What is a Dietitian?

Have you ever wondered what a dietitian is or what dietitians do?

Dietitians are nutrition experts who can help us improve our overall health, manage the symptoms of our medical conditions, and provide nutrition-related services to individuals and communities through their various occupations across different industries.

Read on to learn more about dietitians, their roles and responsibilities, and the qualifications they must meet to earn the Accredited Practising Dietitian status.

Dietitians help us improve our overall health

As experts on food and nutrition, dietitians can educate us on how to make healthy dietary choices and teach us good eating habits. Dietitians can conduct one-on-one or group presentations on the importance of proper nutrition and how we can attain it. They can even give cooking lessons to show us how we can come up with healthier meals.

Dietitians can also advise us on matters related to health and nutrition. They can hold a clinic in hospitals or community healthcare centres for counselling, consultations and examinations. They can suggest ways to increase our consumption of healthy foods. In addition, they can recommend dietary supplements to compensate for certain nutrients that our bodies lack.

Similarly, dietitians can help us identify foods that are triggering particular symptoms and recommend the appropriate treatment. Dietitians can also guide us through the process of eliminating these foods from our diet and replacing them with healthy alternatives in order to relieve our symptoms without compromising our nutrition.

Dietitians help us manage our medical conditions

Most health issues require the collaborative efforts of a team of medical professionals and nutrition experts. While dietitians are not doctors of medicine, they can assist us in getting certain medical conditions under control. These are some of the disorders they can help us manage:

1. Food allergies and sensitivities

Dietitians can help us determine which foods are causing our allergic reactions or food sensitivity symptoms. Once these triggers have been identified, dietitians can assist us in drawing up a personalised diet plan so we can avoid these offending foods yet still meet our nutritional requirements.

2. Diabetes

People with diabetes are only allowed to eat a limited amount of certain types of carbohydrates and sugars. Dietitians can help them manage their glucose levels by modifying their diets and recommending alternatives to foods that increase their blood sugar. Dietitians can also teach diabetics how to count carbs so they can regulate their consumption on their own.

3. Obesity and Weight Management

Obesity is considered an epidemic here in Australia, with experts predicting that more than 75% of Australian adults will be overweight by the year 2025. Dietitians help address this growing concern by examining the risk factors of being overweight using tools like the Body Mass Index (BMI) calculator. They also assist individuals in managing their obesity by recommending lifestyle changes including cutting back on certain foods and incorporating exercise in their daily activities.

Conversely, dietitians can also help underweight individuals increase their weight and maintain it by suggesting the right foods to prevent them from getting malnourished.

4. Cardiovascular Diseases

Heart diseases are commonly linked to obesity. Aside from helping individuals cope with being overweight, dietitians can also modify their diets to reduce their risk for other cardiovascular conditions like high cholesterol levels and elevated blood pressure.

5. Gastrointestinal Disorders

Dietitians work with their clients to arrive at a correct diagnosis of their gastrointestinal disorder. They utilise methods such as the hydrogen breath test and an elimination diet to identify their client’s GI condition.

Once a diagnosis is made, dietitians can then tailor their clients’ diet in order to reduce or relieve the symptoms of their condition.

6. Cancer

Dietitians recommend healthy and appropriate meal plans, food preparation and administration procedures to address the nutritional needs of cancer patients and provide them relief from any discomfort associated with their condition.

They modify the patients’ diet to ensure that their body is able to absorb the nutrients they need from their meals. This includes adapting the types of food they eat to the symptoms of their disease or the side effects of their treatment. For instance, oesophageal cancer patients have difficulty swallowing, so a dietitian may prescribe a soft diet or recommend an alternative feeding method (e.g., intravenous or via a tube) to reduce their pain.

Other nutrition-related side effects of cancer that dietitians can help patients deal with are poor appetite, weight loss, changes in taste and smell, chewing problems and bowel irritation.

Dietitians are found in various fields and functions

Dietitians practise in various roles and contexts:

1. Patient Care

Dietitians provide nutritional support for patients during their treatment. They recommend adjustments to their patient’s diet as needed for pre- or post-surgery, or while they are recovering from a serious illness. They also educate the patient’s families and caregivers on the proper administration of food.

2. Consultancy and Private Practice

As consultants or private practitioners, dietitians may offer individual consultations as well as group counselling. They can engage in various health and nutrition programs and work with the media and other organisations.

3. Community Nutrition and Public Health

Dietitians create educational programs to promote health and nutrition to local communities as well as to people nationwide. They may also be involved in the development and implementation of food and nutrition policies and standards on different levels of society.

4. Sports Nutrition

Dietitians may provide nutrition-related services to individual athletes and teams to improve their performance in training and sports competitions. This includes coming up with meal plans for refuelling and recovery to maintain the optimal fitness of the athletes.

5. Food Service and Management

By combining their nutrition expertise and management skills, dietitians are able to design meal plans and supervise food distribution in hospitals, elderly care institutions, catering services and other large organisations.

6. Food Industry

Dietitians working in the food industry are engaged in the development of healthy food products. They are also involved in food regulations, food safety and quality assurance and nutrition-related campaigns.

7. Research and Education

Dietitians can also contribute to the expanding field of nutrition and dietetics by conducting research, teaching dietetics courses in colleges and universities, and training dietitian students and healthcare professionals.

Qualified dietitians in Australia have an APD status

Dietitians are capable of performing various roles in the above-mentioned industries because of their rigorous training and continuous professional development. When dietitians have successfully met these requirements, they earn the Accredited Practising Dietitian or APD status, which is the only dietitian credential recognised by the Australian government and other reputable organisations in the country. It is also the sole standard for nutrition and dietetics that is regulated by law.

Dietitians help us achieve our health goals and manage the symptoms of certain diseases. They also perform different nutrition-related functions in various fields. Should you ever need the services of a dietitian, look for one with an APD status so you can be confident of their competence and qualifications to practise in Australia.

Need Our Help?

Get the help of an expert! Book your appointment with any of our accredited dietitians or nutritionists by calling us on (07) 3071-7405 between 8am and 6pm Monday to Friday.