Nutrition Counseling: Getting a Food Guru (cont.)

A Tailor-Made Plan

At the root of a dietitian's effectiveness is the personal attention he or she can give. Nutritional counseling provides people with an eating plan designed around their own particular likes and dislikes, making it more likely they'll stick to it.

Dietitians start by learning what their client typically eats and then suggest small changes he or she can live with. That approach is vital because most people find it hard to stick to drastic dietary changes for the long haul. Dietitians also carefully review the client's medical history, looking for any medications that might be affected by certain foods or eating patterns, and any problems with swallowing, nutrition, or digestion.

Bilyeu kept a food diary for two weeks, "so we could pinpoint where I needed to tweak my diet," she says. Most dietitians use food diaries because they help people tune in to what they're eating, how much they're eating, and even the emotions or other cues that prompted them to reach for food. "It's an awareness-raising activity," says registered dietitian Cindy Moore, director of nutrition therapy at the Cleveland Clinic Foundation and a spokesperson for the American Dietetic Association.

Many people who try nutrition therapy notice a change in their condition within a few weeks. And some find that they only need two or three visits.

Under her dietitian's guidance, Susan Bilyeu lost 20 pounds, began exercising regularly, and brought her blood sugar under control -- without expensive medications.

These days, she checks in with her dietitian periodically for follow-up guidance. During Bilyeu's latest visit, for instance, her dietitian helped her decide what to serve at an upcoming party. "Seeing my dietitian regularly allows me to ask questions and make sure I'm on track," she says. "If I have a question, I can call her anytime."

Finding a Good Dietitian
If you're trying to find a credible professional to give you nutritional advice, don't start by looking up "nutritionist" in the phone book. A 32-state survey sponsored by the National Council Against Health Fraud in 1994 found that fewer than half the people listed that way in the Yellow Pages had legitimate training in the field of nutrition. Many held bogus degrees or gave out false information. No federal guidelines exist for the use of the term, and legal definitions vary from state to state.

According to a recent report from the Institute of Medicine, your best source for reliable nutrition advice is a registered dietitian -- look for the credentials "RD" after the name. To earn this title, the person needs to have graduated from a four-year college program approved by the American Dietetic Association that includes course work in biochemistry, biology, and diet therapy; passed a national registration exam; completed on-the-job training; and kept their knowledge current through continuing education.

To find a registered dietitian near you, ask your doctor for a referral, or contact local hospitals, all of which employ dietitians on staff. You can also call the American Dietetic Association's nationwide Nutrition Network Referral Service at (800) 366-1655 (weekdays from 9 a.m. to 4 p.m., Central Standard Time) for names and phone numbers of registered dietitians in your area.


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Last Editorial Review: 1/30/2005 10:39:53 PM