October 12, 2021

6 Questions to Ask A Dietitian

We understand that it takes courage to go see and ask questions to a dietitian (aka: RD or RDN) about your diet. It’s personal, vulnerable, and might feel like a GIANT step to commit to. But you are thinking about it and, like a sensible person who utilizes Google to prepare for everything, you have landed here. Welcome! Now let me walk you through some questions to ask your dietitian during your first visit or discovery call. 

 

Questions to ask a dietitian: Personal Journey

#1. What is your philosophy on nutrition?

We all have different experiences with food and wellness. Some people have grown up in a house where eating everything on your plate is mandatory. Some people have learned to stay away from specific foods and never eat past 8:00 pm. Some people believe that the strict structure of meal plans provided by a dietitian is the solution to their nutritional problems.

We may all look for something different when it comes to seeking the help of a dietitian. For this reason, ask about what your dietitian believes in and how they work with their own clients. You don’t want to commit to something and then realize that the plan of action is not something you feel comfortable with. 

Let me give you a specific example. Here at Nutriving, we strongly do not believe in meal plans and we do not provide them for our clients. We believe that your choices in food and drinks are wonderfully personal. We believe that food may affect your body differently compared to others, which makes YOU the expert of YOUR body– not the dietitian.

That is our philosophy. You may or may not be looking for this approach. It is imperative for you to feel like you’re making the right decision when choosing to work with a dietitian. So ask away!

women discussing- questions to ask a dietitian

#2. This is my history with nutrition. Can we work together?

There are too many factors that might have influenced your decision to seek the help of a dietitian. The history behind your health journey is a massively important part of the conversation. 

  • You might feel very anxious about weighing in or talking about your weight.
  • You might have a history of extreme restrictive eating or binging.
  • You might have a complex relationship with your body and shame is the primary driver. 
  • You might have health concerns that you have discussed with your doctor that this brought you to consider some nutritional help. 
  • You might have allergies and feel afraid to eat anything.
  • You might have sought help in this department and had a horrible experience.

 

All of those reasons relate to a deeper conversation that you might need to have with your dietitian. Feeling safe with your new health guide is imperative for any meaningful change. The space of nutrition and health may be a challenging topic for you and your mental health is part of overall health.

Honesty and clear communication is very important.

 

Questions to ask a dietitian: Patterns of Meals and Drinks

#3. Based on my pattern of meals and drinks, am I missing anything?

Dietitians are uniquely qualified to analyze your diet and give you personalized nutrition advice. Depending on your age, gender, medical history, and meals consumed (or lack of), you might be missing some essential macro or micronutrients

For example, if you follow a Vegan or Vegetarian diet, your dietitian might be looking for any potential deficiencies of specific vitamins or inadequate protein intake. You might experience heavy bleeding during your menstrual period and you might be at risk of iron-deficiency anemia. Or you might be reaching an age where calcium intake becomes an imperative part of an overall healthy diet.

All of these factors are important so be sure to ask your dietitian if you might be missing something nutritionally essential. 

food bowl fruit, avocado and latte- questions to ask a dietitian

#4 Based on my pattern of meals and drinks, is there something you consider to be a priority on my intervention list?

This is a tricky part of our work but it might be helpful to ask. You and your desires on what to focus are the priority (or should be) of any healthcare provider. It might be really important to you that you keep your glucose levels in optimal ranges.

You should feel completely comfortable sharing this information with your dietitian and basing your plan of action on those desired targets. However, there are times when a dietitian might identify an area of particular clinical significance. Asking this question might help pave the way for a collaboration of ideas on how to develop a plan of nutritional interventions that focuses on your desired outcomes and what your dietitian’s clinical judgement.

At the end of the day, your RD will likely know a little more about specific recommendations and how they can benefit you in the long run. This should be a collaboration and something you feel absolutely comfortable communicating. 

If you feel like I am repeating the whole “feel comfortable communicating” part? It’s done intentionally. Trust me, this really is very important. If you walk in to your appointment and your internal intuition is telling you that this may not be the best fit for you… listen to it!

That dietitian might be great and competent but they might not be the best fit for YOU. 

 

Questions to ask a dietitian: Family Medical History

#5. Based on my family’s medical history, what are some foods I should look out for?

Family history of chronic diseases can be insightful when making diet changes. Genetic predisposition is something none of us can control. What we CAN control is how we prepare our bodies with the best tools to prevent, delay, or combat the presence of chronic diseases.

Your family medical history might give your dietitian some ideas of vitamins, minerals or specific-foods you might need to pay particular attention to. 

You might think that these conditions only include diabetes and cardiovascular disease. And yes, those are important. But be sure to tell your RD about any family history of immune-related diseases, cancer, dementia, or GI-related disorders.

Here at Nutriving we have a motto: stop dieting, start thriving. The thriving part means we help equip your body with the best evidence-based practices to help prevent, delay or treat chronic diseases from day ONE.

 

#6. Based on my family’s medical history, are there foods I should eat more of?

We love questions related to adding things to your diet. Dietitians have a reputation for telling people what NOT to eat. Here at Nutriving, we focus on adding things to your plate.

Why? Because sometimes taking away foods leaves people feeling like there are very few options to choose from. Also, this practice puts an emphasis on restriction rather than abundance. Restriction is not the only way we can build a balanced pattern of meals and drinks.

Sometimes it might be important for you to add nuts and seeds to your diet, sometimes we need to focus on adding protein sources, and sometimes we need to focus on eating foods you love.

The key point here is by asking this question, you are asking the dietitian to outline what foods should be included as opposed to what you should stay away from. 

 

Conclusion

I hope this list of questions help you during your first encounter with a dietitian. As an RD myself, I know it takes so much courage to take that step and actually put your health at the top of your list. You got this. This list of questions to ask a dietitian is just the starting point. And remember to listen to your intuition!

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I am a Registered Dietitian (RD) based in Chicago, IL. I have worked in various clinical settings including dialysis, ICU, and NICU. I am bilingual and have had the pleasure to work with many Spanish/Spanglish speaking individuals.