qualified expert, you should find a registered dietician (RD). RDs have to complete a four-year degree in dietetics. Many have graduate degrees, plus RDs must pass a national registration exam. In fact, most states require that RDs hold state licenses before practicing dietetics.

Finding a Registered Dietician

You can ask your primary care physician for a referral, but also ask your friends and family. Sometimes you find the best care based on word of mouth. You can also call the American Dietetic Association for a referral at 800-877-1600.

Questions You Should Ask

After you have collected a couple of names of dietitians you are interested in, don’t feel shy about asking questions before making your first appointment. You will want to know what to expect when meeting with the dietician, and whether they are a good fit for your lifestyle. Ask detailed questions about their experience with topics that apply to your lifestyle. Find out if they can help you with:

· A vegetarian diet

· Diabetes

· Weight loss

· Allergies

· Other medical conditions

Most of all, you want to make sure that the nutritionist can create a plan that will cater to your needs.

Getting the Most Out of Your Visit

Being prepared before you will mean that you can spend more time getting specific advice during your appointment. Take these four things on your first visit:

1. A food diary. Chart everything you eat and drink for 1 to 2 weeks before your appointment. This will help the RD find unhealthy patterns and identify potential solutions. You can also record physical activity on this chart.

2. A list of medications and supplements. Write down the names and dosages you take. You can even take the bottles to the appointment with you.

3. Questions. Write down any questions you have before you go. This way, you won’t forget to ask anything. You can also ask the RD to recommend books and resources.

4. A calendar. You might need to visit with your RD once, but many people choose to make multiple visits. Taking your calendar will help you to set up a schedule.

At the end of your appointment, restate your understanding of the assessment, top priorities for change, and the next steps. Don’t feel shy about asking about anything you aren’t clear on.


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