What Do Dietitians Do? A Complete Guide (UPDATED)

UPDATED JULY 2021

“Dietitian” – what a strange word! What is a dietitian? What do they do? Why do dietitians exist? The big questions is: what can a dietitian do for YOU?

What is a dietitian?

In simple terms, a dietitian is a person who had professional education and clinical & community training to become experts in food and nutrition. Dietitians use their knowledge in nutrition to help people improve their health, through tweaking diet and lifestyle habits. A dietitian is an allied health professional, which is in the same category as psychologists, physiotherapists, podiatrists, and so on.

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Different types of Dietitians

Dietitians work in many different settings, including hospitals, community health centres, GP clinics, schools, food industry, research facilities, sports league and more. To give you some perspective, a hospital dietitian can help hospital patients by prescribing them special diets, tube feeds, giving them nutrition education that will help manage their conditions; a food industry dietitian can help in developing and regulating food standards, and a sports dietitian can help atheletes improve their sports performance.

I am a private practice clinical dietitian, this means that I provide clinical dietetic services to people from all walks of life, people of all ages from the community and afar, with different health needs. I work with private clients who reaches out to me, and with clients referred from doctors/specialists.

Dietitian or Nutritionist – which one do I need?

Clinical Dietitians:

Clinical dietitians are trained in providing Medical Nutrition Therapy, individual/group dietary therapy and more. Clinical dietitian can use Medical Nutrition Therapy to manage medical conditions and improving patient’s health and quality of life; dietitians can also provide nutrition counselling and education to help people improve their health, nutritional status and preventing development of diseases in the future.

In Australia, Dietitians are accredited by the national regulatory body Dietitians Australia, and are given the Accredited Practising Dietitian (APD) title if they meet strict criterias. APDs are allied health professionals recognised by the Australian Government, Medicare, the Department of Veterans Affairs and most private health funds.

Nutritionists:

Some countries’s government regulate the profession of nutritionists, and some don’t. In Australia, the title of Nutritionist is not regulated by the government. The title of nutritionist can be used by university graduates educated in nutrition, or those with limited education and qualification for nutrition.

Nutritionist often work in the food and supplement industry, research facilities, health promotion/education sector, etc. Clinical nutritionists with relevant tertiary qualification can provide evidence-based nutrition education, however, they may not be qualified to provide Medical Nutrition Therapy and manage medical conditions through nutrition.

So which one do I need?

It depends on your health needs, financial circumstances and what you want to achieve from the nutrition services.

If you have any medical conditions, dietary intolerances and any special health requirements, a dietitian may be more suitable for you; if you are generally healthy and wish to learn more about healthy eating and promote future health, a nutritionist may be helpful.

In Australia, the Medicare scheme provides a rebate for Dietitian consultations (GP Care Plan required). Most of the private health funds cover a portion of Dietitian consultation fees too. Nutritionist are not eligible to register as a Medicare provider, therefore, Medicare rebates cannot be claimed for nutritionist visits. Most private health funds do not cover nutritionist consultations, however, if the nutritionist is also a naturopath, certain health funds may cover the naturopath visits.

What does EZ Dietitian do?

EZ Dietitian is a private practice dietitian clinic run by myself, Elena Zhang (APD). I help my clients to understand the link between food, nutrition and health conditions, and work with my clients to set practical strategies to improve their health and prevent illnesses. I will not put you on a “diet” and leave you be – I believe in a sustainable healthy eating approach where healthy eating and lifestyle becomes a part of your life, and I will teach you how to do that.

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What to expect from our consultation

An individual nutrition consultation usually takes between 30-45 minutes. When I meet you for the first time, I may ask you a range of questions to fully understand your medical history, family health history, eating & lifestyle habits and more. We then work together to identify and prioritise nutrition, lifestyle and health goals to work on. Depending on the complexity of your goals or health conditions, it usually takes at least three visits to start the journey to better health, and over a number of months to achieve positive changes in health.

Everyone has different needs. From our consultations, we will work on realistic, practical ways to improve your nutrition status and health. I will help you to understand your nutrition intake by analysing your current meals, and give you a visual report on the highs and lows of your nutrient intake. I provide meal plans on request – it is more important to teach the man how to fish rather than givin him the fish. I can create a 100% personalised meal plan with recipes, shopping list and more.

I believe in developing a great rapport with my clients. I am a believer of compassion in health care – I am here for you and will support you through the journey of achieving better health

Further Reading & References:

https://www.betterhealth.vic.gov.au/health/servicesandsupport/dietitians

https://www.healthdirect.gov.au/dietitians

https://ahpa.com.au/allied-health-professions/dietetics/

https://dietitiansaustralia.org.au/what-dietitans-do/dietitian-or-nutritionist/

https://dietitiansaustralia.org.au/becoming-a-dietitian-in-australia/

https://www1.health.gov.au/internet/main/publishing.nsf/content/health-medicare-health_pro-gp-pdf-allied-cnt.htm

Published by EZ Dietitian

Elena Zhang​ is an Accredited Practising Dietitian (APD) based in North Brisbane, Queensland.

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