Visiting a Professional Nutritionist? Here's What To Expect.

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If you’re looking to eat healthier and more nutritious food in the new year, you might want to consider booking an appointment with a dietitian. A professional can help you come up with a nutrition plan that works for your lifestyle and helps you meet your goals. Here’s what to expect from that first appointment and beyond. 

How to Find the Right Nutritionist to Meet Your Needs

Unsure of where to start when you’re searching for a dietitian? Begin your search by looking at yourself. 

“The philosophy or what you're looking for has to match the expertise of the registered dietitian,” says Su-Nui Escobar, RDN and a doctor of clinical nutrition based out of Miami. 

For instance, if you have a health condition like diabetes or follow a specific diet (i.e., plant-based), it can be a good idea to find a dietitian that specializes in those areas. Escobar herself specializes in helping women who are menopausal. A dietitian can help you structure a diet that works for you and incorporate different dietary restrictions. 

“A nutritionist is always going to be able to respect that,” says Escobar of dietary preferences. “If somebody is gluten-intolerant, I'm going to help them find the foods that make sense for them.”

When you’re searching for a dietitian to treat you, it’s important to remember this: 

“Anyone can call themselves a nutritionist, but only a registered dietitian nutritionist has completed multiple layers of education and training established by the Accreditation Council for Education in Nutrition and Dietetics,” according to the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics. To find a registered dietitian in your city, visit eatright.org/find-a-nutrition-expert

As with any medical treatment, you’ll want to call the office ahead of time to ensure the practice accepts your insurance. Many dietitians will do a brief phone call prior to an office visit to help ensure a better fit. 

What to Expect During Your First Appointment With a Dietitian 

First, the dietitian will gather information so they can come up with a nutrition plan that’s tailored for you. The dietitian will ask for a medical history and a family history. The dietitian will also obtain a physical history, including height and weight. They’ll ask about diets you’ve been on and whether or not they worked. The professional also will ask you about your lifestyle and typical consumption of food during the week and on the weekends.

Escobar says she’ll typically give her clients a questionnaire prior to their first meeting. No matter how the dietitian approaches the sessions, be prepared to answer questions like: 

  1. What are your goals? Maybe you want to gain or lose weight, for example.

  2. What do you feel will help you? If you’re a chronic dieter, let your dietitian know that diets just don’t work for you. 

  3. What are you willing to change? 

  4. What are you not willing to change? For example, Escobar tells us that some of her clients don’t want to give up wine. That can be worked into a nutrition plan. 

Expect More Awareness of Your Overall Lifestyle

A dietitian can guide you to a healthier lifestyle by giving some much-needed perspective. 

“Many times people are surprised about their eating habits; although they consider them overall healthy, they’re not healthy,” Escobar says. “Making small changes can give them great progress.” 

The Treatment Plan

After a certain number of visits, the dietitian will come up with a treatment plan for the patient. The number of visits varies per client. The nutrition plan is also highly variable. 

“It will depend on what the person needs,” Escobar says. She told us that she doesn’t like to give her patients specifics in terms of what they can eat.

“I’d rather give them strong guidelines and show them how to bend those guidelines so they can stick with healthy eating for the long run,” Escobar says. 

The treatment plan is always tailored to the individual. For example, for one patient, it was his portion sizes. For others, she’ll help them with more mindful eating. For another, she gave him specific examples of how much fat, protein, and carbohydrates to consume at each meal. 

After the First Session

Escobar says you should walk away from that first session with a clear picture on how to make any changes. 

“They need to get clarity about how to implement any changes. Changing eating habits, that's a big thing. So you might not expect to know it all and be able to do it perfectly. But you should know what to do next. You should know or at least know how to implement the changes that you agreed on with your registered dietitian,” Escobar says. 

If you don’t have that clarity and don’t feel a good fit, it might be time to move on to another dietitian. 

Prepare for Multiple Sessions 

The number of total sessions you’ll need with a dietitian depends on a variety of factors, according to Escobar. Sometimes it depends on the number of sessions insurance will cover, but other factors will come into play. 

“Sometimes we're not ready to change everything at once. We need to do it gradually. And then you also have to fine-tune as you go along with what works and what doesn't,” Escobar says. “One session is not enough to talk about everything that needs to be done and make all the changes at once.” 

Why Go to Nutritional Counseling? 

Eating a nutritious diet is part of overall health, and seeing a dietitian can be part of a holistic approach to health. A dietitian can help those who are managing a condition, or help someone who has recently changed their diet.

“I think anyone can benefit from seeing a dietitian,” Escobar says. “But definitely if they feel that they have tried on their own. Maybe it’s just not working out; then you can stop wasting time and get the help you need to move faster.” 

Tags: educaton, healthy, Healthy Diets, Healthy Eating, Self Care

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Written By

Teresa Traverse

Teresa K. Traverse is a writer and editor who has been published in Brides and Bust. Visit teresaktraverse.com for more. See Full Bio

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