How to Find a Nutrition Counselor

We’re rounding the corner on National Nutrition Month and I have another resource to add to the mix of my weekly “shares.”

I’m a big believer in getting the support you need when the need arises. Why go it alone if you can lean on a spouse, a friend, a parent, a neighbor, a doctor, a tutor, a counselor, an acupuncturist, a physical therapist, a yoga teacher, a chiropractor, a teacher, a clergy person, a wise woman. Am I missing anything?

Sometimes the need is on the food front: you bump up against a dietary challenge that is beyond you or the stack of diet/parenting/nutrition books on the bedside table. Luckily, there are plenty of excellent nutrition experts out there who can offer guidance, but how to find a good one?

Just like the scrutiny you use when choosing your internist, you should use that same scrutiny when choosing a nutrition counselor. The fact is that anyone can print up a cheap set of business cards at their local Kinkos which deem them a nutritionist. Even Mr Mom’s Kitchen, who thinks 12 ounces is a reasonable portion for a rib eye or my 11 year old who was chewing a giant gum ball before even eating breakfast this morning.

Seeking counsel from a registered dietitian (RD) is a guarantee that you are connecting with someone who has some real education behind her. To put the RD next to your name requires that you 1) have completed, at a minimum, a bachelor’s degree at a US accredited university along with course work approved by the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics 2) participated in a (usually) year-long internship spent largely in a clinical rotation at a hospital 3) passed a national exam certified by the American Dietetic Association. In addition, in order to maintain your RD, you must meet a minimum number of educational credits every five years.

That’s not to say that there aren’t some very capable nutrition experts who aren’t registered dietitians; there are. But an RD does offer assurance of real substance behind the nameplate. So, how to find one?

The American Dietetic Association makes it pretty easy through their RD Finder,whereby you plug in your zip code and up pops all the registered dietitians in the vicinity. Start by talking with a couple of them over the phone or having an initial consult to be sure you feel a connection and to find out if they have experience in your area of concern.

Dietitians usually charge by the hour and prices vary considerably. Insurance sometimes covers the cost of a registered dietitian depending on the type of coverage you have and the issue for which you are seeking counsel. So, if you are out of your league in figuring out how to deal with a toddler who won’t eat anything green, a grader schooler who you just learned is lactose interolerant, or a teenager who is suddenly skipping meals, consider reaching out for a little hands on support.


03.22.2012 at10:40 AM #

Jill Castle

Thanks, Katie, for writing this post. I would just add that if in need of a nutrition expert for your child, particularly if it is beyond the usual stuff like meal planning, normal picky eating or what to feed next, seek out an RD who has expertise in pediatrics. It requires EVEN MORE specialized training and experience…

03.22.2012 at10:40 AM #

Katie Morford

Good point, Jill. Thanks for chiming in. When you go to the RD Finder, it lists the areas of expertise for each dietitian. Referral from your pediatrician is another route for finding a registered dietitian with a pediatric specialty.

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