Dietitians are the only qualified health professionals that assess, diagnose and treat dietary and nutritional problems at an individual and wider public-health level. They work with both healthy and sick people. Uniquely, dietitians use the most up-to-date public health and scientific research on food, health and disease which they translate into practical guidance to enable people to make appropriate lifestyle and food choices.

Dietitians are the only nutrition professionals to be regulated by law, and are governed by an ethical code to ensure that they always work to the highest standard. Dietitians work in the NHS, private practice, industry, education, research, sport, media, public relations, publishing, government and Non-Government Organisations (NGOs). Dietitians advise and influence food and health policy across the spectrum from government to local communities and individuals.

Reasons to see a dietitian

Here are just a few examples where dietitians, working on a one-to-one basis or part of a wider health team, can help improve your health and lifestyle if:

  • you suffer with digestive problems
  • you have been diagnosed with a medical condition, such as diabetes, high blood pressure, cardiovascular disease, coeliac disease,  IBS, HIV etc
  • you have oral, enteral or parenteral nutrition requirements
  • your child, or looked after child, has specialised nutritional requirements
  • you want or need to lose weight in a safe and sensible way
  • you need to put weight on following a spell of ill-health or as the result of a medical condition
  • you are considering surgery to lose weight
  • you want to improve your athletic performance or general fitness levels
  • you want advice about breastfeeding and weaning
  • you want to maximise your chances to become pregnant
  • you think you have an allergy or intolerance to a certain food
  • you would like advice about eating disorders
  • you are a carer and want credible and practical advice to ensure the person/s you are caring for is/are getting the appropriate nutrition in their diet/s.

What to expect from your first appointment with a dietitian

Your first session with a dietitian will last around one hour and will involve a lot of talking. The dietitian may or may not weigh you, depending on your own unique situation and goals.

It’s important to understand that a dietitian is there to help you, not to judge you or try to suck the joy out of your life by making you stick to a strict and punishing diet. We want you to be able to enjoy the food you love while still working towards your nutrition goals – this is our ultimate aim. For this reason, we base our recommendations on your own likes and dislikes, and your individual lifestyle so that we can be sure that our advice will work for you and can be maintained for life.

Here is what is generally covered in a session:

Reason for visit: Your current nutrition issues and goals are discussed in detail so that the dietitian knows exactly why you have come and what you want out of your sessions

Medical History: A full medical history is taken, including any past illnesses, chronic diseases, allergies and intolerances and any medications you take

Lifestyle: Detailed information is taken about your lifestyle so that advice can be tailored to you specifically. This will include what you do for work, who you live with, who does your shopping and cooking, how often and where you eat out and what type exercise you do

Diet: In order to get a thorough understanding of what and how you eat, your dietitian will take a ‘diet history’ in which they will ask you a lot of questions about your daily eating habits

Education: Your dietitian will identify which areas of nutrition you would most benefit from learning about and will then take you through this education using clear and simple explanations

Plan: At the end of the session, your dietitian will develop a personalised plan which will allow you to work towards your nutrition goals. Your dietitian may also give you written material to support your nutrition plan and will provide contact details so that you can get in touch if you have any questions.

Follow up: Dietitians are careful not to overwhelm their clients with too much information or too many changes in one go, therefore, in most cases you will need to have several review appointments so that we can monitor your progress, provide further education and help you progress. Our services work best when an ongoing relationship is established.  At each appointment, your dietitian will advise you as to when to come in for your next appointment.

How to prepare for your session with a dietitian

  • Before you head to your appointment, have a think about why you are going and what you want to know.
  • Write a list of questions. Often you have lots of things you want to ask but then you forget when you’re actually in the appointment.  Having questions already prepared can be really helpful.
  • In the few days leading up to the appointment, it can be a good idea to keep a ‘food diary’ in which you write down everything you eat and drink. This will help when conducting your ‘diet history’ as often its hard to recall what you actually eat each day!

What is the difference between a Dietitian, Nutritionist, Nutritional Therapist and Diet Expert?
Click here to find out…

Elaine Allerton, Alexia Dempsey and Clare Thornton-Wood are our practitioners specialising in this therapy.