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Guest Column: 5 ways a registered dietitian can help you

By Emily Schmidt

Albert Lea resident Emily Schmidt is a registered dietitian at Mayo Clinic Health System in Albert Lea. She enjoys writing, cooking and spending time with her son and family.

Have you ever wondered what a registered dietitian does or how it might be beneficial for you to seek one? Do RDs just tell people what they can and can’t eat for weight loss? Fortunately for both nutrition

professionals and the patients or clients we serve, it’s more complex than that. Registered dietitians are required to have a Bachelor of Science degree in nutrition and dietetics, as well as 1,200 internship hours.

Many dietitians go on to purse advanced degrees (master’s or doctoral degrees) as well, or pursue specialty certifications in weight management, diabetes or many other areas. Here are some areas in which their

Emily Schmidt

knowledge and expertise may benefit you:

1. Help you navigate the grocery store to meet your nutritional needs. Some grocery stores have their own dietitians, who not only see customers for individual visits but also give individual grocery store tours, hold events such as cooking classes, and much more.

2. Assist you with either weight gain or weight loss. Either way, it can be a challenge and registered dietitians have the science-based knowledge to lead you down the right path. There are healthy and unhealthy ways to lose or gain weight, and you can be assured that a dietitian will show you the healthy way. There is much more to weight management than giving you a list of which foods to eat or not to eat. Because they have training in behavior modification and recognizing real life barriers, a registered dietitian will help you develop strategies and change behaviors and habits in order to make lifestyle changes that will stick in the long run. They will also teach that you can still eat most foods, even less healthy foods or treats, but with moderation and portion control.

3. Work with you to manage your pre-diabetes, diabetes, or other chronic diseases or health conditions. Whether you have elevated cholesterol or triglycerides; food allergies; chronic kidney disease; digestive issues such as constipation, irritable bowel syndrome or Crohn’s disease; or a vast multitude of other conditions, a dietitian will provide you with individualized medical nutrition therapy to help manage your health issues. Additionally, it’s not always a one-time deal, either. Oftentimes you can follow up with a dietitian on a regular and ongoing basis if you need help with improving or resolving your concerns.

4. Help your children with their nutrition- or health-related issues. If you have a very picky child, or you’re concerned about their health in other ways (for example, excess weight, high cholesterol or triglycerides, risk for type 2 diabetes, or food allergies), a registered dietitian will also be able to navigate nutritional needs. Dietitians can provide medical nutrition therapy for all stages and walks of life. There are even dietitians who specialize in certain areas — pediatrics, weight management and diabetes, for example — so you can seek a dietitian who specializes in working with children.

5. Beyond the common purposes, registered dietitians have responsibilities or provide services in a large range of other nutrition- and food-related areas, including inpatient hospitals, foodservice, sports nutrition, nutrition support (tube feedings), nursing homes and much more.

If you’re interested in seeking a dietitian, visit www.eatright.org/find-an-expert or reach out to your local clinic or grocery store. Many insurance companies will cover or help to cover dietitian visits if you have a covered diagnosis (obesity, diabetes, etc.). If you’d like information on coverage, check with your insurance company prior to setting up an appointment with a dietitian.