Drawing a blank on the best nutrition questions to ask an expert? Gaby Vaca-Flores, RDN, CLE, outlines seven smart questions to ask a dietitian.
Whether it’s virtually or in-person, most people can benefit from chatting with a dietitian. At HUM, we provide free access to a personal dietitian to consult with after completing our quick nutrition assessment quiz. But how exactly can you work with a dietitian?
Optimizing your conversation with an RD can be as easy as preparing questions early to help them get the best insight on your goals. In fact, asking the right type of questions can sometimes make the difference between leaving the discussion feeling empowered versus somewhat confused.
How Can A Dietitian Help Me?
First, you might be wondering: If the dietitian is the expert, why should I come prepared with my own questions?
Ultimately, there are a few compelling advantages to having your own set of questions prepared for your chat with an RD.
- Gain clarity. Asking your burning questions can help demystify any confusing topics like diets, supplements, healthy versus unhealthy ingredients, etc.
- Improve results. By asking direct questions, you’re allowing your dietitian to better understand your goals, hesitations, and everything in between. The more insight your dietitian has on your needs, the more personalized your nutrition prescription will be. Hence, better results!
- Save time. If you have limited time to talk with your RD, you’ll want to make sure to have your list of questions on hand so that you can get the most out of your session. To save even more time, consider sending your list of questions to your RD in advance.
How do i prepare for a dietitian appointment?
Before getting to good questions to ask a dietitian, here are some preliminary steps to better guide your consultation.
The first and most important step is to reflect on your top goals. Note that your goals don’t have to be limited to healthy eating. To name a few, personal objectives can range from improved energy and mental clarity to better digestion.
Then, take a moment to reflect on any challenges that may be getting in the way of your goals. This can include social pressure, personal discipline, lack of resources, etc.
Center your questions around your goal and challenges alike. For example, if your goal is to eat more whole foods and less processed foods, some of the best questions include:
- What’s the difference between whole and processed foods?
- Is my protein powder considered a whole food?
- Since I have a busy schedule, do you recommend that I meal prep? How do I start?
7 Popular Questions to Ask a Dietitian
Without further ado, here are some of the best questions to ask a dietitian.
1. I’m thinking about trying this diet. What do I need to know?
I highly recommend asking your RD this question before starting a new diet. Dietitians are well versed in (most) popular diets, which is quite impressive given that there’s almost always a new fad diet floating around.
The key takeaway from this question is that you’re not asking for the RD’s opinion on this diet. Instead, you’re asking your RD for the information you need to follow the diet in the healthiest way possible and in respect to your goals.
Depending on your goals, your RD will likely help tailor your food intake to align with your lifestyle, eating habits, and activity level.
2. What supplements should I take?
Rather than spending countless hours trying to research which supplements are right for you, let your dietitian do the hard work for you.
At HUM, you can start by taking a quick 3-minute quiz to get personalized vitamin recommendations from the pros. Then, we pair you with a personal dietitian to consult on further curating your results and to answer any other questions you have.
Next, your RD has the skillset to look at all of the moving parts of your life, such as your:
- nutrient intake
- activity level
- daily schedule
All of this information can enable your dietitian to make the most apt recommendations. More importantly, your they can help ensure that you’re taking safe, high-quality supplements.
If you already take supplements, a good follow-up question would be to ask if your current supplement routine is appropriate for your goals and/or concerns.
3. How do I stick to my meal plan when I hang out with friends?
Dietitians are trained to council clients on more than just food.
Your RD is happy to talk to you about finding motivation for change, responding to daily stressors, and social pressures as they relate to reaching your healthy lifestyle.
Navigating environments that you can’t control—like eating out with friends—is challenging, but rest assured that your dietitian can help. Whether its tips on learning how to filter healthy foods from a menu, exploring healthier cocktail options, or brainstorming ideas for non-food-related outings, your RD can be a great resource for tackling social challenges.
4. Is this ingredient healthy?
Giving ingredients a good or bad rep isn’t something that dietitians love to do. However, we do love debunking myths around popular or taboo ingredients.
Surprisingly, the good news is that the list of good ingredients usually outweighs our bad ingredient list by a long shot. In most cases, your RD should be able to provide you with science-backed information that supports or warns against certain ingredients.
If it’s an ingredient you should steer clear of, your dietitian can also help you identify it in your daily diet and suggest practical alternatives.
5. Should I track my calories? How many calories should I eat daily?
There’s no one-size-fits-all answer to this question. That’s is why it’s important to ask your personal dietitian to calculate your estimated energy needs.
Additionally, your dietitian can help determine if counting calories will be a helpful strategy for your specific goals and lifestyle.
For some, estimating portions or following a plate diagram may be more helpful than tracking every bite. More importantly, your dietitian can make sure that you’re consuming enough calories to prevent malnutrition while simultaneously working to achieve your goals.
6. How can I get my family to eat more vegetables?
Dietitians understand that for many clients with families, it’s critical to get everyone aboard the health train.
Sharing details and asking specific questions centered around getting family members to eat healthier is the perfect gateway to gaining actionable advice from your RD. In fact, your dietitian will likely have age-appropriate tips, fun and engaging family food activities, and recipe ideas that you can take home and apply.
7. I experience indigestion/constipation/heartburn regularly. Why?
Nutrition and digestion go hand in hand. For that reason, it’s essential to detail any digestive discomforts that you experience during/after eating.
Your RD will be a great starting point for identifying dietary triggers, food sensitivities, and food possible intolerances. Your dietitian can help create a customized meal plan that honors both your tastebuds and digestive comfort.
When to Ask Your Doctor
Some questions should be addressed by your doctor before seeing a dietitian. This is especially important if your dietitian doesn’t have access to your past medical history.
This step will usually apply to you if you:
- take prescription medication
- have underlying medical issues
- are preparing for or recovering from surgery
- are pregnant/nursing
The Bottom Line
In sum, you can optimize your conversations with your dietitian by simply asking strategic questions. Remember, start by setting goals and identifying the most pressing challenges. From there, create a list of questions and let the dietitian do the rest!