Maximize your visits with a registered dietitian

You've set up an appointment with a registered dietitian (RD), great. Now you could go through the motions of listening to what he or she says, agree to do it, and leave it at that, but you'd be missing out on a ton of incredibly personalized and useful information. RDs tailor their advice to your individual likes, dislikes, habits, routines, and medical needs. In order to allow them to do their job, you need to do more than sit and nod your head. To make sure you get the most out of your time with an RD check out our top 5 list before you head to the office.

Five tips for working with a registered dietitian

1. Keep an accurate food diary

A food diary is an incredibly valuable and useful tool both to help you understand your eating habits and help your RD set beneficial and realistic goals. It tracks every bite you take as well as foods that you may be missing. "It's easy for people to forget what they are eating, especially if they are eating on-the-run," says Bonnie Taub-Dix, MA, RD, CDN, nutrition expert and author of Read It Before You Eat It. When keeping a food diary include not only every food and drink you consume but also the amounts of each as much as possible and the time of day. And to really get the most bang for your buck, do not eat and write only foods you think you should, eat normally and write it all down. This will provide the most accurate picture of how you eat and let the RD create realistic goals.

2. Don't leave out your favorite foods

A common misconception is there is no room in a healthy diet for those less-than-healthy, yet favorite foods. However, any eating plan that bans favorite foods isn't one you'll be likely to stick with for long. And according to Taub-Dix, "A diet is not for a week, month, or even a year--a diet needs to be realistic and followed for a lifetime." An RD can help you find ways to include your favorites into a healthy and maintainable eating plan you can follow for life. So be sure to let him or her know what foods you can't live without.

3. Discuss your routine/schedule

Are you a night owl who finds yourself heading to the kitchen for a midnight snack or an early bird who's out the door at dawn? Your RD needs to know your usual sleeping and eating habits as well as your work schedule, exercise routines, and medication regimen. This ensures the eating suggestions made for you provides the right amount of food at the right times to help you get through your day feeling energized, keeping your blood sugar levels stable, and not feeling hungry.

4. Follow up with honest feedback

Productive visits with an RD include a good amount of back and forth. Once you've gone home and tried the suggestions she or he has given you be sure to follow up. Share how the changes you made fit into your life. Also, if there were goals you were unable to meet or that weren't a good fit for you, discuss why. This allows you and the RD to develop future goals that may be better suited to your lifestyle. Keep in mind Taub-Dix reminds, "Your eating habits took a lifetime to build, so you can't expect to change them after one visit."

5. Don't be afraid to ask questions

Questions allow you to obtain a better understanding of how healthy eating and your RDs advice can successfully fit into your life. Need help cooking nutritiously or with a specific dish -- bring your recipe to review. Unsure of how a new food can fit into your eating plan -- bring in the package so you can go over the nutrition facts label and ingredient list. Remember, all that can come of more questions is more knowledge.

Do you have a question for Heidi? Head over to the Ask the Expert section to submit your question.

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About Heidi McIndoo

Heidi McIndoo, MS, RD, is a registered dietitian who has been counseling women, men, and children about healthy eating for twenty years. She firmly believes food should be enjoyed and all foods can fit into a healthy diet -- it's just a matter of how much and how often.

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