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The Benefits of Working with a Registered Dietitian / RDN

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What Are the Benefits of Working with a Dietitian?

Last year it was celery juice. Yesterday it was the Keto diet. Today it’s intermittent fasting. Tomorrow it might be the lettuce diet. What in the world is Waldo supposed to do when there is this much conflicting nutrition information out there? One of the benefits of working with a dietitian is having help to figure out what types of foods are right for you, your body, and your lifestyle.

As a dietitian, I get asked all the time, “What’s the best diet to go on?” And my not-so-loved answer is always, “It depends.”

Because it truly does!

Everyone is so unique in what their body needs and there is no one-diet-fits-all approach to individualized nutrition. And that’s exactly what a Registered Dietitian (RD) or Registered Dietitian Nutritionist (RDN) does. We make sure your nutrition plan is specific to your needs, your lifestyle, and your goals.

Are RD’s and RDN’s Different from Nutritionists?

Many people use the terms “registered dietitian” and “nutritionist” interchangeably. However, the two are quite different from each other.

RD/RDNs are “food and nutrition experts (who) translate the science of nutrition into practical solutions for healthy living.” RD’s/RDN’s are health professionals specifically trained to “recognize and treat disease-related malnutrition and conduct medical nutrition therapy.” The main difference between RD’s/RDN’s and nutritionists is that RD’s/RDN’s have completed extensive training and have credentials. Their profession is regulated by laws and they can face consequences if there is malpractice.

Nutritionists are not required to complete additional training or education and additionally, their profession is not regulated by any laws. In other words, a nutritionist is not required to have any education and training, while an RD/RDN is required to complete a lot of education and training.

What Education and Experience Do RD’s/RDN’s Have?

Thanks to an undergrad nutrition degree, a Master’s degree, at least 1,200 hours of supervised practice with an accredited program, and a national exam, credentialled dietitians can prescribe individualized nutrition plans. These may include daily calorie needs, macronutrient ranges, specific micronutrient quantities, specific foods, or meal plans. These plans require rigorous assessment and evidence-based nutrition research in order to create the safest and most practical routine for clients or patients.

Who benefits most from working with an RD/RDN?

Working with a dietician is not just for patients in the hospital or those with a new medical diagnosis. RD/RDNs work with all types of individuals and groups who are confused about nutrition, struggling to reach health goals, or simply need more accountability with their nutrition routine. There are many benefits of working with a dietitian especially if you’re suffering from chronic health issues and want some relief.

You may benefit from working with a dietitian if you:

  • Are newly diagnosed with a health condition such as diabetes, cardiovascular disease, high blood pressure, kidney disease, or cancer.
  • Are preparing for or recovering from invasive surgery.
  • Experience digestive issues such as constant bloating, abdominal pain, acid reflux, diarrhea, or constipation.
  • Feel like you have a food allergy or intolerance.
  • Are attempting to get pregnant, are currently pregnant, or are postpartum and/or breastfeeding.
  • Have picky eaters in the household.
  • Lack confidence in preparing your own meals or making decisions on how to eat for your body.
  • Currently have or are recovering from an eating disorder or disordered eating.
  • Have a negative relationship with food and/or body image.
  • Have the desire to reach and maintain a healthy weight.
  • Need to improve athletic performance by fueling properly for your activity type and level.
  • Are looking to fine-tune your nutrition habits to ensure optimal health for longevity.
  • Struggling with yo-yo dieting and want a plan that is best for you.

What to Expect When Working with a Registered Dietitian / Registered Dietitian Nutritionist

Typically, outpatient, community, and private practice dietitians offer a free “discovery call” or chat that allows you to get to know each other, discuss goals, and how things work. During the assessment, the dietitian will review health history, diet history, current typical eating patterns, health goals, challenges and barriers, readiness to change, and sometimes physical biometrics. Also, be ready to spill the beans! As with most health professionals, we expect clients/patients to be honest and open about their health journey.

The more open you are about your habits, emotions, and challenges, the better we can help.

After the assessment, you and your dietitian will work as a team to set goals and work through any of the challenges you experience. Depending on your ultimate goals and nutrition needs, you may receive a specific meal plan or recommended foods and meals to include in your diet. These recommendations are catered to your nutrient needs based on your life phase. For example, a female in her twenties will have different calorie and nutrient requirements than a female who is breastfeeding.

Plan to work with your dietitian for multiple weeks and sometimes a few years. Long-term success requires a long-term commitment. And it’s worth it!

Here are some of the main benefits of working with a dietitian:

  • Accountability & support throughout the journey.
  • Specific goal setting individualized to you and only you.
  • Evidence-based nutrition education and practical steps.
  • Improved physical and emotional health.
  • Improved relationship with food.
  • Confidence in making food & nutrition decisions.
  • Control of your health.

Actionable Steps



If you want to work with an RD/RDN, here’s how to get the most out of the experience:

1

First, determine what your health goals are.

If your health goals involve anything food or nutrition-related, it might be time to ask a dietitian. Goals related to nutrition might be weight management, sports performance, disease management/prevention, learning to cook, or learning to decipher nutrition information. Then, determine if an RD/RDN can help you meet your health goals or if it’s not necessary to see one.

2

Then, look for a Registered Dietitian or Registered Dietitian Nutritionist.

Next, if you think you’re ready to find a dietitian or RDN, use our Virtual Coach Directory to find one. We feature registered dietitians and RDN’s on our website.

3

Narrow it down to a specialty.

Then, narrow down your list of dietitians and select one that can most help you meet your health goals. Most registered dietitians specialize in another area of nutrition – diabetes, heart disease, disordered eating, weight management, sports nutrition, pediatrics, etc. For example, if you struggle with disordered eating it may be beneficial for you to choose a dietitian who has worked with other clients who have experienced that.

4

Book a session to get to know your new RD/RDN.

If not offered, request a short call or meeting to get to know your chosen dietitian. This helps build an open relationship and ensures you are both the right fit for each other.

Make sure you know what your health goals are, and communicate them to the RD/RDN. Ask them if they have the experience to help you meet those health goals, and what types of clients they’ve worked with in the past.

5

Get to work.

Then, once you feel like you’ve made the right choice, get to work on accomplishing your health goals! Be prepared to work as a team and put knowledge into action. Your dietitian is going to do the best he/she can to equip you with what you need to be successful, but ultimately YOU have to take action on your goals.

6

Read more about this topic.

If you’re still wondering whether working with a dietitian is right for you, check out these articles: 10 Reasons to see a Registered Dietitian Nutritionist by EatRight.org. Top 10 Reasons to Consult with a Registered Dietitian by A Healthier Michigan. The Benefits of Meeting with a Registered Dietitian Nutritionist by South Shore Health.



Still need help? Ask the coaches!

Still need help? Ask the coaches!

About the Author


shannon costello

Shannon Costello

Registered Dietitian Nutritionist (RDN)

Shannon is a Registered Dietitian Nutritionist (RDN), Health Coach, Certified Personal Trainer, and Group Fitness Instructor with over 5 years of experience working in Corporate Wellness specializing in overall health, nutrition, and fitness. Throughout her journey to becoming an RDN, she grew her passion for culinary nutrition by teaching and developing hands-on cooking classes for all ages in the community.
Full Bio | LinkedIn


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