December 20, 2020/Nutrition

8 Reasons to See a Dietitian

Forget fads and get advice from a real nutrition expert

Someone prepares to step onto a small scale.

From low-carb to low-cal, juice cleanses to carnivore diets, you can’t avoid the latest food fads. And everyone from your mother-in-law to your dental hygienist seems to have diet advice to share. Although they (probably) mean well, you might want to take their tips with a grain — or heaping tablespoon — of salt.

Advertisement

Cleveland Clinic is a non-profit academic medical center. Advertising on our site helps support our mission. We do not endorse non-Cleveland Clinic products or services. Policy

“There’s so much misinformation and so many mixed messages out there,” says registered dietitian Tegan Bissell, RD, LDN, CDCES. “As experts in food and nutrition, dietitians can help you sift through it all and point you to the science.”

What is a dietitian?

To earn the title, registered dietitians (RDs for short) have finished, at minimum, a four-year college degree. They’ve also done a hands-on internship and passed a national exam to earn their license.

All that experience means they can help with all sorts of food-related challenges, including:

1. Weight loss

If you want to lose weight — and actually keep it off — fad diets aren’t the answer. Dietitians can help you create healthy lifelong habits that don’t leave you feeling deprived.

2. Weight gain

Some people have lost too much weight or have trouble taking in enough nutrition to maintain a healthy body mass. Dietitians are as well-versed in weight gain as they are in weight loss, Bissell says. For people with an active eating disorder, however, she recommends seeking specialized help. “Dietitians are part of that treatment team, but people with an eating disorder benefit from targeted treatment like you’d find at an eating disorder clinic,” she says.

3. Chronic diseases

Illnesses such as diabetes and heart disease are closely linked to what you eat. Making healthy dietary changes can help keep those diseases in check — or even stop them in their tracks. Adopting healthier diet and exercise habits can keep prediabetes from developing into diabetes, for example.

You can’t always cure diseases with diet. But food can go a long way toward reducing symptoms. “We can help you learn how to eat for the disease you have so you stay healthy,” Bissell says.

Advertisement

Good nutrition is also essential for people with cancer. But cancer treatments often destroy your appetite or make it painful to eat and swallow. “Most cancer centers have dietitians on staff to help with these kinds of issues,” she adds.

4. Allergies and food sensitivities

Managing conditions like celiac disease or food allergies means there are some foods you just can’t eat. “That can be really overwhelming. We can help you figure out how to eliminate those foods and create a balanced diet you’ll enjoy,” Bissell says.

And sometimes, you’re not sure what foods you need to eliminate. “If you have a digestive disorder, for example, we can help you identify food triggers and get your digestion back on track.”

5. Athletic performance

Serious athletes know that food is fuel. “We can make sure your diet is optimized for athletic performance,” Bissell says.

6. Vegetarians

Thinking of giving up meat or moving to an all-vegan diet? Vegetarians and vegans must be mindful of getting a well-rounded diet in the absence of animal products, Bissell says. It’s a good reason to call in the pros.

7. Picky kids

Just when you think you’ve got nutrition figured out, you have a kid. And said kid decides they will subsist on nothing but bread and crackers. “Dietitians can help balance kids’ preferences with the other eaters in the house — and also share strategies to help children be more open to trying new foods,” she adds.

8. Healthy eating overall

You might feel like you know nutrition basics and should be able to figure out healthy eating on your own. Sure, you can do it by yourself. But if you’re stuck, it never hurts to take a helping hand.

Advertisement

“You’re human. Sometimes you get burned out or slip back into old, unhealthy habits,” Bissell says. “Dietitians can help you sift through the misinformation, give you some fresh ideas and help provide accountability.”

What to expect from a registered dietitian

Some people need a lot of basic nutrition education. Others already know the basics but want specific meal planning advice. Some might want regular check-ins to help with accountability. For others, a one-time visit is enough to launch them toward healthy eating habits.

Whatever your goals are, dietitians take a personalized approach, Bissell says. “We give you the advice that’s right for you.”

Still unsure? “We’re not scary, and we’re not the food police,” she adds. “A lot of people are afraid we’ll take away all your favorite foods, but that’s not true. We help you find the right balance in your life so you can feel good and stay healthy without feeling deprived.”

Learn more about our editorial process.

Related Articles

Person on scale, questioning muscle weight vs. fat weight
April 12, 2024/Exercise & Fitness
The Difference Between Muscle Weight vs. Fat Weight

Both are needed for a healthy body

Variety of foods that contain the antioxidant lutein
April 4, 2024/Nutrition
What Is Lutein? Learn About Its Health Benefits

This powerful carotenoid can help with your eye and skin health, LDL reduction and cognitive function

Turkey wrap cut in half on butcher board, with lettuce, tomato, cheese, onion
April 3, 2024/Nutrition
Is Your Sandwich Healthy? What About Your Wrap?

Wrapped or sandwiched, try to choose fillings and condiments that are minimally processed, low in saturated fat and high in fiber

Person monitoring nutritional intake on smartphone app while eating a salad
April 1, 2024/Weight Loss
How Many Calories Should You Eat in a Day?

It depends on factors like your age, activity level and if you want to maintain, lose or gain weight

Female struggling to push a large rock up a hill
March 21, 2024/Weight Loss
Why It Really Is Harder for Women To Lose Weight (and What To Do About It)

Genetics, metabolism and hormonal fluctuations can all make weight loss more difficult

Colorful fruit, vegetables and nuts combined in bowl and scattered on table
March 15, 2024/Nutrition
Phytonutrients: What They Are and Where To Find Them

These typically colorful plant-based substances provide various health benefits that help protect you from disease

Small cup of yogurt with fresh blueberries on top, with mint sprig
March 1, 2024/Weight Loss
Easy, Low-Calorie Snacks To Get You Through the Day

Snacking can bring benefits with healthy food choices and planning

A wooden spoonful of salt on a granite tabletop with salt scattered around
February 28, 2024/Nutrition
Why Too Much Salt Can Be Bad for You

Excess salt and sodium consumption is a worldwide health concern

Trending Topics

Person in yellow tshirt and blue jeans relaxing on green couch in living room reading texts on their phone.
Here’s How Many Calories You Naturally Burn in a Day

Your metabolism may torch 1,300 to 2,000 calories daily with no activity

woman snacking on raisins and nuts
52 Foods High In Iron

Pump up your iron intake with foods like tuna, tofu and turkey

Ad