10 Things to Know About Going to See a Nutritionist

We asked registered dietitian nutritionists what they wish their clients (and potential clients) knew about the experience.

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Things to Know About Seeing A Registered Dietitian Nutritionist

Working with a nutrition professional can be a safe, reliable and enjoyable way to get your healthy lifestyle on track. RDNs are trained professionals who really know their stuff when it comes to nutrition and they want the best for their clients. Whether you're looking to lose weight or just eat healthier, in general, here are 10 things to know about the experience of seeing a nutritionist.

Dietitian vs. Nutritionist

One of the most important things to know right off the bat: all dietitians are nutritionists, but not all nutritionists are dietitians. Seek out a properly credentialed nutrition professional to get the best care! Look for the credentials "RD" or "RDN" — they signify a person who has gone through a rigorous educational curriculum and certification process.

Dietitians Are Not the Food Police

Probably the most important myth to bust: Dietitians eat food! A good dietitian won’t shame or judge or suggest you eat foods you hate — if they do any of these things, find a new RD. The best dietitians promote moderation, mindfulness and finding appropriate ways for you to enjoy foods you love as part of a healthy diet.

Ask About Expertise and Specializations

Dietitians specialize in various areas of nutrition, from diabetes to sports nutrition. To find the one that’s right for you, ask your perspective RD or RDN about their areas of expertise. You can also find dietitians of all disciplines using the "find an expert" tool from the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics.

Be Honest About Your Food Habits

Don’t tell your dietitian only what you think they want to hear. Like we said before, a good dietitian won’t shame or judge you, so be honest! Some folks feel compelled to stretch the truth or focus too heavily on what they label as "good" behaviors. "Oh, I never eat dessert," is a common declaration from clients. (For what it’s worth, dietitians eat dessert, too!) A nutrition professional can’t be helpful unless they know what’s really going on with your dietary habits.

Disclose Supplement Use (and Any Medications)

Make sure to disclose any and all supplements you use including vitamins, herbs and protein powders and bars. These supplemental nutrients should be factored into your assessment. Some can have side effects and interact with medications, so it’s best to let your nutrition professional provide you with the proper safety information.

Ask Questions

There is no such thing as a stupid question when it comes to your health. Plus, nutrition can be really confusing! Is Whole30 healthy? What about the keto diet? Should you steer clear of caffeine? Don’t be shy with any and all questions you have. To make the most of your session, jot down some questions ahead of time.

Discuss Exercise and Sleep

Dietitians aim to take a wholistic approach to your well-being, so the conversation will likely be about more than just food. Factors like physical activity and sleep play a huge role in your diet and your overall health. Again, be honest about your habits here.

Ask About Insurance

Most states allow registered dietitians to be insurance providers, but some take insurance and others do not. Some insurance plans allow you to submit "out of network" bills where you can pay the provider up front and then seek reimbursement from your insurance company. Check with your insurance carrier and nutrition professional ahead of your appointment to discuss payment options.

Expect Evidence-Based Facts

We like science! Dietitians use strategies and protocols substantiated by tons of scientific evidence. They then tailor their recommendation to your personal needs and goals to help you make positive changes. Good dietitians will be able to point you to scientific evidence to back up their advice — and they’ll be able to apply that nutrition advice to any cuisine and variety of food habits. If they can’t, it’s time to find someone else.

It’s Not One-and-Done

Making diet and lifestyle changes for the long haul takes time, patience and accountability. For best results, work with your dietitian over several sessions to help set the stage for long term success.