Updated January 16, 2018.
Nervous about seeing a nutritionist? Don’t be! A nutrition counseling session may never be like getting a massage, but it doesn’t have to be torture, either. A good nutrition consultation shouldn’t feel like a lecture about what you should be doing, and you shouldn’t feel as though you’re being scolded or judged on your eating habits, either. Rather, we take the time to listen closely and to understand where you are right now in terms of your lifestyle and diet, and work with you to help achieve your goals. Nutrition counseling can be done by a certified nutrition consultant or a registered dietitian (RD). Both nutritionists and RDs are qualified to create individual action plans to help you adopt a healthier lifestyle.
Who Can Benefit from a Nutrition Consult?
Lots of people can benefit from working with a nutritionist, for many different reasons–whether you need a complete diet overhaul, are looking to manage a medical condition, want to fine-tune your food choices, or get inspiration for new, healthy recipes. It’s best to book a nutrition consultation after a check-up with your primary care provider. That can help inform whether you have any specific conditions that can be addressed with nutrition, such as elevated blood sugar or cholesterol, or blood pressure issues.
While some patients come in for a nutrition consultation to learn more about how their food choices affect their health, others end up in my office at their doctor’s suggestion. The following are just a few of the conditions that can benefit specifically from dietary interventions:
- Heart disease
- High blood pressure
- High cholesterol
- Diabetes and pre-diabetic conditions
- Irritable bowel syndrome (IBS)
- Celiac disease
- Obesity or overweight
What to Expect During Your First Appointment
With most nutrition counselors, we’ll ask about your goals, objectives, and reasons for wanting to see a nutritionist. We’ll review your medical history, including any medications and supplements you’re currently taking. Then we’ll delve into your lifestyle to get a sense of your stress levels, sleep patterns, energy levels, exercise, and gastrointestinal function. It will be helpful for to you write down everything you ate in the 24 hours prior to the appointment (or better yet, a food diary of two to three days’ worth of meals and snacks). With that guidance, we can begin to discuss your dietary preferences and cooking habits, and identify trouble spots, like skipping breakfast or late-night snacking. From there, we’ll develop some initial pointers to help you start eating healthier.
How Many Appointments Will I Need?
Most patients come in for two to three sessions. If you’re ready to learn and incorporate some simple changes into your diet and lifestyle, that’s often enough to set you on the right course. But some people like the accountability of setting up monthly consults until they feel in control of — and comfortable with — their new habits. It’s not unusual for patients to schedule a refresher a year or two after the initial consult to review their goals or for help getting back on track.
How Much Will It Cost?
Depending on where you live, the out-of-pocket cost for a nutrition counseling session runs about $125. More often than not, the service isn’t covered by health insurance, but it’s worth calling your insurance provider to see whether nutrition counseling is a benefit on your plan. Nutrition counseling can be a very cost-effective investment in your long-term health. If better nutrition enables you to lower your blood pressure or cholesterol, or get your weight in check, it can potentially save you thousands of dollars in medications and other care down the road.
Will I Have to Stop Eating Everything I Love?
Absolutely not! A nutrition consult is a partnership. Nutritionists don’t just tell you what to do to improve your diet; we can also help you set and achieve your health goals. We work flexibly, starting with changes that will have the most impact, and incorporating the tactics that make the most sense for your lifestyle. The idea is to create a plan that puts you back in the driver’s seat and on the road to better health.
The One Medical blog is published by One Medical, an innovative primary care practice with offices in Boston, Chicago, Los Angeles, New York, Phoenix, the San Francisco Bay Area, Seattle, and Washington, DC.
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