How do I know if I need a dietitian?

How do I know if I need a dietitian?
December 5, 2022 Marisa Michael

How do I know if I need to see a dietitian?

Many people try to DIY their nutrition, but this is often a bad idea. It’s tough to wade through all the information online and on social media and really tease out what is accurate and science-backed. And even if you are able to understand what information is reliable, it’s difficult to know how to apply it to your own life, and if it is even relevant to you and your health goals.

This is where a dietitian can help. Dietitians are specially trained, evidence-based practitioners that help people weed through all the misinformation. They are also skilled in behavioral approaches, helping you know which nutrition principles are right for you and also how to implement them in a sustainable way.

You may need to see a dietitian if:

  • You feel stuck or confused with nutrition information or trying to implement a nutrition intervention.
  • You have a diagnosis in which nutrition is relevant for the treatment (food allergy, IBS, heart disease, diabetes, etc.).
  • You feel like your relationship with food is disrupted or obsessive–you feel some disordered eating happening.
  • You want to achieve better sports performance through a good nutrition strategy.
  • You have tried and failed several diets.
  • You are an athlete that feels low on energy, have injuries, have lost your period, or seeing training plateaus or losses.
  • Here are some other reasons you may need a dietitian

Is it better to see a dietitian or a nutritionist?

A dietitian! Anyone can call themselves a nutritionist, even with no training. Those that have some sort of training often have sub-par certifications that aren’t regulated or accredited. A dietitian is a regulated term, meaning not just anyone can claim they are one. Dietitians go through rigorous schooling (as of 2024 a master’s degree is required), accredited internships, pass a board exam, and maintain continuing education throughout their career. Dietitians are also required to only practice evidence-based medical nutrition therapy (although you will find some rogue dietitians that are not practicing science-based nutrition). To top it off, dietitians also have to adhere to a code of ethics.

Dietitians are trained to see you as a whole person–your health history, medications and supplements, biomarkers/recent labs, lifestyle, food preferences, activity levels and more–to tailor custom nutrition recommendations that suit your needs and goals.

Do dietitians tell you what to eat?

Not if they are a good dietitian! Dietitians know that there can be many nutritional approaches to help someone achieve better health, a good relationship with food, or better sports performance. Dietitians may make suggestions on how to tweak your diet, but will not dictate what you should eat. Patient choice and autonomy is very important, and will help sustain long-term results. A nutritionist or coach may dole out diet plans and tell you to eat exactly what is on them, but dietitians have much more skill and nuance to help you formulate a plan that is right for you.

What will a dietitian tell me?

A good dietitian will ask you questions about your lifestyle, health history, medications, and goals before helping you develop a nutrition intervention that will work for you. They may tell you to try adding a vegetable, eating some protein with a snack, not skip a meal, or add or remove a supplement. It’s all variable depending on the individual person’s circumstances.

Do dietitians actually work?

Absolutely! Working with a dietitian has been shown in scientific research to improve measurable health outcomes such as improved blood sugar, improved blood lipids (a risk factor for cardiovascular disease), improved relationship with food if disordered eating is present, decreased gut issues, better sports performance, and more.

If you think you’d like to see a dietitian, book online.

When you have a legal question, you go to a lawyer. When you have a tax question, you go to an accountant. And when you have a nutrition question, go to a dietitian!

~This is general information only and not nutrition advice. Always check with your healthcare provider before undergoing any diet or lifestyle change.Ā 

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