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Do You Need a Nutritionist?

6 Frequently Asked Questions, Answered by a Pro

Most people do not have to see a nutritionist. There are certain health conditions – diabetes, lipid disorder, triglyceride disorders – that can require regular check-ins, but more often, seeing a nutritionist coincides with recognizing or wanting diet-based change in your life. This can range from managing your weight, cholesterol or blood pressure to addressing food allergies, intolerance or gastrointestinal problems. And the need or desire to change your diet can affect people of all lifestyles, often changing with age as well.

Registered Dietitian Nutritionist Rajni Sud, CDE, with Northwestern Medicine, answered some frequently asked questions about how a nutritionist can contribute to a healthy life.

1. How can seeing a nutritionist help someone with a generally healthy lifestyle?

People can always improve their health even if they are already healthy. They can find benefits and validation for what they are presently doing and they can have access to up-to-date nutrition information. A nutritionist is also a valuable resource for the most accurate information on fad diets.

2. How can a nutritionist help someone with an unhealthy lifestyle? 

Nutritionists can help people learn about staying healthy and selecting the right foods. They can also assist with meal planning, grocery lists and recipes as well as suggesting stores to shop at locally and food pantries in the area that have healthy options. A consultation often gives a person struggling with their health a place to start and someone to talk to so this change of lifestyle doesn’t feel so intimidating.

3. What does a consultation with a nutritionist look like?

The first visit should be scheduled for 1 to 1½ hours. This allows for an accurate assessment of your overall health, food history, medications and lifestyle. After gathering all of this information your nutritionist is able to assess your needs and make an individualized plan that will best work for you.

4. How often do you need to see a nutritionist?

If you are able to use the education that is given to you by your nutritionist, then you may be seen every three to six months. If you are not able to manage your food intake, you may need to see him or her more often. Once you’ve begun to develop habits and show improvement, you can make less frequent visits depending on your individual needs.

5. What can a nutritionist impact beyond diet?

Seeing a nutritionist and ultimately improving your health can help you have more energy and control any medical conditions that you may have.

6. What is the difference between a nutritionist and a registered dietitian?

Both nutritionists and registered dietitians have to maintain a current license with the state of Illinois. Nutritionists typically see people who are already healthy. A registered dietitian is a nutrition professional who is the most credible and objective source of nutrition information. They are trained in nutrition to prevent disease. Registered Dietitian Nutritionists (RDN) must complete a four year program in Nutrition from an accredited university, 1200 hours of supervised practice or a master’s degree. Upon completion of the program they must pass a national exam. An RDN is usually found in a clinical setting like a hospital. They often assess and help patients with diseases like diabetes, lipid disorders, food allergies and other medical conditions that can be improved with their food intake.

Learn more about Nutritional Services at Northwestern Medicine.