If you’re here you, or someone you love, likely has diabetes.
Maybe a doctor has recommended seeing a dietitian for help managing your diabetes. Maybe you’ve done some research on your own that led you here.
However you ended up here, if you are wondering what role dietitians play in managing diabetes, you are in the right place.
Here at OnPoint Nutrition, our team of dietitians and nutritionists has helped over 3,000 people just like you achieve their goals and optimize their health.
Before we dive into the specifics of how a dietitian can help you control your diabetes, let’s start with what dietitians are.
What Is A Dietitian?
Registered Dietitians (RD) or Registered Dietitian Nutritionists (RDN) are food and nutrition experts.
Dietitians are formally educated and highly trained to provide evidence-based medical nutrition therapy to individuals with diabetes, and many other conditions.
As a registered dietitian myself, I work with people like you every day. I’ve seen the positive impacts that nutrition counseling can have on the lives of individuals with diabetes and I fully believe in its benefits.
In this article, I’ll outline what dietitians do generally, as well as the role they play in diabetes management. I’ll also help guide you to find the right dietitian for you and your diabetes.
What Do Dietitians Do?
Medical Nutrition Therapy
Dietitians are trained to provide medical nutrition therapy to individuals with diabetes, as well as individuals with hypertension, high cholesterol, IBS, acid reflux, and other medical concerns.
Medical nutrition therapy is a fancy term for providing recommendations that are backed by science to guide you toward a healthier version of yourself. Medical nutrition therapy includes:
- A review of your eating and exercise habits, as well as your overall lifestyle
- A thorough assessment of your nutritional status
- A personalized nutrition plan
Within their training, dietitians learn to tailor individualized nutrition plans to address diabetes, as well as any other medical or health-related concerns you have.
Dietitians are also trained in nutrition counseling.
Nutrition counseling is a collaboration between a dietitian and a client where both parties work together to alter the client’s diet to achieve a goal.
In this case, managing your diabetes is likely your top priority. However, if you have other goals, maybe to lose weight, be more active, or lower your blood pressure, your dietitian will also help you work on them.
Nutrition counseling involves diving into what you eat, why you eat the things you do, when you eat, how much you eat, how you feel about food and your body, and more.
Your dietitian can help you build a tailored nutrition plan to allow you to control your diabetes, optimize your health, and achieve any other nutrition-related goals you may have.
While the nutrition counseling process is collaborative, your dietitian will guide you through the process and help you move toward your healthiest self.
How Do Dietitians Help Manage Diabetes?
As you likely know, diabetes impairs your body’s ability to make or use insulin properly. The result is too much glucose circulating in your blood, which is often referred to as high blood sugar.
The key to managing diabetes is managing your blood sugar, which is where your dietitian comes in. Dietitians help individuals with diabetes choose the right foods in the right portion sizes to both fuel their bodies and maintain healthy blood sugar levels.
Let’s look more specifically at what dietitians can do to help you achieve healthy blood sugar levels including:
- Educate you on the best foods for blood sugar management
- Help you figure out the ideal portion sizes for you and your body
- Assist you with planning meals and snacks
- Guide you on how to grocery shop properly
- Teach you how to read nutrition labels
- Provide you with guidance on other lifestyle factors
Foods For Managing Blood Sugar
Certain foods raise your blood sugar more than others. For starters, simple carbohydrates have the biggest impact on your blood sugar. On the flip side, foods that are high in protein and/or fat have a smaller impact on your blood sugar.
Learning which foods cause your blood sugar to spike, and subsequently crash, is something your dietitian can help you with. Additionally, learning which foods, and food pairings, help maintain your blood sugar will also be something your dietitian can assist you with.
Your Ideal Portion Sizes
While the foods you eat are important, choosing the proper portion size will also play a large role in managing your blood sugar.
However, not all portions are created equal. Your dietitian will help you determine the best portion sizes for you, your blood sugar, and your diabetes.
Your dietitian’s goal is to help you fuel your body, and feel full and satisfied, without spiking your blood sugar. By working together, you will develop a plan for how to achieve these goals.
Planning Meals and Snacks
Knowing what and how much to eat is helpful, but planning meals and snacks with those factors in mind makes these concepts applicable, and your life significantly easier.
Your dietitian will help you outline some healthy meals and snacks that you can mix and match together to build healthy days. They can even help you plan a full week’s worth of meals and snacks if that feels helpful for you.
Your dietitian can also help you adjust your favorite foods and recipes to make them work for you and your diabetes.
Grocery Shopping Guidance
To make things more tangible, your dietitian can also help you build a grocery list of the foods you need for a healthy week of eating for your diabetes.
Planning meals, snacks, and a grocery list with your dietitian can take the stress out of making so many choices day to day.
Reading Nutrition Labels
When you have diabetes, reading nutrition labels is key to knowing what is in the foods you are eating and how they may impact your blood sugar.
Your dietitian will teach you what you look for on nutrition labels so you can feel confident buying foods that will benefit you.
While the main focus of nutrition counseling is the food that makes up your diet, your dietitian will also likely discuss other holistic lifestyle factors with you.
Your exercise habits, sleep schedule, stress level, and more can all greatly impact your blood sugar levels so making sure to optimize all of these factors will give you even more control over your diabetes.
How To Find The Right Dietitian For You And Your Diabetes
There are a lot of dietitians out there and you may feel overwhelmed when trying to find the one who is best for you.
Keeping a few key factors in mind can help you narrow down the list and find the perfect provider for you.
First, looking for a registered dietitian ensures that your nutrition professional has been thoroughly trained and educated.
While there are many qualified nutritionists out there, nutritionist isn’t a regulated title so not every nutritionist is a dietitian, and not every nutritionist is qualified to help you manage your diabetes.
Additionally, some dietitians specialize in diabetes and may be the best fit for you. To find a diabetes-specific dietitian, look for a dietitian who is a Certified Diabetes Care and Education Specialist (CDCES) or a Certified Diabetes Educator (CDE).
To learn more about the best dietitians for you and your diabetes read: Dietitian vs. Nutritionist: Which Is Best For Diabetes?
If you started reading this unsure of what dietitians are, what they do, and if a dietitian can help you manage your diabetes, you now know all of those answers.
If you are ready to control your diabetes by diving into nutrition counseling with a dietitian, we are here for you. Schedule a free consultation today to learn more about our approach to personalized, nutrition coaching.
If you’d like to learn a little more about our team of dietitians and nutritionists before diving in, you can read about all of our team members and see who seems like a good fit for you.
If you’re interested in finding out more about OnPoint and the experience we provide to our virtual, one-on-one nutrition counseling clients, learn more about our client experience here.
Liz has been reading nutrition labels since she learned how to read. Growing up with severe peanut and tree nut allergies she learned that it’s important to know what you are putting into your body. She made her first big lifestyle change as a freshman in high school, when she decided to become a vegetarian. However, it wasn’t until she took a food class in Italy as part of a study abroad program in college that it clicked in her mind that she wanted to make food and nutrition her career. Liz graduated from Penn State University in 2015 with a bachelor's degree in Nutrition, as well as a bachelor's degree in Marketing. She completed her dietetic internship with Aramark in Philadelphia, and her master's degree at Northeastern University shortly after.