A dietitian is a professional that has a detailed understanding of the nutritional value of food, and how that nutrition affects the health of the body. Their role is to promote good health through proper eating.
Dietitians give nutritional advice to people that require a special diet for problems associated with medical conditions such as diabetes, heart disease, allergies, or gastrointestinal disorders, to name a few. As well, dietitians give advice to people that are underweight, overweight, or to those people who need more information on nutrition and how it works for the body.
Both adults and children are able to see dietitians, and they are generally referred to one by their doctor or another health professional. Referral occurs after the diagnosis of a medical condition, or where a review of their dietary requirements is required. An Accredited Practicing Dietitian (APD) is a fully university-qualified professional that is recognised by the Dietitians Association of Australia (DAA). Visiting an APD will ensure that you are seeing a professional that is fully up to date, as they use the latest scientific information in their work and translate it into practical nutritional advice for their clients.
Dietitians work in a range of fields, including:
Consultations with dietitians generally last for around forty five minutes to one hour, and during the consultation, the dietitian will ask you several detailed questions. These questions will cover things such as your current diet; what exercise plan or habits you have, if any; and your general health and lifestyle. If you are seeing the dietitian because of a medical condition, they will work closely with your doctor and they may need to review and/or carry out blood tests or other tests in order to be able to create the best diet for you. Often, you will be given written material to take home. The material may include meal plans and nutrition information.
When seeing a dietitian, you will usually need to visit them more than once. The follow up appointments are so that the dietitian can keep track of how you are progressing on your new eating plan and also so that they can make any changes that are needed. This is because the dietitian’s primary aim is to teach you how to eat in a way that keeps you as healthy as possible, and also so that you can make the best food choices for yourself as an individual.
The cost to see a dietitian varies according to different circumstances; however, the cost has very little bearing on the quality of the services that you will receive. Dietitians are trained professionals. If the dietitian works in a public hospital or in a community health centre, there is no charge for their services. A private dietitian will charge anywhere from $30 to $150 for the initial (first) consultation, but any follow up appointments are usually cheaper. Some dietitians will offer concession prices. Many private health funds will offer rebates for seeing a dietitian, allowing you to recoup some of the costs, and some consultations provided by Accredited Practicing Dietitians are covered by Medicare.