When I tell people that I’m a Registered Dietitian, the first response I get is “how can I lose weight?” or “you must eat really healthy!”. Overtime I realized that many people are not sure what a registered dietitian is or how they can help, beyond weight loss (which I personally don’t do)! This post is for all that would like to know a little more about this profession, when you should see one, and what to expect when working with a Registered Dietitian.
What is a Registered Dietitian?
A Registered Dietitian is a licensed health professional with expertise in food and nutrition. The key word is ‘licensed’ which means that we belong to a regulatory board, the Commission on Dietetics and Registration, and must abide by ethical standards and criteria to continue registration. (In Canada, the regulatory board is provincial, such as the College of Dietitians of Ontario).
A Registered Dietitian is part of the health care team, which usually consists of doctors, nurses, and other health care professionals such as pharmacists, speech pathologists and physiotherapists. This interdisciplinary teamwork is essential for patient care, especially in a hospital or clinic setting.
Where do Registered Dietitians work and what do they do?
As mentioned earlier, dietitians commonly work in a clinical setting, such as in a hospital or clinic. However, the dietetics profession is very diverse and you can find dietitians in a wide variety of settings. These include private practice, media, food companies, PR companies, public health, governments, foodservice, schools, or research universities.
- In a hospital setting, dietitians may have the following roles: ensure patients are on the right diets, provide education on therapeutic diets, assist with parenteral and enteral nutrition, or screen for malnutrition, to name a few.
- In private practice, dietitians may counsel clients in an outpatient setting on disease prevention or management. They may also work with media writing nutrition communications. Some dietitians work with food companies as brand ambassadors or recipe developers. Others may work with restaurants or companies creating menus or food labels. The options are endless!
- In public health and governments, dietitians may be involved with policy making, school nutrition guidelines, or public health nutrition programs.
These are just a few examples of what dietitians may do. Some dietitians may specialize in one area to ensure they are providing the best care to their clients.
How do you become a registered dietitian?
To become a registered dietitian, you must complete the following:
- A bachelor’s degree in food and nutrition approved by Accreditation Council for Education in Nutrition and Dietetics (ACEND)
- A dietetic internship (approximately 6 months to 1 year of supervised practice work in a healthcare facility)
- A national exam by the commission on dietetic registration
- Continuing education to maintain licensure
How is a Registered Dietitian different from a ‘nutritionist’?
The words Registered Dietitian or Registered Dietitian Nutritionists are protected legal terms. Only people that have completed the requirements above may hold this title. The word ‘nutritionist’ is not protected under the law. This means that anyone can technically call themselves a ‘nutritionist’.
Should you see a dietitian?
Now that we have a background on the work of Registered Dietitians, should you see one? Here are some examples of what a dietitian can help you with in an outpatient setting:
- If you are at risk for developing a chronic disease such as diabetes, heart disease, or cancer then a dietitian can guide you on improving certain aspects of your diet that will help decrease your risk of developing these conditions
- If you have diseases such as IBS, crohn’s disease, heart disease, diabetes, or anemia, to name a few, then a dietitian will provide ‘medical nutrition therapy’ to help you manage your conditions. Food is very powerful and when you adjust your diet you will see great improvements in your health
- If you are starting to adopt a more plant-based eating style or would like to become a vegetarian or vegan, then a dietitian can guide you on what to include to avoid nutrient deficiencies
- If you are a pregnant woman or just gave birth to a baby, then a dietitian can guide you on eating well for yourself and body. A dietitian can also provide nutrition guidance and support for all the stages of life, from infancy to toddlers’ picky eating to teenager years
- If you would like to ‘lose weight’ then a dietitian may guide you on principles of healthy eating and intuitive eating to help you reach your natural weight
- A dietitian may help with eating disorders and disordered eating patterns
- If you’re training for a marathon or would like to improve your nutrition pre- and post workouts, then a dietitian is trained to help you optimize your performance
What if you don’t have any ‘conditions’?
A dietitian may still be beneficial! We all know how life is busy and how hard it is to stay on top of healthy eating. A dietitian can help you with meal planning, organizing your grocery shopping and pantry, provide you with quick and healthy recipe ideas, and ensure that you are eating your best for overall wellness and optimal energy levels. Making a lifestyle change can be difficult. Working with a dietitian will provide you the support, motivation and accountability to follow through with your health goals.
Working with a dietitian will provide you the support, motivation and accountability to follow through with your health goals.
What does Rahaf from Olive Tree Nutrition currently focus on?
I specialize in diabetes prevention and management. I work with clients who have Type 1 diabetes, type 2 diabetes, pre-diabetes, gestational diabetes, or at risk for developing diabetes. I love working with my clients to help them control their blood sugars while finding joy in eating. I have a special certification in diabetes called Certified Diabetes Educator, which I obtained by working with clients with diabetes for years.
I also enjoy working with women who would like to ditch the diets and learn about intuitive eating to help them enjoy foods, accept their body and reach their happy and healthy weight.
As a wife and business owner I know what it’s like to be busy! I love working with clients providing healthy eating tips, meal planning and prep ideas, healthy recipes, and grocery store tactics. There’s always room for improvement!
What can you expect at your appointments when working with a dietitian?
Ok so you’ve made your decision that you should see a dietitian. What can you expect?
First, there in an initial assessment. In this 60-90 minute initial meeting, we will review your past medical history, eating habits, lifestyle, lab data and blood sugars, challenges and personal health goals. Based on the assessment we create a step by step strategy to help meet YOUR nutrition goals.
In the follow up session, we discuss any challenges or questions you have, and provide education and support to sustain the lifestyle changes. These are important for accountability, motivation and for creating lasting behavior changes.
Quick fixes and diets don’t work. Your journey to wellness may take some time and will be more successful when you work with a registered dietitian. At Olive Tree Nutrition counseling sessions can be in person or online. They may be reimbursable by insurance.
Interested in working with a dietitian? Not sure if we’re the right fit? I offer a FREE 15 minute discovery call to discuss your goals and answer all your questions! You may also read about my coaching philosophy here. You may also find a dietitian by visiting www.eatright.org
I look forwards to hearing from you. Again, here is the link to book your free discovery call. I would love to say hello!