Add a Dietitian to Your Diabetes Healthcare Team

By American Diabetes Association

A dietitian is your best bet for getting the latest info on healthy eating. Dietitians are experts in food and nutrition. You may see a dietitian when you’re first diagnosed with diabetes and then for yearly visits afterward. A dietitian is a great person to bounce ideas around with when you’re having trouble reaching your blood glucose targets.

Developing a plan for healthy meals is one of the core roles of a dietitian. You can work with a dietitian to incorporate foods that you enjoy and that are part of your culture and traditions. It’s important to eat foods you love because otherwise it’s extremely hard to follow a plan. If you’re constantly denying yourself foods that you crave, you’re more likely to forgo healthy choices altogether. Instead, find ways to substitute and incorporate pleasurable foods like pizza or buttered popcorn at the movies.

A dietitian should also take into account your lifestyle, health, and physical activity. For example, if you work long hours, you may need to plan ahead for easy snacks and workweek meals so you can make healthy choices when you’re short on time. A dietitian can also take into account your health goals such as losing weight, reducing sodium, or cutting back on sugar.

Sometimes people never see a dietitian even though they’ve lived with diabetes for years. Don’t let this happen to you. What you eat is critical when you have type 2 diabetes, so seek out the best advice and expertise with a dietitian.

Ask your diabetes care provider or CDE for a referral to a dietitian. Sometimes your diabetes educator will be a dietitian as well. The Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics has information about types of dietitians and how to find them in your community; for more information, visit eatright.

A registered dietitian (RD) or a registered dietitian nutritionist (RDN) is a health professional who advises people about meal planning, nutrition, and weight control. They are accredited by the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics, so look for the letters RD or RDN after their names.

Individual states also license dietitians, so you may see the letters LD after a dietitian’s name, which stands for licensed dietitian.

You don’t necessarily have to pay out-of-pocket to see a dietitian. In fact, some health insurance plans cover appointments with dietitians because they are considered medical nutrition therapy. Call your health insurance provider to see whether you’re covered and ask whether you’ll need a prescription and whether to see specific dietitians that participate in your insurance plan.

Medicare Part B covers medical nutrition therapy and related services for people with diabetes, which could include an initial nutrition and lifestyle assessment, one-on-one nutritional counseling, and follow-up visits. Get a referral from your provider for medical nutrition therapy. For more information, visit Medicare.gov. In some states, Medicaid may also cover visits with a dietitian.