Your doctor says that you need to lose weight, but you don't know how to get started. Or, you're finding it difficult to stick with a low-salt diet, even though you know it may help control your high blood pressure.
If you need to change your eating habits for the sake of your health, have you considered talking with a registered dietitian (RD)? These health care professionals can help you achieve your desired weight goal or maintain any dietary restrictions your health care provider recommends.
There are many reasons to seek help from a dietitian. If you have high cholesterol, diabetes, high blood pressure, or are overweight, seeing an RD regularly may be an investment in good health. For example, recent research shows that receiving education, support, and referrals from an RD helped people with type 2 diabetes lose more weight, take fewer medications, and feel better than those who didn't seek help.
What to expect
At your first appointment, you will provide your medical, dietary, and exercise history. The RD will analyze your current diet and lifestyle and talk with you about your goals. Then he or she will help you develop some strategies for meeting those goals. To get started, you'll receive printed health information, perhaps a food and exercise log and a meal plan that's created just for you.
Your RD may see you alone or as part of a group. If you're visiting a dietitian as part of your treatment plan for a specific condition, you'll probably have one-to-one sessions. The number of visits varies, depending on your need for education and support.
Initially, you may need to see the RD every week. As you progress, the visits usually taper. During each visit, you'll discuss your progress and how to overcome potential obstacles that you may be dealing with.
What are their qualifications?
These professionals must complete a minimum of a bachelor's degree at a U.S. regionally accredited university or college and course work accredited or approved by the Commission on Accreditation for Dietetics Education (CADE) of the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics. They must also complete a CADE-accredited supervised practice program, which is typically six to 12 months in length. Then they must pass a national exam to become registered. To keep their credentials, RDs must complete continuing professional education.
Remember to check with your health plan before you make an appointment to find out if visits are covered.