What’s the benefit of meeting with a registered dietitian?
Meghann Moore, RD, CDE, MPH responds
A registered dietitian (look for the RD after a provider’s name) or registered dietitian nutritionist (RDN) translates the science of nutrition into practical solutions for living a healthy life with diabetes. These experts are uniquely qualified to provide medical nutrition therapy—nutrition education and counseling based on the latest research and guidelines—for specific health conditions.
What To Know
To earn the RD or RDN designation, an individual must meet specific requirements, such as earning a Bachelor or Master of Science degree; completing an accredited, supervised practice program; passing a national examination; and continuing professional education. Nutritionists without an RD or RDN degree may have similar academic training but not have completed a supervised practice program—or they may have no formal training at all.
There is no one-size-fits-all eating plan for people with diabetes. And for many people, figuring out what to eat is one of the most challenging aspects of the condition. Meeting with a dietitian can help identify a personalized eating plan that supports healthful eating patterns and emphasizes a variety of foods in appropriate portion sizes. This can improve overall health: blood glucose, blood pressure, cholesterol, body weight, and more. Medical nutrition therapy delivered by a dietitian is also associated with A1C decreases of up to 2 percent for people with diabetes.
Many dietitians are also certified diabetes educators (CDE). Depending on what their workplace allows, dietitians with CDE credentials also may provide counseling and education in blood glucose monitoring, blood glucose pattern management, insulin or injectable medication instruction, and insulin pump and continuous glucose monitoring training.
Find Out More
The American Diabetes Association recommends that everyone with diabetes meet with a registered dietitian at diagnosis and for ongoing follow-up. Medicare and many insurers cover three hours of nutrition therapy visits with a dietitian the first year of diagnosis and two hours every year thereafter.
You will need a referral from a medical doctor to meet with a registered dietitian or registered dietitian nutritionist. To see who provides medical nutrition therapy near you, search diabetes education programs, of which dietitians are a part, by ZIP code online at diabetes.org/erp_list_zip. The academy of Nutrition and Dietetics lists dietitians at eatright.org.
A dietitian is recognized as an integral part of a diabetes health care team. As your diabetes changes over time, so do your nutrition and education needs. A dietitian is perfectly suited to help you address these changes.
Meghann Moore, RD, CDE, MPH, is a registered dietitian and diabetes education program coordinator at Western Washington Medical Group in Marysville and Snohomish, Washington.