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How to Find a Registered Dietitian Nutritionist and What to Expect Your First Visit

Everyone can benefit from a registered dietitian nutritionist’s services. Yes, that’s right, everyone. Often, the only time people ever speak with a dietitian is in the hospital, rehab, or long term care setting. At this point, there’s not a lot an RD can do to change anyone’s eating habits or relationship with food. We also don’t have a ton of time to sit down and talk in these settings, so the encounter will likely be brief.

If you have any concerns about your health or diet, a registered dietitian is the person to see. It’s great so many of us are doing media work and appearing on television shows or writing blog posts, but the general nutrition advice we talk about is not individualized. And nutrition is all about customization to each individual’s needs.

So, how do you find an RD (RDN is the same thing- FYI)?

  • Ask your doctor for a recommendation. Many doctors work with a dietitian who would likely be knowledgeable about treating your condition.
  • Call your health insurance company to find out about nutrition benefits. They can let you know if you have benefits and who takes your insurance.
  • Ask your friends. Chances are, if your friend likes the person, you might too.
  • Through the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics website
  • Through the Recovery Warriors website (for help with disordered eating)
  • Through the Association for Size Diversity and Health website (for a Health at Every Size approach)
  • Through the Intuitive Eating website (for an Intuitive Eating approach)
  • Through the IBS Free website (for help with IBS)

Now that you’ve booked your first session, what can you expect?

Of course, every dietitian works in his/her own way, but we all want to know the same basic things in the first session. Here are some things you can expect to go over in your first session with any registered dietitian nutritionist:

  • Basic History
    We’re curious what brought you to see us. Many RDs will have you fill out an intake form prior to the first visit which can save some time and might be easier than having to remember details like the names and dosages of all the medications and supplements you take. Of course it can be hard to open up to someone you just met, but providing a medical, lifestyle, and diet history helps us to more accurately help you.
  • Height/Weight
    Very few people enjoy getting weighed. It’s such a simple process, but it holds so many negative connotations or memories for most people. If you’re using any kind of insurance to pay for the visit, it will likely be non-negotiable that you step on a scale during the visit. However, a good RD should help create a non-threatening environment in which to obtain this clinical information and then not say anything about the number except to respond to any of your comments.
    Some dietitians do offer services like body fat measurements, percent body fat, testing your resting metabolic rate, and more, but these services are never mandatory.
  • Bathroom Habits
    RDs have no problem talking about poop, so don’t be shy when talking about your bowel movements. It’s important information for us even if you’ve never considered it as such.
  • Lab Results
    If you’ve had any recent blood work ordered by your doctor, we may take the time to go over the results with you. Some of the lab values we may be interested in include LDL and HDL cholesterol, triglycerides, HgA1c, Blood Glucose, and different vitamin and mineral levels, among others.
  • 24-Hour Recall
    We might ask you what foods you typically eat, but it’s also helpful to ask you to recall what you ate the day prior. It’s definitely hard to remember sometimes, and we understand sometimes you’ll forget or omit certain details. We may ask you to keep a 3-day food record to get a better sense of what you typically eat. This is in no way to judge you. Again, this is only to better allow us to help you.
  • Goals
    Now that we know what some of your concerns are, we’ll work with you to set some specific, measurable, attainable, and reasonable goals with a time-frame in mind. And not to worry, we’ll discuss plans for how to achieve the goals and ways to measure if you’re meeting the goal. Your goals might change over time, and each session we’ll review them.
  • Meal Plan
    Not everyone needs or wants a meal plan, but we can create one for you based on your individualized dietary needs and preferences. It might be rigid as in doing an elimination diet, or more flexible for more normalized/intuitive eating.
  • Any Questions
    This is your time to meet with a nutrition expert and ask him/her any of your burning questions. We’re happy to explain the science of nutrition to you, dispel any nutrition myths, or make recommendations based on your questions. Anything we don’t know the answer to right away, we’ll research and get back to you.

If you don’t click with the RD you see or you feel uncomfortable with something they say or do, try someone else. This is an important relationship in your life, and you don’t need to settle with someone you’re unhappy with or whose approach is not right for you.

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