Why Apps and Social Media Are Not Substitutes for Advice from Real Dietitians

Getting personalized nutrition advice from a professional is the best way to set yourself up for a healthy, long life.

August 30, 2022

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Photo by: 10'000 Hours/Getty

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It’s not a secret that working with a nutritionist is something historically reserved for those who can afford it. Sessions aren’t always covered by insurance and it can be hard to know where to start to find the right registered dietitian for your needs. If you don’t have the money or resources, you’re often relegated to pseudo-solutions, most commonly, apps that track your food intake and calorie output, but don’t provide much personalized information, or influencers on social platforms claiming to be nutritionists without any real credentials.

As a registered dietitian, I believe it doesn’t have to be like this. Getting personalized nutrition counseling provided by a registered dietitian who takes insurance and sees patients virtually or by phone — what I do in my practice, Culina Health — is the best way to find a healthy eating plan that works for you. Here’s how affordable personalized nutrition advice can make a huge difference to a person’s health and wellbeing.

Registered dietitians are uniquely trained to provide you the best, science-backed advice possible — and it’s highly personalized.

Why does the registered dietitian part matter when there are so many people talking about how to eat? Anyone can call themselves a nutritionist by law. Celebrities, physicians, personal trainers and more all fancy themselves a nutritionist. They’ve read books, taken a course, had their own journey, gotten a “certification,” but none of it comes close to the education and training required to be a registered dietitians.

Registered dietitians spend years in school learning about the intricacies of metabolism and physiology. To be able to include “RD” in their title, students must complete a 1,200-hour dietetic internship where they spend 8 to 10 hours a day in a hospital and at community sites providing nutrition education and interventions to the public. Registered dietitians learn the ins-and-outs of food, and how it impacts both mind and body.

When a registered dietitian talks to you about food, they’ll start by asking questions (instead of offering advice without intake). An RD factors in where you’re from, what your food environment is like, what you actually enjoy eating (you don’t have to break up with white rice if you like it), what your budget looks like, what your mom’s relationship with food was like, what your cholesterol levels are, how you feel about food, what conditions you have, and more.

Finding nutrition services you can afford makes you more likely to stick with them.

A patient diagnosed with type 2 diabetes in adulthood was unable to afford solutions when everyone — including her endocrinologist’s office — wanted to charge her for nutrition assistance. At our practice, Culina Health, her insurance covered 100% of sessions for 24 sessions, which broke down to a session every other week. After working with one of our dietitians for six months, her numbers were within normal range and she didn’t incur extra costs as a result. At one point she said, “Thank you for being committed to making my life better.”

Like many other forms of counseling, not all nutrition counseling is covered under insurance. If you're having trouble finding a nutritionist within your insurance network, aim to find one with a payment plan that fits your needs. At Culina Health, for example, we offer membership models.

Bottom line: Though it can take some work to find the one for you, registered dietitians are the experts in personalized nutrition advice.

Prioritizing their counseling over information on apps and social media platforms means people can live healthier longer lives. Not sure where to start? Ask your insurance provider about nutritionists in your network to find a service near you.

Vanessa Rissetto received her MS in Marketing at NYU and completed her Dietetic Internship at Mount Sinai Hospital where she worked as a Senior Dietitian for five years. She is the co-founder of Culina Health and is certified in Adult Weight Management (Levels I & II) by the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics, and the founder of Culina Health. Her work in private practice also includes treatment of GI disorders, bariatric surgery, weight management, PCOS, and family nutrition. She loves helping clients take an active role in their health journey, motivating them and ensuring that they always achieve success. Vanessa was named by one of the top 5 black nutritionists that will change the way you think about food by Essence magazine. Vanessa lives in Hoboken NJ with her husband, two kids and their new goldendoodle Freddie. An exercise enthusiast, she is always up for a class as long as it's after she rides her Peloton.

*This article was written and/or reviewed by an independent registered dietitian nutritionist.

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