Despite having the word diet in the title, registered dietitians do so much more than hand out “diets”. In fact, the majority of us are against dieting as a long term solution to weight management. If you are wondering if a registered dietitian can answer your questions and provide the information you need, perhaps the info below can help.
Are registered dietitians the same as nutritionists?
No. In Canada each province has different rules as to who can use the title registered dietitian and nutritionist. It is best to verify that the professional you are working with is an RD (registered dietitian) or P.Dt. (professional dietitian) to ensure that they hold a licence to practice in the nutrition field. Without a licence from a regulatory body, the person is not held accountable for their advice and may not have gotten it from science or evidence based sources.
If registered dietitians don’t hand out diets, then what do they do?
If you are seeing an RD for a one on one consultation, they can help you achieve your goal (ex. reduce blood sugar levels, reduce cholesterol levels, manage weight, lower blood pressure, eat appropriately for your lifestyle) by listening to your questions and struggles and looking over what you eat. They may make suggestions on how fine-tune your meals/snacks to help you achieve your goal but more likely you already know what you want to change! In those cases, a dietitian will help to provide support for making those changes a reality. Giving out information regarding food and nutrition has become less important since many clients can get information just about anywhere. How to put tips and advice to work by helping you set short objectives to reach your goal is become more and more important. Dietitians are really moving away from the role of “expert” and telling people what to do to reach their goals, and they are moving into a more facilitator’s job. They can help sort between the food myths you have heard and help you decide what objectives to set and ensure they are realistic.
In what areas of health and disease do registered dietitians work?
Dietitians are knowledgeable in many different areas of health and disease. Some are more specialized than others and it is important you discuss your dietitian’s specialties before starting counselling. A few general areas of knowledge are:
–Diabetes (type 1 and 2): blood sugar control, help with food choices meal planning to avoid uncontrolled blood sugars and complications
–Heart disease: lowering cholesterol levels and blood pressure, reducing risk for heart attack and stroke, nutrients/foods to include in your life to reduce your risk for further heart problems.
–Irritable bowel syndrome, Crohn’s disease, colitis, reflux: foods choices that can increase and decrease symptoms, lifestyle habits that can increase symptoms, food ideas when many foods are eliminated due to intolerance.
–Weight management: using healthy approaches that do not include starving yourself, eliminating foods or contribute to body shaming.
–Eating disorders: such as binge eating, anorexia and bulimia.
–Sports nutrition: what to eat to maximize energy levels and refuel after games or workouts
–Nutrition specific to seniors: living alone, living with chronic disease, cooking for 1, dealing with loss of appetite or to correct malnutrition are some of the issues you can discuss with a dietitian holding this speciality