Dietitians need at least a bachelor's degree and must complete a dietetic internship, ranging in duration from 6 months to 2 years. After the internship, they are eligible to take the registration exam. Registration, licensure and certification requirements vary by state. Dietitians work in a variety of settings, with the majority working in hospitals, nursing homes, outpatient care centers, physicians' offices, or private consultation. Others work in public health, corporate wellness, or the food industry. Dietitians can help people with a variety of nutrition-related diseases. With the current obesity epidemic in the United States, many people are turning to dietitians for help with weight loss. However, dietitians can also assist those who are looking to gain weight, increase muscle mass, increase energy or prevent chronic disease.
Dietitians are part detective (looking for clues in your eating and exercise habits that could be contributing to the problem) and part counselor (using their extensive nutritional sciences background to help you find the best way to reach your goals). During the first session, an RD will obtain your medical history, as well as a detailed diet and exercise history. This session generally focuses on getting a great deal of background information and discussing your short-term and long-term goals. During follow-up sessions, your RD will discuss potential barriers to reaching your goals and provide nutrition education. Dietitians can create customized meals plans and recommend specific calorie levels, nutrient goals, or exercise prescriptions.
What can one expect to pay for the services of a registered dietitian? Of course, this will vary based on where you live, the amount of pre-planning and travel required by the RD and his/her level of experience or additional specialized training, certifications or education. A fee per hour of nutrition counseling could range from $50 to $90 an hour. Some people opt to see RDs as a one-time consultation, but often clients have more success when they have multiple follow-up sessions with their RD. The frequency with which a client sees an RD is based upon his/her goals and the level of support and education needed. Often, people visit their dietitians every 4-8 weeks and this continues until both the client and dietitian are satisfied with the outcome of the sessions and the client feels educated enough to continue the journey alone. Sometimes clients may schedule "check-up" consultations with their RD yearly after they've reached their goals.
Remember that registered dietitians are THE experts on food and nutrition--never settle for less by taking the advice of someone who has not had the proper education and training. You can find a registered dietitian in your area by visiting The American Dietetic Association's website at www.eatright.org.
Kari Hartel, RD, LD is a Registered Dietitian and freelance writer based out of St. Louis, MO. Kari is passionate about nutrition education and the prevention of chronic disease through a healthy diet and active lifestyle. Kari holds a Bachelor of Science in Dietetics from Southeast Missouri State University and is committed to helping people lead healthy lives. She completed a yearlong dietetic internship at OSF St. Francis Medical Center in Peoria, IL, where she worked with a multitude of clients and patients with complicated diagnoses. She planned, marketed, and implemented nutrition education programs and cooking demonstrations for the general public as well as for special populations, including patients with cancer, heart disease, diabetes, Alzheimer's disease, obesity, and school-aged children. If you would be interested in working with Kari one-on-one, sign-up for FitDay Dietitians.