Let me first start off by saying I love being a registered dietitians nutritionist and I can see how confusing it can be to figure out what the heck do we do! I did not know what a dietitian was until college and I declared it as my major, so it can be ambiguous to what dietitians do. Simply put dietitians are healthcare leaders in the community, clinical, and foodservice industries focusing on food and nutrition to improve the health of others. I hope busting these 5 myths about dietitians gives you a clearer idea on what dietitians do and can do for you.
1. Dietitians don’t eat...
This is quite the opposite. How can I tell someone what to eat if I don’t eat myself!? I was at a corporate wellness site one day and a person (who was not even a client), walks past my room, offered to tell me where the cafeteria was and paused and said "oh right you’re a dietitian you don’t eat"… mam’m please take a seat. I can only speak for myself and the RD colleagues who I interact with and believe me we LOVE to eat. It is literally our field of practice. I think about food more than 50% of my day, every day. I think about my next meal while I am still eating my present meal. Dietitians know how to pair the right foods to have a synergistic effect for our health. We know what foods to eliminate or add in to your diet to alleviate or ameloriate your health concerns. We know how what you eat interacts with certain medications, and the list goes on. Repeat with me, "dietitians eat and love food".
2. Dietitians only eat healthy food
First off “healthy” has different meanings to different people. But I can tell you dietitians eat more than just fruits and vegetables. A healthy diet is having a good balance between whole foods and processed food, leaving whole food on the heavier side of the scale. Helpguide wonderfully states "eating a healthy diet is not about strict limitations, staying unrealistically thin, or depriving yourself of the foods you love. Rather, it’s about feeling great, having more energy, improving your health, and boosting your mood". Also we sometimes associate healthy with bland taste but one of my goals as a dieititan is to show that healthy dishes are tasty, sometimes even more tasty, than foods that are higher in fat and sugar. I want you to eat the apple and have your cake too.
3. Dietitians judge what you eat
I am going to keep this one short. Unless the dietitian is your own personal dietitian and you are sitting in their office, we can care less what you eat unless you are seeking advice, help, and guidance. We are not the the food police. NO ONE should be giving unsolicited advice or comments on what you eat.
4. Dietitians only focus on weight loss
Oh contrare, although I love to help clients reach their weight goals in a practical and healthy manner, dietitians do more than guide people on how to lose weight. Dieititians have many specialties from long-term care to kidney, to sports, to oncology, to endocrinology, and pediatrics, just to scratch the service. Dieititans work in the hospitals, schools and universities, restaurants, gyms, foodbanks, doctor’s offices, farms, and corporate offices to name a few. It is important to find a dietitian that specializes in your nutritional needs and desires while advocating for you.
5. You only need to see a dietitian if referred to your doctor
Your doctor can help find you dietitians to work with but you do not need a referral. You don’t need to wait for a doctor or to be diagnosed with a medical condition to see a dieititan. I highly suggest the opposite. Nutrition is best as a preventative measure or regression of a disease, seen commonly in patients with diabetes, heart issues, or kidney conditions. Like you have a annual health or dental check-up, I encourage you to have a nutrition check-up! It brings reassurance, accountability, and confidence in what you regularly eat from a nutrition practitioner who uses evidence-based nutrition to personalize recommendations and advice.
So the next time you assume about what dietitians eat, do not eat, or practice, reach out and connect with one! What other myths have you heard about dietitians?
* I am now accepting clients for virtual nutrition coaching and would be happy to help you reach your optimal health!