Working with a Registered Dietitian: FAQs

The best way to get personalized diet and nutrition advice is to work with a registered dietitian.  But if you’ve never gone to an RD, you may have questions about how it works, how much it costs and why it’s the best program.

I spoke to Karen Palmer, RD, LD, CDE, to get some answers.  Palmer, a Diabetes/Nutrition Educator at North Memorial Medical Center answered a few frequently asked questions about working with a nutrition professional.  Some information was also provided by the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics.

FAQs About Working with a Registered Dietitian

  • What’s the difference between a nutritionist and a registered dietitian?  According to the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics, some RDs may call themselves “nutritionists,” but not all nutritionists are registered dietitians.   RDs are required to complete academic and professional training in order to maintain their credential.  In some states, anyone can call themselves a nutritionist.
    Palmer explains that the academic training to become an RD includes a wide range of scientific classes including food and nutrition sciences, biochemistry, physiology, microbiology and chemistry.  After that, an RD completes an accredited, supervised practice program at a health-care facility, community agency or food service corporation.  Finally, they pass a national examination administered by the Commission on Dietetic Registration and complete continuing professional educational requirements to maintain registration.
  • How can I get an appointment with an RD?  Meet with your primary care provider to get a referral to see a registered dietitian.
  • How much does it cost to work with a registered dietitian?  In most cases, health insurance will cover the cost of working with an RD as long as you get a physician referral.  Check with your provider to get details.
    If insurance does not cover the cost, prices can vary. According to Palmer, meeting with an RD in a medical clinic can run about $250 but many private practice professionals charge less.
  • Can a registered dietitian help me lose weight?  A RD is a food and nutrition expert who can translate the science of nutrition into practical solutions for healthy living. Your registered dietitian uses their nutrition expertise to help you make unique, positive lifestyle changes so that you reach your health and weight loss goals.
  • Can’t I just find an online weight loss program?  It’s easy to find weight loss programs on television, online or in magazines, but those diets are not personalized, they may not be nutritionally balanced, and may not be safe to follow.
  • What happens when I meet with a registered dietitian?  During your first meeting, you’ll talk about your lifestyle, your eating habits and your exercise plan.  Then, a personalized meal and physical activity plan is developed and explained.
    You’ll talk about eating away from home, how to read nutrition labels, how to modify recipes and other ways to eat a healthy and satisfying diet.  You might choose to see your RD for future appointments to get more help, support and encouragement.
  • Will the RD tell me not to eat my favorite food?  No.  It’s important that you follow a realistic diet that is based on your eating style.  Your RD will work with you so that you can eat all foods in moderate and reasonable portions.  They want to help you develop a lifelong eating program – not just a “diet” to follow until weight goal is met.

If you want the expertise and personalized support of a registered dietitian, connect with us at North Memorial to get started.  Make an appointment to see your primary care provider and ask for a referral.


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