In honor of National Nutrition Month (which took place in March), I wanted to share what a dietitian’s role is in helping you with your diabetes management. I always suggest a complete accredited diabetes management program, which offers information including diabetes overview, medications, complications, exercise, stress management and nutrition.

A registered dietitian (or RD) can be a CDE (or certified diabetes educator), but not all CDEs are dietitians. As an RN (registered nurse)/CDE who has worked in the field of diabetes for over 23 years helping patients, I believe that seeing a RD/CDE for the nutrition component is imperative to your comprehensive diabetes education. It can make a huge difference in your knowledge and attitude towards food and a healthful way of eating. Education and disease state management program participation will hopefully increase in the future to help us practice better prevention and help get health care costs down.

What is a registered dietitian?

RDs are professionals who are regulated and registered by the state and must work to the highest standard. They either hold a Bachelor’s degree in Dietetics or a science related 4 year degree with a post graduate diploma in dietetics. They must do an internship in dietetics and sit for a formal multiple hour exam and pass it. Only then do they receive a license to practice. They must continue to accumulate certified educational credits in nutrition in a timely fashion to maintain their license.

According to the Canadian Registered Dietitian Association the definition of a dietitian can include:

  1. Develop diet plans and counsel patients on special diet modifications.
  2. Operate private consulting practices to provide expertise in nutrition as well as promote health and prevent disease. This is often seen in diabetes management education programs that are accredited. Dietitians in private practice are usually reimbursed by Medicare or other health insurance plans when they have proper documentation, which will save you out of pocket payment – except for the co-pay.
  3. Work with individuals, groups, classes, group doctor visits, work places and media to provide dietary advice for healthy living.
  4. Design a personalized meal plan only for you based on your specific needs.
  5. Equip you with techniques to help you stay focused on your nutrition plan.
  6. Provide on going support and encouragement by seeing you for multiple visits, writing goals with you, offering phone or email follow ups as well as support group sessions.

Who do they usually see? Just a few of their roles:

  1. Those who just want to shed pounds and eat healthier.
  2. People with pre diabetes or IGT (impaired glucose tolerance).
  3. People with diabetes (Type1, Type 2 or Gestational).
  4. People with kidney disease, thyroid disease or gout.
  5. People who have high blood pressure or high cholesterol.
  6. People with eating disorders.
  7. People who can not gain or maintain their weight.
  8. People with IBS (Irritable Bowel Syndrome), Colitis, Crohn’s Disease, Acid Reflux or other digestive diseases.
  9. People taking Coumadin – a blood thinner that prevents one from eating certain foods.
  10. People with food allergies or food sensitivities.

I hope this gives you a better understanding of what Registered Dietitians can do to help promote your health, control your weight and manage your diabetes. Find a registered dietitian and accredited diabetes management program in your area and get educated today!

NOTE: Consult your Doctor first to make sure my recommendations fit your special health needs.