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Published on May 02, 2016

Is a Nutritionist or a Dietitian Right for You?

May 2, 2016

Nutritionist working with patientMost people do not have to see a nutritionist or a dietitian to maintain their weight and lifestyle. There are certain health conditions – diabetes, lipids disorder, triglyceride disorders – that can require regular check-ins and monitoring of food intake. Seeing one of these specialists often coincides with wanting a diet-based change in your life. This can range from managing your weight, cholesterol or blood pressure, to addressing food allergies, intolerance, or gastrointestinal problems. The need or desire to change your diet can affect people of all lifestyles, often changing with age as well.

Determining if you should see a nutritionist or a dietitian is the place to begin. Both nutritionists and registered dietitians have to maintain a current license with the state of Illinois. Nutritionists typically see people who are already healthy. A registered dietitian is a nutrition professional who is the most credible and objective source of nutrition information. They are trained in nutrition to prevent disease. Registered dietitian nutritionists (RDN) must complete a four-year program in Nutrition from an accredited university, 1,200 hours of supervised practice or a master’s degree. Upon completion of the program, they must pass a national exam. An RDN is usually found in a clinical setting like a hospital. They often assess and help patients with conditions like diabetes, lipid disorders, food allergies, and others that can be improved with changes in their food intake.

Registered Dietitian Nutritionist and Certified Diabetes Educator Rajni Sud with KishHealth System Physician Group, DeKalb, now part of Northwestern Medicine, states that, “People with a healthy lifestyle can still seek help from a nutritionist or dietitian. They can find benefits and validation for what they are presently doing and they can have access to up-to-date nutrition information. A nutritionist is also a valuable resource for the most accurate information on fad diets.”

Nutritionists and dietitians can also assist those who are not able to maintain a healthy lifestyle. Oftentimes an unhealthy lifestyle has led them to a dietitian in a clinical setting because of an additional health concern. When a nutritionist sees a patient with a medical condition such as diabetes, they listen to their concerns about how to improve their medical situation. “Some people need help with meal planning, grocery lists, recipes, and suggestions of local stores and food pantries that have healthy options,” states Sud. A consultation often gives a person struggling with health issues a place to start and someone to talk to so this change of lifestyle doesn’t feel so intimidating.

When visiting a nutritionist or dietitian for the first time the visit may last one to one and a half hours. This allows for an accurate assessment of the individual’s overall health, food history, medications, and lifestyle to be assessed. After gathering all of this information, the nutritionist or dietitian is able to make an individualized plan that will best work for the patient. If patients are able to use the education provided, then visits may take place every three to six months. If managing food intake is more difficult, a patient may need to be seen more frequently.

To make an appointment with Rajni Sud, RDN, please call 815.758.8671. For more information about nutritionists and dietitians at KishHealth System, part of Northwestern Medicine, please visit

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