More and more health care concerns these days are caused by acute and chronic conditions directly connected to poor nutrition. A striking portion of cardiovascular disease and cancer cases can be ascribed to unhealthy diet and obesity. Nutrition counseling can provide an efficient protocol combined with sound advice for the prevention and management of nutrition-related conditions. Nutrition counseling programs can be modified to meet the needs of patients diagnosed with specific illnesses.
What is Nutrition Counseling?
Nutrition counseling is a complementary process to establish goals, set priorities, and create specialized action plans which recognize and encourage responsibility for self-care. Nutritional counseling is a continuous process in which a Registered Dietitian/Nutritionist (RD/RDN) assesses the patient’s dietary intake and identifies what needs to be changed. It is integral to improve your health by moderating and maintaining variety and balance in your diet.
Nutritional counseling is usually available at treatment clinics for patients suffering from eating disorders such as anorexia, bulimia, and binge eating. Programs from nutrition counselors commonly involve fitness regimens and nutritional supplements. Through these programs, the patient’s health needs are met.
What Does a Nutrition Counselor Do?
A nutrition or diet counselor is responsible for educating patients about food nutrition and its effects on one’s quality of life and overall well-being. The duties of a nutrition counselor include meeting with patients, assessing their current eating habits, and informing them about the importance of making healthier food choices. In some cases, counselors educate the patient, and in most cases, they work with the patient to establish nutrient goals and meal plans.
The requirements needed to become a registered dietitian or nutrition counselor vary from state to state. There are few regulations in some states, while other states such as Washington State require completion of a bachelor’s degree in nutrition, dietetics, and 900 hours of supervised practice over three years. Important skills needed in the profession include patience, empathy, and excellent verbal communication, among others.
The occupations of a nutritional counselor, nutritionist, and dietitian can overlap with several distinct differences. Any person can call themselves a nutritionist or nutritional counselor in most states, but there are strict legal regulations for calling yourself a dietitian. Registered dietitians have more education and legitimacy under their title, which requires a bachelor’s degree and many hours of internship. Registered dietitians can call themselves nutritionists, but nutritionists aren’t legally allowed to call themselves dietitians.
Difference Between Nutrition and Diet
Why is Nutrition Counseling Important?
Each person will have different needs regarding which diet regimen to follow, supplements to take, and exercise routines to perform to maintain good health. Because of this, a specialized approach should be taken with the help of consultation and assessment from a reputable nutrition counselor.
Nutrition counselors adhere to the famous quote attributed to the Greek physician Hippocrates that goes, “Let food be thy medicine, and let medicine be thy food.” Food has always been the most effective tool to combat diseases and maintain the body’s overall health. A healthy diet has been directly connected to improvements in obesity, diabetes, and heart-related diseases.
One of the best parts about switching to a healthy diet and starting an exercise routine is that the effects can be felt in several days in the form of improved focus, increased energy, and better sleep. Even small changes in your diet and activity can greatly improve the quality of your life in the long run.
Benefits of Nutritional Counseling
Food does more than simply eliminate hunger and provides energy for our daily tasks. Your food choices can also have a quantitative effect on your ability to focus, think, and react. Here are some other benefits of nutritional counseling:
There are times that we feel sluggish and hazy after a certain meal. Sometimes we find it hard to focus after eating. This can be a result of unhealthy food choices. A good nutritional plan can help you focus better and perform better doing daily tasks.
Better Sleep Cycle
Good sleep varies in every person, but most of us require 7 to 8 hours of adequate sleep each night. We rarely link nutrition to sleep, but in reality, the quality of the food we eat determines the quality of our sleep. Studies have found that insufficient sleep increases the risk of obesity, cardiovascular diseases, and other health problems.
Having insufficient sleep starts a vicious cycle since people who lack sleep are more likely to eat more. Scientific studies show that sleep-deprived people are more likely to choose foods high in calories and with low nutritional value. The studies conclude that the brain’s reward-seeking areas are stimulated after insufficient sleep, which increases food cravings. Committing to a healthier diet under the supervision of a professional ensures a better sleep cycle.
Fewer Mood Swings
Our bodies are composed of highly complex chemical systems, and having the wrong element can have detrimental effects. For example, alcohol has been known to increase one’s aggressive tendencies. This is just one clear example where a dietary choice can determine one’s mood.
Although mood swings caused by foods are less noticeable than those caused by alcohol, it’s critical to be informed about dietary choices that spoil your mood with the help of a nutritional counselor.
Combats Depression and Anxiety
Committing to a healthier lifestyle can improve how you feel about yourself and give you the self-assurance that you are making positive choices to improve your life. Chemical and psychological factors coming from a healthy regimen can naturally combat and prevent depression and anxiety.
What Can Nutrition Counseling Focus On?
Many health conditions are directly linked to unhealthy food choices, and many patients feel significant improvements when they commit to a healthier way of life. Nutritional consultation can focus on the reversal, management, and prevention of these common health conditions:
An increasingly common health condition in the United States, obesity can cause complications such as high blood pressure, metabolic syndrome, diabetes, cardiovascular diseases, cancers, and sleep disorders. Treatment is determined by the root cause and the severity of the condition. Nutrition consulting can help the patient with an actionable and sustainable plan.
When patients attempt to create a weight loss plan by themselves, they do it without medical supervision and advice. People suffering from obesity shouldn’t feel alone when going through their weight loss journey. It’s only through proper nutritional consultation and assessment that you can monitor effective dietary changes.
Another common health condition in the U.S., Diabetes, can lead to more serious symptoms if left unchecked. These days, sugar is included in just about any processed food in the market, making it extra difficult for people with diabetes. A trusted diet counselor can help patients find healthier substitutes for regular foods.
Having an unhealthy eating habit is directly connected to heart conditions. According to a 2020 scientific study, more than two-thirds of cardiovascular disease-related deaths worldwide can be linked to food choices. The study concluded that 6 million deaths could have been prevented through healthier diets. Nutritional counselors can help educate patients about the long-term consequences of poor food choices and guide them through efficient health protocols to maintain a healthy heart.
There are cancer risk factors that are beyond our control, such as genetics and environment. But medical studies show that about 70% of cancer risk factors are controllable, including our diet. Making healthier food choices, getting regular exercise, and avoiding alcohol and tobacco are all play a critical role in preventing cancer.
The foods we choose to eat can significantly affect our overall health, including the risk for cancer. Certain diets are more effective in lowering and preventing the risk for cancer, such as a traditional Mediterranean diet. This diet rich in fruits, vegetables, and healthy fats like olive oil has been known to diminish the risk for different common cancers, including breast cancer. It’s always best to consult a nutritional counselor for a diet that suits your specific condition.
Who Needs Nutrition Counseling?
Having a healthy relationship with food is critical to our overall well-being. That’s why a healthy lifestyle is a priority for more and more people. However, achieving daily nutrition requirements can be difficult because of different mental and physical health challenges complicating their dietary options.
Nutritional counseling is a powerful solution for people who need help with:
- Obesity and abnormal weight gain
- Eating disorders
- Type 1 and Type 2 Diabetes
- Food allergies
- Cardiovascular diseases
- Gastrointestinal issues
- Depression, anxiety, or trauma
- Substance abuse
- General health concerns
To conclude, there is no right or wrong reason to seek nutritional counseling. If you believe you need dietary guidance to improve your health, booking an appointment with a Registered Dietitian or Nutritionist would be the next smart step to take.