Be keto. Keto’s over. Ditch carbs. Eat more carbs. If you’ve ever searched for nutrition advice on the internet, you know how overwhelming the sea of contradictory info out there can be. It’s enough to make you throw your hands up and dive straight into a box of donuts.
When you’re in need of a nutritional compass, working with a dietitian can be a game-changer—especially if you’re dealing with these 7 situations.
First, What To Know About Dietitians
Though registered dietitians (also referred to as RDs or RDNs) are sometimes colloquially referred to as nutritionists, they have credentials and schooling that many who call themselves “nutritionists” lack.
In order to launch their careers, they go through extensive training and board certification. “Registered dietitians are required to complete at least a bachelor’s degree, including required nutrition and science courses,” says Staci Gulbin, M.S., R.D.N. (In 2024, this requirement will change to a graduate degree.) From there, dietitians have to complete six months or more of an accredited dietetic internship program. “Then, upon completion of the internship, RDs-to-be must pass a board exam. Then, every five years, they must earn 75 education credits to keep up with the latest research.”
This rigorous education and knowledge maintenance are what make dietitians stand out from the crowd of health gurus out there. “Through years of training in nutritional science, dietitians are able to sift through what is based on sound evidence and what is based on hearsay to provide you individualized nutrition recommendations,” says Elise Harlow, M.S., R.D.N.
A dietitian can help you determine the diet that works best for you, manage various health conditions, lose weight, improve sleep issues, and more. They work at hospitals, in private practices, at doctors’ offices, in research institutions, and in other settings. They may also specialize in a variety of fields ranging from pediatrics and sports dietetics to cardiovascular health and weight loss.
And, thanks to the internet, dietitians are now more accessible than ever.
When To See A Dietitian
So how can you tell if it’s time to see a dietitian? No one better to ask than dietitians themselves.
If you’re experiencing any of the following situations, you could benefit from working with an RD.
1. Your doctor recommends changing your diet to manage a Chronic health condition
Save yourself from the late-night Google spirals. “If your healthcare provider places you on a therapeutic diet like low-sodium for high blood pressure or carbohydrate-controlled for diabetes, it’s a good idea to see a dietitian,” says Gulbin. “These diets can be intimidating and may be perceived as boring and bland. However, a dietitian can help you find ways to eat delicious food within their confines, so you can comply long-term for optimal health benefits.” At the end of a day, a diet that includes recipes that taste good is the diet that you’ll stick to, so why not ensure your meals are as tasty as they are good for you?
2. You’ve been diagnosed with celiac disease
“It’s important to meet with a dietitian if you’ve been diagnosed with celiac. Going gluten-free for celiac changes a lot about how you interact with the world and doctors don’t always understand that,” says Tayler Silfverduk, R.D., a dietitian who specializes in celiac disease. “A lot of my clients come to me telling me their doctor handed them a piece of paper and told them to just go gluten-free…as if it were that simple.”
Since people with celiac as well as gluten sensitivities all differ, working with a dietitian will help you tailor your diet to your individual needs.
3. You suspect you have a food allergy or sensitivity
Feel dreadful after dairy? Lethargic after legumes? Seeing a dietitian can help you get to the bottom of whatever’s causing symptoms after eating and adjust your diet accordingly. “If you’re concerned you have a food intolerance or sensitivity, it’s helpful to work with a dietitian to make sure you’re appropriately ruling out triggers. Determining food sensitivities is a delicate process that often requires elimination and reintroduction of foods,” says Silfverduk. “I see a lot of people get stuck with it because they didn’t seek the guidance of a dietitian.”
4. You want to put yo-yo dieting to rest
If you’ve tried diet after diet to try to lose weight, you’re not alone—and a dietitian can guide you in the right direction and help you finally achieve weight loss success.
“Another reason to see a registered dietitian would be to help you develop a healthy lifestyle and get off the dieting rollercoaster,” suggests Gulbin. “Fad diets and prepackaged diet programs make it hard for people to know how to prepare healthy food on their own and often deprive people of the calories and nutrients they need to maintain a healthy body.”
Dietitians help clients determine their nutrient needs and offer tips on how to prepare balanced (and tasty) meals to meet them.
5. You want to know what supplements you need
“Every person in every stage of life can have different nutrient needs, simply because we all have our own medical history and situations,” says Jen Hernandez, R.D.N., C.S.R., L.D.N. “Having a dietitian review your supplements can be extremely helpful and may even save you money. We do a micronutrient review to determine what gaps are actually there, and can then customize the right supplement plan based on what your body is showing us.”
6. You’re having digestive issues
Constipation. Diarrhea. Stomach cramps. The list of not-so-fun digestion problems goes on. Dietitians devote their careers to helping people address these uncomfortable issues, and they’re at-the-ready with science-based knowledge and recommendations.
“If you’ve been diagnosed with a condition like inflammatory bowel disease or irritable bowel syndrome, you may not be exactly sure what foods trigger your symptoms,” notes Gulbin. ”By having you keep track of your eating and symptoms in a diary, your dietitian can help you determine trigger foods and better manage symptoms.”
7. You’re starting a vegetarian, plant-based, or vegan diet
Though there’s much evidence that any of these diets are a boon for your health, cutting back on animal products (or eliminating them completely) may present certain nutritional deficiencies—all of which can be remedied with the assistance of a dietitian.
“If you decide to cut meat out of your diet, I’d strongly recommend seeing a dietitian. It’s important to figure out alternative sources of protein, vitamin B12, vitamin D, and iron,” advises Sabrina Russo, R.D., nutrition advisor for Angry BBQ. She suggests sharing blood work with your dietitian before your consultation so they can make the best recommendations for you based on your lab results. “If you’re unable to meet all micronutrient needs on a vegetarian diet, supplementation may be an option.” An RD can help you figure what supplements (and how much of them) you might need.