When looking for the best nutrition advice, it’s easy to become overwhelmed with all the information available. From supplements to eliminate your health concerns to diet plans designed to meet all your needs, figuring out the best option for you and your health can be a challenge.
The good news is that there are specialists in the field of nutrition. We have some tips to find a registered dietitian nutritionist (RDN) and what you can expect for your first session.
What is a Registered Dietitian Nutritionist (RDN)?
A RDN is considered the expert in food and nutrition. To have this qualification, individuals must meet the education, practice, and exam requirements set by the Accreditation Council for Education in Nutrition and Dietetics and the Commission on Dietetic Registration.
Once an individual becomes an RDN, there are a wide range of areas in which they can work. Hospitals and nursing homes, private practice, community or public health, sports nutrition, research, communications, and college settings are just a few of these areas.
How is a RDN different from a Nutritionist?
The terminology RDN and nutritionist may not seem all that different but in reality, the requirements for each are quite different. You may have come across the following phrase in trying to better understand this difference.
“All registered dietitians are nutritionists, but not all nutritionists are registered dietitians.”
To get the RDN credential, an individual must complete a bachelor’s degree in nutrition with a standardized curriculum and supervised practice through an accredited dietetic internship, coordinated program or graduate school. Once each of these steps is completed, individuals must pass a national credentialing exam before they can use the title of RDN.
Requirements to be a nutritionist are not as specific in terms of education or supervised practice. An individual who has a bachelor’s degree in nutrition may call themself a nutritionist as well as someone who has completed a more basic nutrition certificate program online. Without these standards, nutritionists are not credentialed, which can legally limit the extent of nutrition care that can be provided.
What can I expect from meeting with an RDN?
The first meeting with an RDN may be a bit intimidating, especially if healthy eating is an area in which you’ve struggled. Expect the initial meeting, usually 60 minutes in length, to be an opportunity for the RDN to get to know you and your lifestyle a little bit better.
This may include a discussion or questionnaire on different foods or eating habits, understanding what you hope to accomplish with the RDN, and certain measurements including height, weight and body mass index (BMI). With the growth of technology, many RDNs can offer in-person or virtual visits.
Counseling and goal setting with the RDN will be specific to your needs. If you have heart disease, perhaps you would like to learn more about a low sodium diet. Maybe you have diabetes, and you would like to better understand foods that have carbohydrates and how to implement meal planning into your busy schedule. There are a variety of reasons to meet with an RDN, and this expert support is so valuable because of the numerous ways in which nutrition can support your overall well-being.
Depending on your needs, expect at least one to two shorter follow-up visits with the RDN. These sessions, often 30 minutes or less, are helpful to keep you on track with your nutrition goals and allow you to ask questions as you put into place this new lifestyle.
Fear of spending too much is a reasonable concern when looking to meet with an RDN. If you have health insurance, certain conditions such as diabetes and heart or kidney disease may be mostly covered or require a small copay. Scheduled follow-up visits may also require this copay amount.
For those without insurance, prices of meeting with an RDN vary and often range from $100 to $200 out of pocket for a 60-minute assessment. Follow-up visits, especially if a shorter appointment, typically cost between $50 to $100. If the RDN you are working with offers a package option, overall expenses may be lower.
Outside of individual consultations, community events may offer the chance to speak with an RDN and may be included in the price of admission. Grocery store tours led by an RDN may be free or a low-cost depending on where you live. Personal chefs who are RDNs may also be an option for you but expect an increase in cost for their time, in addition to grocery reimbursement.
The costs of eating healthy and the price of food can also add up if you aren’t sure where to begin, but it doesn’t have to be this way. Working with the right RDN can help you find meals that fit within your budget and allow you to reap the benefits from healthier food choices.
Long-Term Benefits of a Healthy Lifestyle
If healthy eating doesn’t come naturally to you and you are at an increased risk for disease, meeting with an RDN can provide SIGNIFICANT long-term benefits. Health care costs continue to rise, and this includes the amount of money individuals spend on medications. Studies have shown the impact diet can have on disease and taking care of yourself now, especially with the food you eat, can put you on track for a healthier future.
Stacey Phillips, MS, RD is a clinical dietitian working with general medicine, oncology, CKD, renal transplant recipients and living kidney donor patients. Outside of her work, Stacey is passionate about improving the resources available to individuals with chronic kidney disease and actively participates on several renal dietitian committees.
If you have more questions about your diet, it’s always a great idea to speak with a registered dietitian. Registered dietitians are the only credentialed experts qualified to address your unique health questions. Click here to request a direct consultation with a dietitian today!
Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics. Registered Dietitian (RD) or Registered Dietitian Nutritionist (RDN) Certification. Available at https://www.cdrnet.org/certifications/registered-dietitian-rd-certification. Accessed January 9, 2023.
Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics. RD Examination- Eligibility Requirements. Available at https://www.cdrnet.org/rd-eligibility. Accessed January 22, 2023.
Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics. About RDNs and NDTRs. Available at https://www.eatright.org/about-rdns-and-ndtrs. Accessed January 22, 2023.