October 18, 2023

The Benefits of Pursuing Nutrition Counseling with a Registered Dietitian

“Wait, what even is “nutrition counseling,” and why would I want to speak with a dietitian?”

Nutrition counseling is a free service that MANNA provides, offering community members the opportunity to speak with a registered dietitian about their nutrition-related behaviors, habits, and general foodie inquiries. Considering how much information is available to us online, in stores, and even by word of mouth from friends and relatives, navigating nutrition and making optimal food choices can be incredibly overwhelming and challenging.

Registered dietitian-nutritionists are healthcare professionals with special training and expertise in diet and nutrition. A dietitian can be a trusted resource for learning about food because they keep up with nutrition research. In addition, they take an individualized and evidence-based approach to provide the best possible care to those making (or thinking about making) food and behavior changes to manage their health. Due to their schooling, internship experience, and credentialing, dietitians can practice medical nutrition therapy (MNT), a nutrition-focused treatment reserved only for those with specialized training. MNT involves identifying an individual’s specific needs and talking through barriers that may stand in their way, along with gaps in knowledge. Receiving education from a qualified provider is a key strategy in the management of one’s nutritional health.

“What is there to talk about?”

Foods to Help Manage Health Conditions

Many chronic and acute illnesses have a connection to the food one eats. Sometimes we fall short of getting enough of a certain nutrient and the deficiency of it causes problems for the body. On the contrary, there are times when a change in the way one eats promotes disease management. Learning to reduce hidden sodium consumed, for example, may result in an improved blood pressure reading at an upcoming checkup.

To name a few nutrition-related health conditions, consider diabetes, kidney disease, cardiovascular disease, and cancer. Many people are newly diagnosed and have yet to receive guidance on how food choices impact related lab values or interact with medications. Each disease also comes with its own set of macronutrients (carbohydrates, protein, and fat) and micronutrients (vitamins and minerals) to pay close attention to. For some, weight changes are of concern and a discussion around energy-dense foods or meal timing may be a benefit.

Relationship with Food

Whether we like it or not, we all have a relationship with food. Eating habits can spur from countless triggers over the course of a lifetime and recognizing that a change is desired is a noble first step. Diet culture has a notable influence on eating trends, and even learned food behaviors from childhood can collide with the best of intentions to nourish the body. Recognizing patterns of behavior and talking through small steps to break a cycle is another reason some seek nutrition counseling.

Traditional diets often promote that there are “good” and “bad” foods, and they can be quite restrictive in their offerings. The truth is, all foods can fit into a balanced and healthy intake. Everyone has different preferences and different needs. Speaking with a dietitian may aid in becoming more comfortable eating a variety of foods, whether from learning the nutritional value of them or from discussing strategies for including them in day to day eating. With some guidance and oversight, it is also possible to reduce the guilt so many people experience from seeking enjoyment of their favorite foods.

Practical Skills for Everyday Life

Simply put, most people don’t learn a lot about nutrition as they are growing up. It’s easy to find oneself questioning their typical food choices when the educational tools to make informed decisions haven’t been offered. Nutrition is a complex science, but it can be broken down into bite sized pieces. Counseling with a dietitian provides access to the lessons and skills that many didn’t realize were missing from their understanding of the food that fuels their body.

Think about how food seeps into the facets of everyday living. We come across countless claims each day, whether from influencers, food marketing, or noncredible sources that claim to outline the “right” way to eat. Reviewing such information critically with a dietitian provides an opportunity to determine what is best for the individual at the receiving end. Learned skills, such as how to read nutrition facts labels or how to work in sources of various nutrients, can have practical applications when making day to day choices. Similarly, grocery shopping on a budget, cooking techniques, or being mindful of the portions that make a meal satisfying may be topics of interest that come in handy.

Ultimately, all food choices belong to the individual. Working one-on-one with a registered dietitian who can identify lifestyle and environmental factors at play is something that can broaden a perspective and create more opportunity for informed, empowered choices.

“How Do I Get Started?”

Nutrition counseling is offered over the phone and via Zoom. New clients can get started at no cost by having their provider fill out the MANNA Referral Form on their behalf.

Group lessons and cooking demos occur seasonally. Please call 215-496-2662 ext. 5 for more information and upcoming dates.

MANNA dietitians hope clients leave a nutrition counseling session with a sense of self-confidence and clear next steps for managing their health with newly acquired nutrition education.