Medical Nutrition Therapy for Weight Loss

Weight loss works best when good eating habits are paired with other changes, such as getting more exercise. Talk with your healthcare provider before starting a new exercise program.

Know that losing weight takes hard work and time. Making small but significant lifestyle changes can have long-term effects. It can be challenging to make these changes, but the benefits are worth it.

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15 Signs You Should See a Nutritionist

You crush it at the gym. You get your yearly physical and head to the derm for a skin check at least once a year, too. Heck, you even make time for monthly chiropractor appointments. Chances are there’s one important appointment you’re not slotting into your schedule: seeing a nutritionist.

What an ophthalmologist does for your eyes, a dietitian does to keep your digestive system and body running smoothly, all the while making sure you’re getting the proper nutrients and helping you tailor an eating plan that works best for you—whether your goal is weight loss, learning how to eat a healthy vegan diet, or boosting your iron intake. While everybody should try and get an appointment in their calendar, here are the telltale signs you should see an RD on the pronto.


You Think You Have an Allergy or Intolerance

But there’s a catch. “Before you begin cutting foods out of your diet, it is a good idea to consult a registered dietitian,” says Sarah-Jane Bedwell, RD, LDN, host of the Cooking with Sarah-Jane video series. The truth is that anyone can call themselves a nutritionist, but R.D. is a national certification and these are the professionals who have verifiable experience and education to be able to make big recommendations, like cutting out entire food groups. “An RD can help you to determine if your symptoms are due to an allergy or intolerance or something else,” continues Bedwell. “He or she can also direct you on how to get a diagnosis and if you need to see a doctor, what type of doctor to see. Following the correct steps is crucial for getting a correct diagnosis. For example, many people do not realize to get a correct diagnosis for a gluten intolerance or for celiac disease, you still need to be consuming gluten at the time of the test. A dietitian can help guide you through this, guide you through the right diet, and make sure you don’t develop any nutrient deficiencies in the process.”


You Are Irregular

This is important, pals and gals: “According to most doctors, your bowel movements should happen one to two times per day,” says Lisa Hayim, RD, and Founder of The Well Necessities and TWN Collection. “If you are skipping days without going to the bathroom, talk to an RD about some changes to make.” If you’re not yet convinced you need to see a pro, try ridding your diet of constipation-inducing foods.


Your Stomach Gets Twisty when You Have Dairy

Gas, bloating, diarrhea… it sounds like a commercial for a solution that comes in a plastic bottle, but this is actually about your dairy consumption. “You could be lactose intolerant,” say The Nutrition Twins, Lyssie Lakatos, RDN, CDN, CFT and Tammy Lakatos Shames, RDN, CDN, CFT, and authors of The Nutrition Twins’ Veggie Cure. “Lactose intolerance is very dose-dependent, meaning that if you have a couple tablespoons of ice cream you may be fine—but a cup can send you over the edge. An RD can help to make sure you’re properly diagnosed and will help you to figure out if you can have any dairy. And if you can’t, they’ll make sure you can get all the nutrients from dairy products another way.”


You Have Tried Every Diet Out There…

…and you never see results. Or you gain it all back shortly after dropping weight. Whatever the roadblock, a nutritionist can thoughtfully and effectively help. “An RD can help guide you through changing your lifestyle, rather than following a specific diet plan,” Bedwell says. “A registered dietitian is trained to help you learn healthy behaviors and habits as well as identify harmful ones. They can help you understand the science behind how food fuels your body, how to achieve balance in your food choices, and provide accountability to keep you on track.”


You’ve Got Heartburn or Acid Reflux

“A registered dietitian can help you to minimize acid reflux symptoms by putting you on an appropriate diet,” share The Nutrition Twins. “You do want to check with a doctor to make sure it’s not stemming from something more serious, but can help tremendously.”


You’re Noticing Serious Changes in Your Hunger Levels

“Severely decreased appetite or increased appetite could be warning signs that something is up,” says Hayim. “A dietitian will probably have to collaborate with a doctor to see what’s going on, but meeting with a dietitian is a good place to start.”


You’ve Just Been Diagnosed with High Cholesterol

“With guidance from a registered dietitian, you’ll know which foods to choose and which to steer clear of in order to lower your cholesterol and instantly reduce your chance of heart disease and heart attack,” explain The Nutrition Twins.


You’re Doing Everything Right and Still Can’t Shake the Weight

It’s not just that time of the month. And it’s not just one week of going on a cleanse and wondering why a month later you’ve gained back the weight. We’re talking about a consistent lack of ability to lose weight despite doing all the right things like working out, eating right, and getting enough sleep. “There is a lot more to good nutrition than meets the eye. Meeting with a dietitian can help evaluate some of your pitfalls you may not be aware of,” offers Hayim.


Or, if You Just Want to Lose Weight in General

“Losing weight and losing weight in a healthy manner are two very different things,” cautions Hayim. “Learning how to lose weight—while eating healthy and avoiding nutritional deficiencies—is key to sustaining good health and even keeping the weight off.”


Life Just Got Crazy

Adjusting through life’s more difficult nooks and crannies is a good time to see a nutritionist because they are like a psychologist for your body. “Whether you just found out that you are pregnant, just got diagnosed with diabetes, or have decided to train for a marathon, a registered dietitian can help you face the challenge head-on!” offers Bedwell. “An RD is trained in all areas of nutrition and understands how the right diet can either help or hurt your condition. Some dietitians even carry specialty certifications in things like pediatrics, diabetes education, and sports nutrition and know the latest research in these areas.”


You’re Constantly Thinking About Food

Wait, not everyone thinks about their next meal all the time? In all seriousness, though, if you are frequently preoccupied with—and obsessing over—your next meal, it’s time to consult with a nutritionist. “If you are constantly thinking about your next meal, and may even go to bed thinking about breakfast, it’s time to schedule an appointment,” says Hayim. “When these thoughts are not fueled by hunger, but rather an ‘obsession’ with food, it could be early signs of disordered eating. Sometimes, learning a bit more about nutrition science from a dietitian can lead you down a healthier road.”


You’re Prone to Stress Fractures

“This is more common than you may think,” The Nutrition Twins say. “A professional can get to the bottom of it to see if it’s stemming from something like lack of calcium, over-exercising, or something else. They can ensure that you’re getting the proper nutrients for calcium absorption and strong bones—like vitamin D and vitamin K, just to name a couple.”


You Overeat or Binge when You Feel Emotional

Whether you go overboard when you’re anxious, sad, or even happy, this is a red flag if you can’t divorce the feeling with the habit. “Otherwise, it can lead to unhealthy patterns that can result in weight gain and all the associated diseases like diabetes, heart disease, and cancer,” say The Nutrition Twins. “A dietitian (and, sometimes, in combination with a therapist) can help you to deal with the emotions so you can conquer the overeating.”


You’re Stretched Too Thin

You work a full-time job, a sideline gig, three pets, kids, and a husband. Simply put, you’re exhausted. “There’s a likely chance that you’re not fueling adequately to maintain that busy schedule,” say The Nutrition Twins. “A registered dietitian can help you to make sure you’re consistently providing your body with fuel throughout the day—and that you’re choosing the right foods to fuel your brain and your muscles and to prevent energy dips and crashes.”


You Want Babies!

Trying to get pregnant? “An RD can help prepare your body to have the healthiest pregnancy possible, and ensure your baby is getting all that it needs,” says Hayim. To get a good primer on pregnancy and what you can do now, don’t miss these ways to stay fertile in your 30s.

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6 Instances When Seeing a Nutritionist Is Exactly What You Need to Do

Many people may claim to be a “nutritionist” by only completing a short certification program; this is a red flag. Make sure that your nutritionist (or registered dietitian) has completed a four-year degree and has one (or all) of the above certifications.

Whether you’re on the fence about seeing a nutritionist or just need more justification as to why you should, we’ve rounded up some beneficial reasons you should seriously make an appointment.

1. You want to lose weight

Nutritionists are great for those looking to lose weight. | Quinn Rooney/Getty Images

Registered dietitians are proven to aid patients in weight loss. Whether you have a food intolerance they can help you sort out or give you a specific meal plan to follow, seeing someone who is trained in food and other nutrition is really helpful.

2. You need professional guidance

A professional can put you on the right path. |

There is plenty of fantastic advice on the Internet, in newspapers and magazines, and on TV, but the truth is, everyone is different. Every person differs when it comes to how food reacts in their body or which supplements to take. When seeking out a nutritionist for any sort of reason, they will go through your complete history: food, stress, family diseases, injuries, allergies, etc. They will then apply research findings to your specific needs and create an outline of helpful therapies and tools for you to reach your goals.

3. You have a food allergy or sensitivity

Junk food never helped anybody. |

This is an area where doctors lack. Many symptoms brought on by a food allergy or sensitivity often leaves doctors prescribing us medications we don’t need. If you have a stomach problem or digestive issue, it can oftentimes be caused by a gluten sensitivity or allergy (celiac disease), lactose intolerance, or other kinds of irritations brought on by foods you eat. If you have been recently diagnosed with a full-blown allergy or sensitivity or you suspect you may have one, see a nutritionist.

Nutrition information in medical school is usually inadequate and not a primary focus of a conventional doctor’s training. Turning to a dietitian who has years and years of practice surrounding food and our biochemical makeup is a great resource.

4. You’re always tired

Feeling wiped? | Thinkstock

If you find yourself not having enough energy to do the things you love, or your work performance is declining due to fatigue, turning to your diet may be important. If your doctor can’t find anything wrong with you, but you still experience these symptoms, a nutritionist or a dietitian may be able to pinpoint which foods cause us to feel a certain way and what you should eat to increase your energy levels.

5. You have a chronic disease

A nutritionist will help you come up with the best diet for your disease. |

Our bodies are designed to eat natural, whole foods to support our biochemical makeup. Oftentimes, nutrition alone isn’t given enough credit in supporting the body during chronic illness, be it heart disease, MS, cancer, or respiratory diseases. Food can slow down the progression of diseases and ease symptoms. Putting copious amounts of toxic medicine in our body is definitely not the only answer, and perhaps not the way it was intended to be.

6. You simply want to increase the longevity and quality of your life

You just want to be a better you. |

You may benefit from seeing a nutritionist even if nothing is wrong. There’s power in seeking help to prevent diseases later on in life. Whether you want help enhancing your already healthy routine, want some advice on how to change your diet as you get older, or simply to hold you accountable for your eating habits. Going to the doctor when we’re sick or not feeling right is when it’s too late. Seeing a nutritionist or dietitian when you’re feeling good allows you to prevent diseases in the future.

The Pros and Cons of Hiring a Nutritionist or Dietitian

If you are thinking about hiring a nutritionist or dietitian, you’ll want to be aware of the major pros and cons before going in.


You’ll go beyond fad, or popular, diets.

Just because keto is all the rage on the internet doesn’t mean that your nutritionist or dietitian is going to suggest it to you. Instead, they can help separate fact from fiction. “They are professionals and help people to make sustainable changes,” says Registered Dietitian Nutritionist Mascha Davis MPH, RDN. “Dietitians want you to succeed long-term. They will help you find a diet that works. Because their work is evidence-based, they won’t sell you fad diets and trends.”

And remember, nutrition is only part of living a healthy lifestyle. Another part of it is exercise—that’s where Aaptiv comes in.

They can design personal plans.

Seeing advice online and reading about the experiences of others can be interesting, but what worked for someone else may not work for you body. A dietitian will first consider everything about you and then design a plan that fits all your needs. “Medical nutrition therapy, or nutrition counseling administered by a dietitian, should be based on the individual’s unique biophysical makeup and lifestyle needs,” says Cornell. “This way, you receive personalized care as opposed to blanket-approach nutrition advice obtained from the internet, diet books, and/or nutrition trends that may or may not work for you.”

They can spot nutrient deficiencies.

It’s hard to tell on your own if you are eating a balanced diet. Hiring a nutritionist or dietitian can help you uncover what you may be lacking. “You could be missing some minor nutrients in your daily diet that make a major impact on the way you feel,” says Cornell. “A dietitian is trained to spot these nutrient deficiencies (or toxicities) and help you to correct them with the goal of leaving you feeling your best.”

A well balanced diet is also the perfect post-Aaptiv class fuel. Learn more about our classes here.

They can help you develop a healthy relationship with food.

A good dietitian will not only help you figure out what to eat, but they will also help change your relationship with food. “Dietitians—more than any other healthcare professional or nutritionist— understand how to administer nutrition advice in a manner that relaxes the individual’s relationship with food to encourage healthy eating behaviors,” says Cornell. “This takes into account body image, self-confidence, confidence in your own food knowledge, and understanding how food intake supports your daily lifestyle.”


Your diet can feel restrictive.

Hiring a dietary expert might lead you to feel like you’re being restricted at first. This can be detrimental to your health, especially if you’re someone who has struggled with mental health issues in the past. “Sometimes, if the nutrition counseling is not administered in a relaxed fashion or too much emphasis is placed on strict guidelines (which are rarely appropriate), it can cause the patient or individual being counseled to become hyper-focused on their food intake,” says Cornell. “And this may lead to disordered eating behaviors or unnecessary restrictions of certain food groups from their diet.”

Insurance doesn’t always cover it.

Unfortunately, hiring a nutritionist or dietitian can cost you a pretty penny. “Not all insurances cover seeing a dietitian, or they may only cover certain conditions,” says Registered Dietitian Nutritionist Megan Casper, M.S., RDN. “Many insurances are beginning to cover more, so double check before ruling seeing a dietitian out.”

They don’t always tackle underlying issues.

Hiring a nutritionist or dietitian can be helpful when it comes to managing your health issues. However, nutrition doesn’t always take into account the whole picture. “We all know we should probably be eating more chicken and veggies than cheeseburgers and French fries,” says Psychotherapist Dr. Eliza Kingsford. “Just working with a nutritionist often doesn’t address the underlying emotional context for weight issues. Without working on those pieces, more nutrition information is not going to be that useful.”

Finding the right person can be a challenge.

Hiring a nutritionist or dietitian that doesn’t align with your beliefs can feel frustrating. It might even make you feel worse. “Finding a dietitian is almost as hard as finding a therapist,” says Davis. “You might not like the first person you see. But, this doesn’t mean that you shouldn’t keep trying.”

It can take some trial and error. Once you find a good fit, hiring a nutritionist or dietitian can ultimately be very beneficial for your health. Take time to map out exactly what you’re hoping to get out your relationship with a wellness professional. From there, prioritize research and consult your network to find someone who aligns with your needs and wants.

Finding the right balance is key when living a healthy style, that’s why Aaptiv has workouts of different levels and lengths across multiple categories. There’s something for everyone!

Top 10 Reasons to See a Nutritionist

Hello everyone! I’m thrilled to join the NaturoMedica team as your nutritionist. I want to take this opportunity to tell you about my role at NaturoMedica and how I can serve those of you who trust the NaturoMedica team with your healthcare.

Thankfully, in the 21st century, we are no longer passive observers of our healthcare. Gone are the days of “take two pills and call me in the morning”. We are now co-pilots in our quest for optimal health. We are engaged, informed and empowered. We utilize every tool at our disposal to find healing. I see nutrition as being one of those tools.

I’ve dedicated my life to finding joy in feeding people and helping them understand how food affects them and enables them to function at the top of their game. My goal is to help you find a healthy and effective strategy to utilize food to heal and nourish your body.

I can assist your doctor in carrying out the plan they developed for you. To do that, we discuss your lifestyle, eating habits and will use this information to put together and ideal meal plan for you. This will include strategies for preparing food for your family and dealing with special events like socializing and traveling.

People often ask me if they should seek out advice from a nutritionist. For most of you, the answer is a resounding yes! Here are my top 10 reasons that you should see a nutritionist.

1. Food allergy testing followed by an elimination diet:

Food allergy/sensitivity testing is a great tool to help you identify the foods that may be causing inflammation or symptoms of disease. Oftentimes when people see their test results their heart sinks because a lot of their favorite foods are on the list.

I can help you make sense of the results of your food sensitivity testing and help you identify foods that trigger inflammatory reactions. Following an elimination diet my guidance can help you make dietary changes in a simple way.

2. Digestive Issues:

Diarrhea, constipation, irregular bowel movements, heartburn and acid reflux are common symptoms of digestive disturbance and are often diagnosed as irritable bowel syndrome (IBS). Perhaps you have been living with some of these symptoms thinking that this is just the way your body digests food normally.

I can help you better understand your digestive process and improve your well- being by helping you identify the root cause of your discomfort. I can help you come up with a well-balanced meal plan that includes the foods that your body can tolerate.

3. Weight Management:

Have you struggled with your weight for a long time? Perhaps you have tried many diets and ended up frustrated because the weight comes back. I can help! Weight management is more than calories in and calories out. Together with your doctor, I can help you get to the bottom of your weight issues, as they relate to your family history, hormone levels, lifestyle and genetic factors.

I can develop an individualized meal plan and lifestyle program for you. The goal is to help you achieve your weight management goals in a safe, gradual, and manageable way.

4. Abnormal Lab Values:

As a nutritionist, I am trained to help you assess your dietary intake as it relates to the effects of food on your body. Abnormal blood tests like glucose, iron, cholesterol or thyroid function, may show you how the body is reacting to what you are eating or to your lifestyle choices.

By carefully looking at your food and lifestyle, I can make suggestions on how to get your labs back to a normal range. This, in turn, will decrease your risk of developing chronic conditions such as cardiovascular disease, diabetes or autoimmune conditions.

5. Mood Disorders:

Studies in the last few years have confirmed what we already suspected: There is a clear connection between the body and the mind. When we are living in the “fight or flight” mode we secrete more adrenaline and cortisol. We also know that exercise helps us get to a peaceful state by burning off the stress hormones. We also recognize the beneficial effect of a restful night’s sleep on the body and the positive calming effect of love and support. Just like sleep, exercise and connection can help us feel calmer. Good nutrition is a key tool in the armamentarium your doctor uses to restore you health.

If you are experiencing a mood disorder like depression, anxiety, ADHD, autism or other mental health conditions, a carefully thought out food plan can make a huge difference.

6. Fertility Issues or Planning a Pregnancy:

Meeting with a nutritionist can be helpful to optimize your health throughout conception, pregnancy and birth. I can provide guidance with nourishing meal plans that will enhance your health and the health of your child. This is an excellent time to ensure you and your child have all the necessary nutrients for optimal growth and development.

7. Eating Disorders and “Picky Eaters”:

After a diagnosis of an eating disorder, it is easy to feel overwhelmed and unable to cope. At this difficult time, it is crucial to meet with a professional who can walk with you hand in hand as you recover and help restore your health. An eating disorder can have many faces, such as bulimia or anorexia nervosa or “disordered eating” where a person chooses to eat only certain foods with specific colors or textures. For example, this can be seen in children who have difficulties with new tastes and textures and are described by parents as “picky eaters.”

I can assist you as you navigate this road, by providing you with ideas on how to deal with the transition back to a regular whole foods diet. I can also help you feel empowered to develop a healthy relationship with food.

8. Meal Planning:

I can be a key player on your team if you are looking to improve your diet and learn how to apply the principles of an eating plan, such as Paleo, Mediterranean, Ketogenic, GAPS, FODMAP, vegan, Wahl’s Protocol or any other special diet. The internet is full of advice, but it is difficult to discern what is a fad diet vs following a diet based on scientific principles. I can help you walk this road and provide you with sound nutrition information.

9. Athletic Performance:

Athletes who need a competitive edge or would like to boost their performance should focus on nutrition intake. The amount of energy, macro and micro nutrients as well as meal timing can make a big difference in performance. Allow me to analyze your food intake and provide you with an eating program tailored to your athletic and lifestyle needs.

10. Desire to Improve Current Eating Habits:

Every special diet has an impact on your health. Switching from a regular diet to a vegan diet doesn’t necessarily mean you will be healthier. A vegan diet may be healthier than the Standard American Diet (SAD), but only if planned according to your nutritional needs. Otherwise it may lack key nutrients that could lead to nutritional deficiencies. I can help you navigate the challenges associated with special diets when you eat out, travel and socialize.

No matter what your nutritional needs or health goals are, as your nutritionist I can help you create a meal plan that will work for you. The power of a healthy diet can be life changing.

I look forward to meeting you and walking alongside you on your journey to complete health. One thing I can tell you is that when you find the perfect nourishment for your body, you will feel so alive and so clear that nothing will taste as good as how you feel. My philosophy is that food is medicine and it can help you live your life to the fullest. I want to help you explore and learn different ways to utilize food in your health journey. Together we will find the best food that would do the most good for your body and your health condition.

Mention that you read this blog and you will receive your first one hour nutrition visit with me for $69. This is an excellent way to find out if you can benefit from seeing a nutritionist.

8 Situations When You Should Consult a Nutritionist That May Surprise You

Photo: Lipik1/Getty Images

Most people think about seeing a registered dietitian when they’re trying to lose weight. That makes sense since they’re experts in helping people achieve a healthy weight in a sustainable way.

But dietitians are qualified to do a whole lot more than help you diet. (In fact, some are anti-diet.) In reality, there are plenty of other situations where they can make your life *way* easier that you’re probably not even aware of. Here are all the unexpected ways they can help you, straight from dietitians themselves.

You’re struggling with binge eating or emotional eating.

“Many times, the reason you are overeating or binging comes down to eating the wrong balance of macronutrients,” explains Alix Turoff, a registered dietitian and personal trainer. In other words, if you eat a meal that’s all carbs and very little protein or fat, you might feel ravenous, whereas a meal that’s balanced between carbs, protein, and fat will leave you feeling satiated for a longer period of time. “A registered dietitian can help you to balance your food in a way that does not lead you to overconsume.”

They can also help you to create better habits around food and can point you in the right direction of a therapist or psychiatrist if they feel you need it. Dietitians are trained to know when someone needs to see a mental health practitioner for their food issues, and they work very closely with therapists to help get to the bottom of them, says Turoff. (Related: The #1 Myth About Emotional Eating Everyone Needs to Know About)

You’re considering a new supplement routine.

It’s a good idea to consult a doctor before making major lifestyle changes, and if you’re considering a new supplement regimen, it’s smart to consult an RD as well.

Think of it this way: “Investing in an RD session can save you loads of money on supplements your body might not even need,” says registered dietitian Anna Mason. Dietitians love to help you balance your diet and maximize your health with whole foods first, and quality supplements only when needed, Mason says. “Before you jump for the latest herbal pill, find an RD to give you and your health a solid once-over.” (BTW, here’s why one dietitian is changing her view on supplements.)

You work the night shift.

Working at night can be difficult to adjust to, but it also comes with some health risks. “Late night or overnight shift workers, like nurses or medical personnel, are at increased risk of being overweight, developing diabetes, and high blood pressure,” says registered dietitian Anne Danahy. In fact, a recent study found female shift workers have a 19 percent greater risk of developing cancer, especially breast, GI, and skin cancers. “A dietitian can advise you on the type of diet that can reduce the risk of any/all of those diseases, as well as help with meal planning and food choices to eat when your waking hours are flipped.”

You’ve been diagnosed with high cholesterol.

Yup, there’s medication for that. But you may be able to reduce your cholesterol through dietary changes. “One of the best ways to naturally reduce your cholesterol is by eating a high-fiber diet,” says registered dietitian Brooke Zigler. A dietitian can help you develop a meal plan that adds in high-fiber foods and removes other foods from the diet (such as saturated fats). They can also help you understand which foods really do contribute to high cholesterol, and which ones you don’t need to worry about. Eggs, for example, once considered off-limits for people with high cholesterol, are now considered A-OK (in reasonable amounts of course).

You’re fed up with IBS.

“Irritable bowel syndrome can be quite literally a thorn in the side,” says Mason. “After an IBS diagnosis, a registered dietitian should be a team captain for the treatment of this condition.” While IBS is sometimes treated with the help of a dietitian in the U.S., it’s not standard, but because symptoms are triggered by the digestion of very specific sugars, dietitians are uniquely qualified to guide and oversee the elimination and reintroduction of each unique sugar in the diet, she explains. This approach is starting to catch on in places like Australia, which boasts a collaborative treatment from a gastroenterologist and an RD for all its IBS patients. “Through this approach, many patients are able to find a new control over their symptoms that surpasses what medication alone can do”, says Mason. Just be sure to look for a dietitian who specializes in IBS and the low-FODMAP diet.

You’re planning to get pregnant, are pregnant for the first time, or are dealing with infertility.

“So many women gain either too much weight or not enough weight while they’re pregnant,” Turoff says. “We’re never really taught how much our needs change from trimester to trimester, so this is one of the best times to see an RD.” While an ob-gyn can give you guidelines for weight and how much to eat before, during, and after pregnancy, a dietitian will actually help you figure out how to achieve those weight and calorie goals.

“Your dietitian can also help you as you transition out of pregnancy and give you strategies for losing the pregnancy weight postpartum,” adds Turoff. Dietitians who specialize in this area can also help with fertility issues and balancing hormones, she says. (Wondering whether fertility foods are a real thing? We have answers.)

You can’t sleep through the night.

“Sleep plays a critical role in energy and overall health, yet when you can’t fall asleep or stay asleep you probably don’t consider the impact diet may have on catching enough zzz’s,” says Erin Palinski-Wade, a registered dietitian and author of Belly Fat Diet for Dummies. “Diets deficient in key nutrients such as magnesium have been shown to lead to insomnia, while certain beneficial nutrients such as tryptophan can aid the body’s production of the sleep-inducing hormone melatonin.” A dietitian can help you make little tweaks to your diet that may improve your sleep quality and quantity, she says. (For some quick sleep-friendly food ideas, scope these foods that help you sleep.)

You’re about to turn 30, 40, or 50.

“Every ‘body’ needs a tune-up periodically, and the 10-year point always makes sense,” says Danahy. “Most people notice when they hit 30 that they suddenly can’t get away with eating the same way they did in their 20s.” True that. Metabolism, hormones, and nutritional needs change as we age, so it’s always a good idea to check in with a nutrition pro when you’re entering a new decade.

“The biggest challenge I see with my female clients is when they move into their 50s and the combination of age and menopause hits,” she adds. “Women who work with an RD when they turn 40 develop better eating and exercise habits, and they’ll really benefit from that when they move into that next decade.”

When you’re serious about losing weight and keeping it off, hiring a nutritionist is probably one of the most kick-ass moves you can make. The right pro can help you identify your unique needs, establish awesome eating habits, and hold you accountable. On the flip side, the wrong nutritionist can be a waste of money and torpedo your health and weight-loss efforts, says St. Louis-based registered dietitian Alex Caspero, R.D.

To find the best food guru for you—and avoid any red flags—just ask these four questions:

1. What certifications do you have?
“When you hear the word ‘nutritionist,’ you assume that person is qualified to give solid healthy eating advice. But that’s not always so,” says Jim White, R.D., owner of Jim White Fitness & Nutrition Studios in Virginia and spokesperson for the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics. “Pretty much anyone can call themselves a nutritionist or nutrition coach. You can get some certifications in a matter of hours or even minutes online.”

In fact, Caspero knows one dog with a nutrition certification. (Her human got her the certification to prove that you don’t need much to call yourself a nutritionist.) Hilarious and terrifying, right?

“Many ‘coaches’ are product promoters in disguise.”

Registered dietitians and registered dietitian nutritionists, however, are certified by the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics’ Accreditation Council for Education in Nutrition and Dietetics (ACEND). They have a degree (about half of R.D.s and R.D.N.s have advanced degrees) in dietetics, a 1,000-hour internship, and a national board exam under their belts.

RELATED: 5 Essential Questions You Should Ask a Trainer Before Hiring Them

So make sure any nutritionist you consider working with is an R.D. or R.D.N. (the two credentials mean the same thing).

The easiest way to find a qualified nutritionist near you is to search the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics’ online expert finder. You can also ask your primary health provider for recommendations or see if any R.D.s or R.D.N.s are on staff at your gym.

2. What’s your specialty and approach?
Once you find an R.D. or R.D.N., you need to make sure that professional’s specialties and philosophy jive with yours.

RELATED: 12 Nutritionists Share the Top Tips They Give to Clients Trying to Lose Weight

While the main goal of asking questions is to make sure that the nutritionist meets your personal needs, it also gives you a chance to sniff out any red flags, says White. The biggest ones: extremely low-cal diets (below 1,200 calories per day) and cutting out entire food groups. If a nutritionist claims that every person should avoid dairy or wheat or whatever else, it’s clear that person is not following science-based recommendations, he says. (Kick off your weight-loss journey with these moves from Women’s Health’s Look Better Naked DVD.)

“Also, be wary of anyone who makes you purchase a specific item, especially when it comes to weight loss. Many ‘coaches’ are product promoters in disguise,” says Caspero. “I’ve had to ‘fix’ so many clients who worked with these scammers, I’ve lost count.”

“We take patients for preventative care, so they typically don’t have to have a medical condition to work with us through insurance.”

3. How much do sessions cost—and do you take insurance?
“Costs vary by location, experience, and specialty,” says Caspero. “However, expect to pay $150 to $225 or more for an initial appointment and $75 to $125 for follow-up visits.” (How often and long you work with your nutritionist is up to the two of you. Some women schedule only two or three appointments, while others work together for years, says Mauney.)

Another factor that can make a big difference in your bottom line is whether or not the nutritionist you are considering accepts insurance; many R.D.s and R.D.N.s do. “We take patients for preventative care, so they typically don’t have to have a medical condition to work with us through insurance,” says White.

4. Do you offer any group programs?
Some professionals also offer both in-person sessions and online support groups, says Mauney. They can take the place of one-on-one sessions or act as a supplement to traditional sessions.

RELATED: See What 9 Nutritionists Eat for Lunch on the Reg

While they’re not right for everyone, these groups are especially helpful for people who are working to improve their relationship with food and find strength in numbers. “It can help to have support from people who get where you are coming,” she says.

Bonus: These options tend to be significantly less expensive than traditional one-on-one sessions with a nutritionist, making them an attractive option for people who are on a tight budget, she says.

Between what you hear on TV and read in the news, eating right can seem like a real challenge. But it doesn’t have to be. A registered dietitian, or RD, or registered dietitian nutritionist, or RDN, will partner with you to develop a safe and realistic eating plan that you can stick with for the long haul. To guide and motivate you, an RD or RDN will use creative and out-of-the-box strategies to help with meal planning, grocery shopping and mindful eating.

Anyone can call themselves a nutritionist. But, only an RD or RDN has completed multiple layers of education and training established by the Accreditation Council for Education in Nutrition and Dietetics. All RDs or RDNs must:

  • Get a four-year degree which includes a specially designed, accredited nutrition curriculum.
  • Complete an extensive supervised program of practice at a health care facility, foodservice organization or community agency.
  • Pass a rigorous registration exam.
  • Maintain continuing education credits throughout their career.

What’s more, roughly half of all RDs and RDNs hold graduate degrees and many have certifications in specialized fields, such as sports, pediatric, renal, oncology or gerontological nutrition.

Do you want to lose or gain weight? Are you pregnant, looking to become pregnant or just had a child? Are you looking for ways to maintain your health in your older years? Are you an athlete looking to boost performance? These are just a few of the reasons people seek the expert, science-based advice of a RDN.

10 Common Reasons to Consult with a RDN

You Want Help Managing Diabetes, High Blood Pressure or Other Chronic Diseases

An RDN can help you understand your condition and how the foods you choose might affect it. Plus, a registered dietitian nutritionist works with you to create an eating plan that has the nutrients needed to manage your condition.

You Are Thinking of Having or Have Had Gastric Bypass Surgery

Since your stomach can only manage small servings after surgery, it’s tricky to get the nutrients that your body needs. As a part of your health care team, an RDN helps you make changes to your eating plan without settling for less taste.

You Have Digestive Problems

Working closely with you and your doctor, a registered dietitian nutritionist helps fine-tune your diet. Guidance can help you make choices that do not aggravate your condition. For example, limiting fried foods, or caffeinated and carbonated drinks.

You’re Pregnant, Trying to Get Pregnant, or a New Mom

Meet with an RDN to make sure you get the nutrients you need for a healthy pregnancy. And, after the baby comes, a registered dietitian nutritionist can help make sure you’re getting the nutrients you need for you and your little one.

Unsure what you can eat because of celiac disease, food allergies, lactose intolerance, or another condition? It’s easy to be overwhelmed by what you think you can’t eat. And, that can lead to a boring diet that doesn’t give your body the nutrition it needs. An RDN can teach you strategies about identifying foods to avoid and help you find substitutions to keep your diet balanced and tasty.

Your Teenager Has Issues with Food and Eating Healthfully

As part of the treatment team, RDNs counsel individuals with eating disorders such as anorexia and bulimia.

You Need to Gain or Lose Weight

Fad diets may sound like the quick ticket to weight gain or loss, but they rarely work for very long. An RDN can suggest calorie sources for healthy weight gain. Or, design a personalized weight loss plan, including diet changes and physical activity — while still eating all your favorite foods.

You’re Caring for an Aging Parent

An RDN can help with food or drug interactions, proper hydration, special diets for hypertension and changing taste buds as you age.

You Want Practical Lifestyle Advice

Need help sorting through the facts and fiction of nutrition headlines? Learn how to read labels at the supermarket, discover how healthy cooking can be inexpensive, learn how to dine out without ruining your eating plan and how to resist workplace temptations. When you see an RD or RDN, the last thing you’ll get is one-size-fits-all diet advice. After learning about your health history, favorite foods, eating and exercise habits, an RD or RDN will help you set goals and prioritize. Follow-up visits will focus on maintenance and monitoring your progress.

You Want to Improve Your Performance in Sports

A RDN can help you set goals to achieve results — whether you’re running a marathon, skiing or jogging with your dog.

You Realize the Need to Feed Your Family Healthier Foods but You Do Not Cook

A registered dietitian nutritionist can teach you how to plan and prepare meals in a simple, healthful and convenient way.

Get in touch with a registered dietitian nutritionist in your area.

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