The ABCs of Seeing a Dietitian

New experiences are often a source for anxiety, but don’t let your being a first-timer stop you from seeing the dietitian. Use these tips to help get the most out of visits.

So what’s it like? Consider a visit to the dietitian as the mid-point between seeing the doctor and seeing a therapist. A dietitian will assess many things about you, here is a rough sketch:

The dietitian will most likely measure your height and weight at your first visit. From there, he/she will calculate your Body Mass Index. They may also choose to obtain certain circumference measurements (most commonly around the waist) or conduct skinfold measurements to determine body fatness versus lean body mass. They may also use a machine called bioelectric impedence which runs a small check (you can’t even feel it) for this same purpose.


The dietitian will assess any recent bloodwork (typically within the last 6 months) to determine any nutrition-related lab values. For example, they might check hemoglobin A1C, a lipid panel (cholesterol, triglycerides), protein indicators, liver function tests, etc. depending on what brings you to their office.


This includes your personal medical history and family medical history. If your visit with the RD is in an acute care setting, this would also include information for your current illness, review of medical record, medications and vitamins.


Finally, the meat and potatoes (pun intended) of the visit. You may complete a nutrition survey or journal asking basic questions about your dietary habits. Or the RD might have you complete any number of questionnaires:

• 24-hour recall: just like it sounds, you tell the RD anything and everything you ate and drank in the past 24-hours

• Food Frequency Questionnaire: Includes questions to understand habits. How often do you eat fruits? Veggies? Fast food?

• Typical day/usual intake: similar to 24-hour recall, but less stringent

• Physical activity questionnaires: to understand exercise habits


This is to understand factors about you that might impact your nutrition status and/or your ability to accomplish behavior change. For example, who lives at home with you, what is your weekly food budget, how many mouths do you feed, what’s your schedule like (day shift/night shift), and this list may go on and on. Do you have a workout buddy? A weight-loss buddy?

This may seem daunting, but do not fear. These questions will be weaved into a normal flow of conversation to help you feel comfortable with your RD. Making any nutrition-related behavior change is a big step and we understand that.

Click here to find an RD.

Tanya Zuckerbrot, MS, RD is a best selling author and the creator of "The F-Factor Diet", an innovative nutritional program she has used for over a decade to provide thousands with the tools they need to achieve easy weight loss and maintenance, and improved health and well-being. In January 2011 Tanya launched the F-Factor food line with the largest natural foods company in the US, the Hain Celestial group. She is thrilled to be able to offer the highest fiber products on the market to date. Become a fan of Tanya on Facebook or follow her on Twitter.