Poor nutrition has several harmful effects on the body and has been linked to diseases like Type-2 diabetes, heart disease and stroke, obesity, cancer, and even brain deficiencies in children. A good registered dietician near you can help you develop an achievable, healthy, and safe meal plan that is not only suited to your specific nutrition needs but also actively prevents these chronic diseases. According to a study funded by the National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute, bad eating habits result in over $50 billion in health care costs in the United States every year and account for up to 45% of all cardiometabolic-related deaths. Similar data released by the Centers for Diseases Control and Prevention puts the figure for obesity-related health care costs alone at over $147 billion annually.
Working with a registered dietitian provides you with personally tailored nutritional advice that takes into account any food allergies or sensitivities that you may have. These professionals help you regulate your weight and manage underlying chronic diseases by ensuring that every bite of food you take counts, thereby reducing your total diet-related health care costs and improving your overall health and self-image. However, to fully take advantage of these benefits, you should make sure that the registered dietician you intend to work with is duly qualified and creates nutritional plans that follow national dietary guidelines and recommendations. As such, before hiring any registered dietician near you, it is necessary to ask the following questions:
Are You Licensed, Registered, or Certified?
At least 47 states have statutory regulations that control the operation of registered dietitians within their jurisdictions. The specifics of these regulations vary by state, but they commonly involve these registered dietitians obtaining a bachelor's degree, completing an ACEND-accredited program, passing the dietetic registration exam administered by the Commission on Dietetic Registration, and maintaining continuing professional education requirements. Some states, including Texas, Missouri, Georgia, Florida, and New York, also require registered dietitians to obtain state-issued licenses or certifications before they can practice. As such, before you hire a registered dietitian, it is advisable to contact your state's dietitian licensure agency or consumer protection office to find out the specific licensing or certification requirements for registered dietitians in your locality. These agencies can also help you make sure that the registered dietitian you intend to work with meets all applicable requirements.
After confirming that your intended registered dietitian meets all necessary state licensing or certification requirements, it is also a good idea to make sure that this individual also belongs to a professional association, such as the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics and the International Confederation of Dietetic Associations. Working with registered dietitians that are members of professional associations provides you with a level of assurance that these dietitians will discharge their duties professionally, ethically, and in compliance with a strict code of conduct and standards.
How Much Does a Registered Dietitian Cost?
Registered dietitians generally charge an average of $100 - $200 for an initial one-hour consultation and an average of $50 - $150 per hour for subsequent consultations. Note that when certain factors are taken into consideration, the total amount of money that you may spend on a registered dietitian can range from as low as $50 per hour to as high as $300 per hour, or even more. Some of the factors that can impact the total cost of working with a registered dietitian include:
- Your geographic location
- The number of consultations that you require
- The length of each consultation
- The extent of your insurance coverage
- The registered dietitian's reputation and experience
When booking an initial consultation with a registered dietitian near you, you can save on your total costs by taking note of the following tips:
- Find out whether the registered dietitian that you intend to work with accepts insurance as well as the type of insurance that they accept. You should also contact your insurance provider to find out the extent to which your health insurance policy will cover any dietitian-related expenses.
- Find out whether the registered dietitian offers discounts for booking multiple sessions at the same time as opposed to paying for each consultation or session individually.
- Inquire about group programs and online sessions. Some dietitians offer group programs and online sessions which are usually less expensive than typical one-on-one or in-person consultations and are a good option for saving money on your total costs.
What Are Common Registered Dietitian Expenses?
When hiring a registered dietitian, it is important to note that you may incur extra expenses that are not included in the cost of your actual consultations or sessions. Some additional expenses that are commonly associated with registered dietitians are:
- Food allergy tests: If you are unsure about any food allergies that you have, then your registered dietitian will typically require you to take a food allergy test before coming up with an appropriate meal plan for you. Food allergy tests can cost you anywhere between $50 and $600.
- Dietary restrictions: If you have any conditions that require you to restrict your diet, you may have to take certain tests to determine the level of your compatibility with your registered dietitian's proposed meal plans. These usually include tests for blood sugar levels, ulcers, and cholesterol levels and their costs can range from $20 to $500 per test.
- Cooking classes: Your registered dietitian may recommend that you take classes on healthful cooking to complement your meal plan. These classes typically cost an average of $10 each.
- Home visits: If you want your consultations to hold in your home or a location of your choice as opposed to the registered dietitian's office, then you will be charged extra fees to cover the cost of your registered dietitian coming to and from this location.
- Miscellaneous services fees: Some registered dietitians may provide additional services, such as personalized grocery shopping and pantry shopping. If you decide to opt for these services, you will be required to pay extra fees.
Before you conclude any arrangements with a registered dietitian near you, it is advisable to find out about any extra costs that you may have to bear. Inquire about the registered dietitian's payment plans and make sure that you are issued an invoice or receipt for any tests or services that you pay for.
Who Will Do the Work?
It is common to retain the services of a registered dietitian either through a private practice or health care facilities like clinics and hospitals. While many private practices typically have one registered dietitian, some of them, as well as most health care facilities, employ more than one of these professionals whom they assign to individual clients. Therefore, it is important to have a clear idea of the specific registered dietitian that will be working with you.
Make sure that the registered dietitian that you will be working with is licensed or certified per the requirements of your state of residence and inquire about any additional professional certifications that this dietitian may have. Find out the registered dietitian's specialties and approach, and make sure that you are comfortable with this. Ask questions like whether your meal plan will involve complementary exercises, whether you will have to take supplements, whether you will be required to meet any targets, and how the registered dietitian holds clients accountable. Doing this reduces the chances of this registered dietitian formulating a meal plan that will end up frustrating you or one that you will be unable to maintain while also ensuring that the meal plan targets your specific health goals and needs. Finally, you should find out how accessible the registered dietitian will be to you and whether there will be other available options for your sessions, such as phone calls and video chats, if you cannot meet up with physical one-on-one consultations.
What Qualifications Should a Registered Dietitian Have?
The Bureau of Labor Statistics estimates that approximately 66,330 dietitians and nutritionists are currently employed in the United States. Registered dietitians are required to have a minimum educational qualification of a bachelor's degree in areas like dietetics, foods and nutrition, and other related fields. These professionals are also generally required to complete relevant accredited programs and supervised practices, pass the Commission on Dietetic Registration-administered examination, obtain state-issued licenses or certifications, and maintain these licenses by completing mandatory continuing professional education requirements. Some registered dietitians may also obtain board certifications from organizations like the Commission on Dietetic Registration as proof of their specialization and level expertise in specific diet and nutrition-related areas. Finally, many professional registered dietitians belong to associations like the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics and the International Confederation of Dietetic Associations. Note that while membership in a professional association or obtaining specialty board certifications are not compulsory, registered dietitians that have either or both of these qualifications generally tend to be more professionally behaved and experienced than the rest of their counterparts.
Will You Provide References?
When searching for the right registered dietitian near you to work with, you will likely get referrals from various sources. These typically include close friends, relatives, doctors and healthcare-related professionals, and local dietitian associations. Notwithstanding how you come in contact with a registered dietitian, it is imperative that you ask this professional to provide you with references on at least three past clients that can vouch for them. Requesting references is a good way to find out how well a registered dietitian works with clients as well as how effective the dietitian's methods and techniques are, and reputable registered dietitians will readily provide you with this information. If the registered dietitian that you intend to work with cannot provide you with contact details on at least three past clients, then it is always in your best interest to search for a different registered dietitian near you.
You can also utilize online resources like Yelp, Google Review, Better Business Bureau, and other similar websites to get reviews, testimonials, and opinions on registered dietitians near you. It is also a good idea to contact your local dietitian licensure agency or consumer protection office to find out whether any complaints, reports, or disciplinary actions may have been filed against your preferred registered dietitian.
Quick Facts about Registered Dietitians
Source: U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics
Expert Answers to Frequently Asked Questions about Registered Dietitians
What Is the Difference Between a Dietitian and a Registered Dietitian?
Dietitians are typically referred to as registered dietitians and these terms can be used interchangeably. However, many times these professionals are also often wrongly referred to as nutritionists. While nutritionists and dietitians have similar career paths and are both experts in diet and nutrition-related matters, these two professionals are not the same. The biggest difference between a nutritionist and a dietitian is their level of regulation. Any person that obtains a nutrition-related degree can refer to themselves as a nutritionist, and in some cases these individuals do not even need to have any professional nutrition-related education, training, licensing, or certification to use this title. On the other hand, only individuals that have passed the registration examination administered by the Commission on Dietetic Registration and obtained any relevant state-issued licenses or certifications can legally refer to themselves as dietitians or registered dietitians.
Another key difference between nutritionists and registered dietitians is that registered dietitians can help with the diagnosis and treatment of illnesses and medical conditions and can also counsel clients on specific meal plans while nutritionists are typically limited to teaching clients about how food and nutrition relate to their general health.
What to Expect at Your First Appointment with a Dietitian?
During your first appointment with a registered dietitian, you should generally expect to answer questions that will help the registered dietitian get to know you and understand your reasons for requiring their services. These reasons typically range from wanting to make changes in the way you eat to needing meal plans that can help you manage nutrition-related health conditions like high cholesterol or diabetes.
Note that the length and format of your initial appointment generally depend on the registered dietitian that you are consulting with. Likewise, the specific questions that you will be asked during this appointment depend on your reason for booking the appointment. As such, you should provide the registered dietitian with as much information as possible so that they can have a clear understanding of your situation and come up with the best way to help you meet your set goals and needs.
Why Should You See a Dietician? Is Seeing a Dietitian Worth It?
Yes, seeing a registered dietitian is worth the time and cost involved. Registered dietitians are professionals that can help you navigate various food and nutrition-related matters, and you should see one if you find yourself in any of the following situations:
- You need help understanding and managing nutrition-related chronic diseases like diabetes and high blood pressure
- You have an eating disorder
- You have digestive problems
- You need help managing your weight
- You need practical lifestyle advice
- You are caring for an elderly person
- You wish to improve your performance in sports
- You have had, or are considering a gastric bypass surgery
- You are trying to get pregnant, are pregnant, or recently had a child
- You would like to learn how to conveniently plan and prepare healthier meals
What Questions Should You Ask a Dietician?
To make the most out of your first appointment with a registered dietitian or to get positive results from a subsequent consultation, you should consider asking the following questions:
- What is a healthy weight range for me?
- What is missing from my current diet and where can I get it from?
- How much food should I be eating?
- Can you help me create a meal plan that is ideal for my body and will help me achieve my goals?
- Can any of the feelings or symptoms I regularly experience be a result of food allergies or sensitivities?
- What are good sources of protein?
- Are my genetics an important factor when it comes to achieving my weight or diet goals?
- Can you help me find healthy alternatives to junk foods?
- Are there any foods that you recommend I should completely stop eating?
- What do you consider to be the best piece of nutritional advice that you can give me?
What Kinds of Questions Will a Dietitian Ask Me?
Registered dietitians generally ask several questions to get information on your diet, lifestyle, and eating habits that can help them carry out a proper nutrition assessment. Some common questions that you may be asked during your consultation with a registered dietitian include, but are not limited to:
- What is your current diet?
- What are your age, height, and weight?
- What types of foods do you like to eat?
- How often and how much do you eat?
- When and where do you eat?
- Do you or your culture have any food traditions?
- What is your food budget?
- Do you have any concerns about your eating habits?
- Do you have any food skills and what are they?
- Are there any challenges that you face when buying, preparing, or eating foods?
- Do you require any special equipment to prepare or eat food?
- How is your general health and what is your medical history?
- Are there any medications or supplements that you currently take?
- How often do you exercise?
Note that the specific questions you will be asked typically depend on your reason for seeing the registered dietitian.
Does Insurance Pay for Dietitians?
Yes, many insurance plans cover the cost of getting professional nutrition counseling and many registered dietitians accept insurance as it makes their services affordable for more people. Nevertheless, you should always confirm that your insurance plan will cover the costs of your appointment with a registered dietitian and also make sure that the registered dietitian in question accepts insurance payments.