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Nutritionists and Dieticians

The terms nutritionist and dietitian are often used interchangeably, but that’s not always correct. When Beaumont doctors recommend a nutritionist or a dietitian, they are referring to someone who is a registered dietitian (RD). To become an RD, a person must complete a bachelor’s degree in nutrition. Some also complete internships. They must also pass national exams before becoming a practicing RD, and throughout their career, they must take continuing education classes to be recertified. In short, RDs (also called RDNs) are experts in food and nutrition, and they are trained to provide accurate, credible information about nutrition and to counsel clients about how to use food to obtain good health.

If you’re confused about whether someone is a credentialed dietitian, ask them about their education. If they do not have at least a bachelor’s degree in nutrition and a certificate of licensure, they are not a dietitian. They may, however, call themselves a nutritionist. This is because many states don’t regulate who can and can’t call themselves nutritionists. So anyone who is so inclined can hang a shingle and open a nutrition practice. 

Basically, an RD is always considered a nutritionist, but not all nutritionists are RDs. If you want to get nutrition counseling, make sure you work with a registered dietitian.

Nutritionists and dietitians

Although not all people who call themselves nutritionists are dietitians, for the purposes of this page, we’re going to use the terms interchangeably. Any mention of nutritionist from here on out refers to a registered dietitian/nutritionist. 

Dietitians and nutritionists play an important role in helping people attain their weight loss goals and improve their overall health. While exercise is important for health and optimal weight loss, a healthy diet is vital. A dietitian will teach you about foods you should include in and exclude from your diet, portion control, how often to eat, and how to shop and cook to meet your goals. They can also provide you with recipes and ideas for healthy, nutritional snacks and meals. 

Dietitians at Beaumont work with you to develop healthy eating plans that fulfill individual nutritional needs. Dietitians can also address eating problems and provide food alternatives if you have food allergies or sensitivities. 

People who wish to eat a vegetarian, pescatarian, or vegan diet often meet with dietitians to ensure they are getting enough protein and nutrients in their diet. To have a balanced, healthy vegan diet takes knowledge and work, so if you are considering adopting a vegan diet, ask your doctor for a referral to a dietitian who can help you make the change.

What to expect at an appointment with a dietitian

First appointments with dietitians often begin with a nutritional assessment. Your RD will weigh you and talk about your current diet, how much you eat and drink, and whether you have any specific concerns or problem areas. 

Your appointment will likely include an individualized nutrition consultation during which the RD will give advice about how to make healthy changes that you can sustain. They’ll ask about your goals. For example, they may ask if you want to lose weight, and if so, how much weight you want to lose. Then they will help you develop a personal nutrition plan that can get you there.

During the appointments, it’s important to be honest – both with yourself and your dietitian – about how much food you eat, how much you drink (including alcohol), and what types of food you eat most. There’s nothing to be embarrassed about. The dietitian is there to help you, not judge you. Remember, you’re there to improve yourself and make positive changes, and that is a good thing. Being dishonest about your diet or alcohol intake will just hamper your progress. On the other hand, the more your RD knows about your current habits, the better he or she will be able to help you improve.

A step-by-step process

Dietitians know that most people can’t sustain a complete diet overhaul all at once. If you’re currently eating mostly processed foods and drinking lots of soda or alcohol, expecting to suddenly change to eating only fresh vegetables and fruits, lean proteins, and whole grains while also cutting soda and alcohol isn’t realistic (at least not for most people). Your RD will work with you to set goals that you feel comfortable achieving. He or she may talk to you about food substitutions. For example, he or she may ask whether you think you can limit soda to one per day and limit alcohol to one drink per day rather than cutting both out completely. Then you can talk about reasonable substitutes for soda, like naturally flavored water, tea, or coffee. 

Portion control

Your RD will also likely stress portion control. Most Americans eat large portions of food at every meal, and this can lead to eating too many calories. The two of you can talk about what a portion is. Your RD might even have sample portions in the office so you can see what a portion of different foods looks like. One of the easiest ways to cut calories is to focus on eating smaller portions. If measuring your food isn’t feasible for you, use your fist as a guide. For example, a single portion of cooked pasta should be about the size of your fist. 

The good news about portions is that when it comes to some of the healthiest foods, you don’t have to worry much about portion control. Most people can eat as much fresh spinach or kale, for example, as they want to without eating too many calories. While some vegetables are high in carbohydrates (like corn and potatoes), most of them are low in calories and high in nutrients. These are the types of foods you should aim to fill your plate with. Your dietitian will talk with you about the types of vegetables and fruits you like and counsel you on how to add more of these nutrient-packed foods into your diet.

Nutrition counseling at Beaumont

RDs and Beaumont are here to help you attain all your health goals. They may work as part of your overall healthcare team, consulting with your doctor to ensure your diet is beneficial to your health. 

If you have been struggling to lose weight without success, an RD may help you in your journey. Another option for you may be meeting with a doctor who can guide you through medical weight loss. Beaumont’s medical weight loss program has helped many people improve their health through weight loss. Contact us at 800-633-7377 to request an appointment.